Theme: Deciding to Follow God Early
In this week’s lessons from Psalm 119, we learn from the Word of God how to live a pure life.
Scripture: Psalm 119:9-16
As we noted in yesterday’s study, the Bible gives us numerous examples of young men who decided for God early and were blessed for it. Daniel and his three young friends are one example. When they were taken from their home in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon to serve the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, they were given the best of the food of Babylon, as favored civil servants. But we read early in the first chapter, “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” (v. 8).
This was the first of many tests that came into Daniel’s life during his lengthy career in Babylon, but it established a pattern that enabled him to stand against the many traps laid by his enemies later. To us, whether or not he would eat the king’s food or drink his wine seems a small matter, hardly something to be fussed over. We have nothing to do with kosher rules and very little to do with diet. For us such things are next to nothing. Yet that is just the point. It is the small things that form habits, and it is our habits that determine the course and outcome of our lives.
Years ago when I was studying Daniel I wrote, “Are you a young person? Then you should pay particularly close attention to this point. Most young people want their lives to count, and most Christian young people want their lives to count for God. Youth dreams big. That is right. You should dream big. But youth is also often impatient and undisciplined, and young people are tempted to let the little things slide. You must not do that if you are God’s young man or God’s young woman. God will make your life count, but this will not happen unless you determine to live for him in the little things now.”1
That is what this section of Psalm 119 is telling us. It is saying that the best possible way to live for God and establish and maintain a pure life is by starting young.
In his last will and testament, Theodore Beza, the great Protestant Reformer, thanked God for the mercy of having been called to the knowledge of the truth when he was a youth of sixteen and thus, during a course of more than seventy years’ walk with God of having escaped “the pollutions of the world through lust.”2
The first three verses of this section of Psalm 119 not only tell us that we should begin to live for God early in life—or, in case we are already older, at the earliest possible moment, that is, right now—they also tell us what we should do to actually live for God. It is to hide God’s Word in our hearts, which means not just to read it but also to study it and even memorize it. In fact, memorizing is precisely what is called for, since it is only when the Word of God is readily available in our minds that we are able to recall it in moments of need and profit by it.
This point is closely tied to starting young, for it is far easier to memorize and retain material when a person is young than when he or she is older. Here is one of the great sad failures of the contemporary church. If children and other young people can memorize easily, memorization should be stressed by churches for those in the early years. But instead of doing this, many churches, along with the general culture, have been “dumbing down” Christian education so that today children are barely taught anything in these vital early years. Instead of solid biblical theology, Bible memorization and great hymns, they are offered trivial stories, pointless games and banal songs.
1See James Montgomery Boice, Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989), pp. 23, 24.
2Charles Bridges, Psalm 119: An Exposition (Edinburgh, Scotland, and Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), p. 19. Original edition 1827.
Why would Daniel be concerned with such a small matter as diet? What is the lesson for you?
What is the value of memorizing Scripture?
What areas of disobedience in your life need to change, no matter how “small” they might seem to be? Ask God for help.
Evaluate your church’s songs and teachings for children. How do they measure against the standards set in Psalm 119?
Application: Begin memorizing a verse of Scripture today. The Navigator’s Topical Memory System might be helpful to you.
Key Point: It is the small things that form habits, and it is our habits that determine the course and outcome of our lives.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Jon Nielson’s message, “Word-Centered Youth Ministry: Why and How?” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)