I have taught a lot of people to drive. Young drivers tend to weave because they focus right in front of their car. They will weave less by looking further up the road. The same thing happens when a child is learning to balance something on their hand. By looking at their hand they end up chasing the stick all over the room. They will balance things better if they look at the end of the stick.
What about life?
Is it important to drive straight? Is it important to balance things? David thought it was.
David did not know what a car was, but he knew about temptation. Driving life safely is very important since it pleases God. When God is pleased life is best. Psalm 119:9 asks a question that sums up this issue: “How can a young man keep his way pure?”
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:8-11–ESV)
How can a young driver keep his way safe? (Verse 10)
Sometimes I watch traffic and think about how everyone more or less obeys the rules of the road. Of course we remember those who break the rules, but the vast majority of drivers stick to them.
There are many reasons for obeying stop lights not the least of which is safety. Cars do not make the drivers stop; drivers make the cars stop. Many drive through lights that we feel are already red, but they are really just assessing risk and reward as they approach the intersections. So, how can a driver keep his way safe? By driving according to the rules.
Staying on the road
David said that purity is important to avoid life accidents. Driving through life should be about pleasing God and avoiding ditches. God does not want people sinking in the marshes so that they need to be rescued. God wants people following his steps around the quicksand. In Psalm 40 (see this post) David told how God heard David’s cry when he was sinking in the marsh. David was put on a firm path and shown the way of safe living. In Psalm 119 David is telling how to stay on the path.
Driving school for life (Verse 11)
David’s heart is aimed after God’s ways, but he knows that people find more at work on the inside than just good intentions. How many people choose the bad option over the good when pulled in these different directions? The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”1 The poet Ovid writing around the time of Christ had one of his characters say, “I see the right way and approve it, but follow the wrong.” In Psalm 119 David acknowledges that he wants to do the right thing when he spoke of seeking God with his whole heart.
David puts a different approach on it though by making a request that God help him. In his book Jesus Among Other Gods Ravi Zacharias says that Christianity is more than a mirror showing us where we are dirty. God, being real, will reach out and clean us. In Psalm 119 David is asking God to help him stay on track. David, knowing that straying can happen, asks that God keep him on the right path.
Look out for the pit bulls in your life
Once2 while my secretary and her Schnauzer were in their yard a man came by walking his two leashed dogs. Those two dogs were of a rather more aggressive breed. The Schnauzer, a breed known for courage, curiosity and territorial tendencies, broke off its leash and raced toward these other dogs. That pair of dogs by the street made a grievous mess of that bold, grey dog. It seems that it will survive, but it has been a long and trying road. David sees the commandments of God as a good leash. David asks God to keep him on the leash so he will not go after the things in life that will be like pit bulls to him.
Who is your backseat driver? (verse 12)
I always have several books that I am reading. When I go about my life those themes and characters become backseat drivers.
David said the same thing about God’s word. He stored up or hid the words of God in his heart. David knew that a proper mental diet would do a lot to help the shape of his spiritual body. Note that David is not trying to store up good deeds to counterbalance the bad. He is storing up good words and good understanding in order to keep on the right path. He does not want to sin against God. He wants to be in right relationship with God. The things he thinks about make a difference.
In John 14:26 we see that the Holy Spirit teaches and reminds of everything Jesus had said and taught. Consider the word remind. Reminder restore to the thoughts things which one has previously heard, studied, learned, or done in the past. David here in Psalm 119 is storing up things to be recalled to the mind when the time would be right.
Who is in your headphones?
What we focus on makes a difference. I grew up in the 1980’s and my parents would never let me listen to “rock” music (a.k.a. everything with drums and a fast beat). This was back in the early days of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith (also on the no-listen list). I had managed to get the album Voices by Harvest and was grudgingly permitted that one. After my junior year in high school my family moved to Warner Robins, Georgia. Via my dad’s new boss I managed to get a copy of This Year’s Model by The Imperials. Life seemed to be so good with that album as we worked in the basement with our shirts off that summer.
Culture has a way of inculcating its own music though so while isolated I still became rather familiar then and in the follow decade with music from Phil Collins, Genesis, Foreigner, Journey, Chicago, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, etc., etc. My all-time illicit favorite song, though, was Queens’ Another One Bites the Dust. My how my kids laugh at hearing that, but I would dream and imagine being able to listen to it and play it as well as I could on the piano.
Nowadays, when I tire of the mostly wordless jazz stations (which I listen to because it is easier to online stations without singing) I will put these other stations on. They immediately nail the nostalgia and I can go into a bit of a reverie with them. I even found a 30 second taste of Another One Bites the Dust and that really makes me laugh and remember my days with my wicked music as I would then be told. What, though, do they hide in their words and lyrics? Would David hide those words in his heart? Should we?
Key points from this passage:
- Praying helps in the staying
- Feed on the right food
- God helps those who help themselves (usually a statement of proud and God-independent people make, but fits with hiding God’s word in our heart)