There is an old German proverb that says, “We are too soon old, and too late smart”. I think that most men (and women) who are over the age of sixty can surely see the truth of that pearl of earthly wisdom. Often those who are young, (especially teenagers), think that they have most of the answers to success in this world and are amazed that their parents have not achieved any more than they have. It is impossible that a man can properly value time, until he is faced squarely with the shortness of it, regardless of what age that occurs at.
The scriptures have much to say about being good stewards of the time that is allotted to us in this world. ”Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Ecc 9:10) “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15-16) “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” (Col 4:5)
This message is especially pressed upon those who are yet in the early stages of life, as we read from the wisdom which the LORD gave to Solomon, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.” (Ecc 12:1) Many times young men and women consider that it will be much easier to seek the LORD and walk in HIS way when they are older. After all, they think that they have plenty of time. This notion is but a testament to the natural depravity of the heart, and the inability of men to seek and see spiritual things. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Pro 14:12)
Yet Solomon declares that evil days are yet to come as the cares of this world and the failing of these bodies become a reality. The older that a man becomes, the more difficult it is for him to consider anything but his troubles and needs. This is the reason that older people delight in recounting all of their aches and pains to anyone who will listen. This often becomes the main thing on their mind. How blessed is that man who in his youth is caused to seek the LORD and to call upon HIS NAME. Those things are generally impressed more deeply on those who are so privileged, while their minds are fresh and they are relatively unconcerned with the cares and troubles of this world. The truths that are applied to a young mind, will be of benefit to them throughout the years to come as the LORD leads them into all truth. “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2Tim 3:14-15)
Thus, the Psalmist sets forth a question that should be asked and gives an answer that cannot be overturned. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that even the young stand in need of cleansing. “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” (Psa 58:3) As David said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psa 51:5) He clearly understood that there is no “age of un-accountability”, since even his conception was covered with sin. All men, regardless of age, are accountable for their transgressions and can lay the blame for them no where but at their own feet as a corrupt son of Adam. “Let no man say when (not if) he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (Jas 1:13-14)
The religious men and moralists of this world tell us that this “cleansing” which men need is a change of their practices and habits, and if such changes occur they will be much better off. We would not spend a great deal of time in opposing this notion, but would note that the LORD upbraided those who were the most moral men of their time saying, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Mat 23:27-28) We have no opposition to those who desire morality and non-conformity to the standards of this world. Quite the opposite is true, since the LORD has called us to shun the ways of uncleanness, and to strive to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world”.
The unfortunate truth is (again due to the depravity of the flesh), that such a quest is often but a mask which satisfies the innate religiosity of the flesh and while going about to establish their own righteousness, make such a quest to be of equal, if not greater importance than the only true cleansing which is of any lasting value. The cleansing which is the desire of those who are born again, is to be clean in the inward parts as David vehemently sought, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psa 51:10) They cannot be satisfied with outward deeds and practices which can be catalogued and approved by men.
So, what is the answer to the question posed by the Psalmist, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” He simply states, “by taking heed thereto according to THY WORD.” Now if this young man is simply concerned with making a moral statement or acting in a fashion which is pleasing to the religious world, and getting a pat on the back for being “good”, he can simply apply himself to the measuring stick of those of like mind. He can read the Bible and try to outwardly walk according to the precepts found therein. We certainly cannot find fault with any who seek to follow this path. We would encourage all men to obey those precepts.
Yet the precise problem which presents itself to those who are awakened by the SPIRIT, is that they confess that they cannot actually perform according to those precepts and see within themselves great opposition to this way. This is exactly what Paul described in the seventh chapter of Romans, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (Rom 7:14-15) “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom 7:18-19)
So, what is the solution to this dilemma? As the LORD gives a man eyes to see his true uncleanness, HE also reveals HIM who is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. This is the only WAY that the old or the young might “cleanse his way”, or more properly “have his way cleansed”. HE who is the WORD reveals HIS word which both kills and makes alive according to HIS purpose. “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5)
What a glorious SALVATION has been wrought for those who desire to be clean in the inward parts. What HE has cleansed we must not call common or unclean. “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Mat 8:2-3) Have you been cleansed by the blood of the LAMB? mam