How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. . . . Your word have I treasured in my heart that I might not sin against You. (Psalm 119:9,11)
As I read the psalm, the Holy Spirit stopped me and altered the words of the first phrase in my mind – “How can an old man keep his way pure?”
The answer, of course, remains the same: By keeping it according to His word.
I am no longer a young man. I can start collecting social security checks at any time now. And over the years I’ve often wondered what comes over a man or woman who turns away from the faith they’d known, lived, loved and proclaimed to others. It never happened overnight. It has always occurred by degrees. Step by step, until the change was complete.
Solomon is a classic example. He tells his story in Ecclesiastes. It’s an easy read. Twelve short chapters. You can finish it in one sitting. At the beginning of Solomon’s reign, God promised him he’d be the wisest man to ever live (1 Kings 3:5-15) – which in and of itself is good reason to read the book. What might this man of God have to say to anyone in the 21st century?
Quite a bit, actually. Especially when you know his background. You can read it in the early chapters of 1 Kings, especially chapters 3 and 8. But by chapter 11, something dramatic has happened to the man who once enjoyed an intimate relationship with his Creator. By chapter 11 Solomon had married numerous wives who, we are told, “turned his heart away” from the faith he once loved. Astonishingly, this ‘wise’ king even permitted his wives to sacrifice to their gods – perhaps even human sacrifice, as was often done to Molech, the god of the Sidonians (1 Kings 11:4-8).
Many bible scholars tell us Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes toward the end of his life. They believe that the case especially because of what he writes in the first two chapters of the book. The king had it all. Wealth. Wisdom. Power. Possessions. And he had more women than any man could want (2:8; 1 Kings 11:3).
But not until the end of his life did he realize the true value of it all. A puff of air, he called it. Futility of futilities. Only at the end of the book – in chapter 12 – does he warn the reader of what he knew at the beginning of his reign but rejected in favor of the proverbial wine, women, and song: Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them” . . . . [And] the conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13-14).
How can an old man keep his way pure? I believe the Holy Spirit changed how I read that verse in Psalm 119 to nudge me, that I not forget Whose I am and to Whom I belong. I believe He nudged me to remain ever vigilant to treasure His word in my heart, that I might not sin against Him.
Fire safety experts recommend changing the batteries in home smoke detectors at least once a year. I think that is a good principle to follow for our spiritual safety. I recommend Christians read Ecclesiastes at least once a year. Maybe at the same time we change the smoke detector batteries. We need the periodic reminder how easy it is to slip into sin, to compromise our walk with the Savior, to lose our intimacy with our Creator. And we need the reminder that everything we have and everything we do – everything – if not done for Christ, will be on our last day nothing more than futility of futilities.