"HOW SHALL A YOUNG MAN CLEANSE HIS WAY?"
"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Ps. 119.9)
INTRO.: A hymn which tells young people to look to God’s word to guide their ways is "How Shall a Young Man Cleanse His Way?" (#555 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text, based on Psalm 119:9-16, is taken from The Book of Psalms for Singing, published by the Board of Education and Publication of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, Pittsburgh, PA. The adaptation of the text was done by Edward Fudge, who was born on July 13, 1944, in Lester, AL, the son of Benjamin Lee and Sybil Fudge, and grew up in the Athens, AL, area. After receiving an A. A. from Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL, and both a B. A. and an M. A. from Abilene Christian University, he began preaching at Kirkwood, MO, in 1968 and continued there through 1972. His wife is the former Sara Faye Locke, and they have two children, Melanie and Jeremy. In 1972, he returned to Athens, where he worked with the Holland’s Gin church of Christ and with the C. E. I. Publishing Co. which had bought the Gospel Guardian. His Selected Psalms for Church Singing, from which this work was taken, was published in 1974.
Then in 1982 Edward moved to Houston, TX, where he received the J. D. degree from the University of Houston, became an attorney-at-law in civil litigation practice, and identified with the Bering Dr. church of Christ. Originally, Fudge adapted the words of the metrical Psalm to go with a tune (Maryton) by Henry Percy Smith which in our books is usually associated with Washington Gladden’s hymn "O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee." In the original Hymns for Worship, the text was printed without music but with an indication for it to be sung to a tun (Hursley) by Peter Ritter which in our books is usually associated with John Keble’s "Sun of My Soul." A new tune was composed by R. J. Stevens (b. 1927; see #233). The song with this melody was first published in 1994 in the revised edition of Hymns for Worship, and to my knowledge among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it is found only in Hymns for Worship. Another tune (Louvan) that can be used with the hymn was composed in 1850 by Virgil Corydon Taylor (1817-1891).
The song encourages those who are young to find direction in God’s revelation to mankind.
I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the need to cleanse one’s way
"How shall a young man cleanse his way?
Let him with care Thy word observe.
With all my heart I have Thee sought;
From Thy commands let me not swerve."
A. God is certainly concerned with young people cleansing their ways by remembering Him as their Creator in the days of their youth: Eccl. 12.1
B. The means by which young people and everyone else can cleanse their ways is by observing God’s word: Eph. 5.26
C. And we all must determine that we will not swerve to either the right had or the left in keeping God’s commandments: Josh. 1.7
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the need to learn God’s statutes
"Thy word I’ve treasured in my heart,
That I give no offence to Thee.
Thou, O Jehovah, blessed art;
Thy statutes teach Thou unto me."
A. We need to learn God’s word so that we can let it dwell in us richly: Col. 3.16
B. One important reason for having God’s word in our hearts is that we might not sin against Him: 1 Jn. 2.1
C. Therefore, we should desire to be taught of God: Jn. 6.44-45
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the need to declare God’s judgments
"I with my lips have oft declared
The judgments which Thy mouth hath shown.
More joy Thy testimonies gave
Than all the riches I have known."
A. It is important not only to know God’s will but also to declare His judgments by preaching the word to others: Acts 8.4
B. When we do this, we can truly rejoice in the Lord: Phil. 4.4
C. And, like Moses, we will find that keeping God’s testimonies is better than all the treasures of this earth: Heb. 11.24-26
IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the need to meditate on God’s precepts
"I’ll on Thy precepts meditate,
And have respect to all Thy ways.
I in Thy statutes will delight,
Thy word remember all my days."
A. God wants us to meditate on His law day and night: Ps. 1.1-2
B. Genuine meditation on God’s law will lead to our having respect for it by keeping His commandments: 1 Jn. 5.3
C. And continued meditation will help us remember it so that God’s goodness will follow us all the days of our lives: Ps. 23.6
CONCL.: For many years following the Reformation in England, metrical versions of the Psalms were almost exclusively used for the singing in English speaking churches. As the various Anglo-Genevan and Scottish Psalters went through different editions and successive editors tinkered with the Psalm versions, these Psalms began to have a rather stilted and pedantic sound to them which led to the development of hymns of human composure. However, it would be a shame to throw the baby out with the bathwater. While it has not been our practice to sing only Psalms, there is much in the Psalms that is worth singing about. Certainly, the Psalms will help those who are growing and developing to find an answer to the question, "How Shall A Young Man Cleanse His Way?"