The Apostle Paul speaks about Christ cleansing His Bride with the washing of the Word. That theme of the cleansing Word is found not only in Ephesians, but also in the Psalms. In Psalm 119:9-16, David focuses on the same cleansing power of the Word. That power of course is only effective because of the living, incarnate Word. In verse 9, David raises this question, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” The answer is this, “By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” The Word of God is our only foundation for purification. No matter how precious experience might be, our experience ebbs and flows, but the Word of God remains a sure foundation for cleansing from sin and conformity to Christ.
We need the Word to cleanse us because embedded in these few verses is a glimpse of our depravity. David beseeches the LORD in verse 10, “O let me not wander from thy commandments.” He recognizes this faulty tendency within his heart to wander. In the words of the hymnist, we confess, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Here we see the struggle taking place in the believer – despite true love for God and Christ, there remains this awful tendency to wander and so we need to be brought back through the Word. The Word is the barrier that keeps us on the King’s highway of holiness. This sinful tendency is also seen in verse 11 in that the Word guards one’s heart from sinning. The key to battling sin is hiding it within our hearts. In verse 12, David implies that we are ignorant and in need of teaching, “Teach me thy statutes.” What better Teacher do we have than the Holy Spirit, who leads His people into all truth (John 16:13)?
But how does the Word cleanse our hearts? In short, there are eight ways highlighted in the short compass of these verses. First, we need to listen to the Word. In verse 9 we read, “By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” Taking heed includes not only listening, but also obeying. Are you obeying the Word? When we obey the Word of God and its commands, it counters sin and pushes sin out of our lives. In the light of the Word, sin can have no presence (Ps. 36:9).
Second, protection from sin comes from hiding the Word in our hearts. Verse 11 says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Would you guard yourself well? Hide the Word in your heart through memory so that in the midst of battle and temptation you have its guarding power. Third, we need to speak the Word. We need to speak it audibly in times of temptation to ward off the fiery darts of Satan, following Christ’s example in the wilderness. We need to speak it to others to strengthen and encourage them and we too gain confidence in doing so. That’s what verse 13 says, “With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.”
Fourth we need to rejoice in the Word. If we are morosely engaging the Word of God, which is living, powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, we are not really trusting in its power. The joy of the LORD is our strength and that comes from knowing Him and His promises in His Word. David rejoiced in the way of God’s testimonies (Ps. 119:14). Do you? Fifth, we need to meditate on the Word. David resolves in verse 15, “I will meditate in thy precepts.” We can read the Word, skim its contents, but it only filters into our minds, hearts and lives when we meditate like a cow chews its cud. When we meditate on the Word we receive all its nutrients, cleanses sin and inoculates us against sin. Sixthly, we need to respect the Word of God. David has “respect unto” the ways of God in verse 15. All too often, we have a low view of the Word and its power to cleanse and convert. We need to respect it as we would a sharp sword. The Word can kill – and make alive. Seventh, we need to delight in the Word. Think of all the books in which you’ve found delight. You followed the storyline. You became absorbed with its characters. Perhaps you even began to live out the story. Much more so with the Word of God. David resolves to delight in the statutes of the LORD (Ps. 119:16). We need to follow the storyline of redemption in the Word. Follow the main character, Jesus. Live out of Him in holiness by the grace of the Spirit. Finally, we need to remember the Word. It’s frustrating to forget something when its right at the edge of our consciousness. And yes we are forgetful people. All too often we forget the Word in the moments that we need it most. We need to bring it to mind in the midst of temptation, doubt, fear and rejoicing. Are you resolved like David, “I will not forget thy word?”
This is the cleansing power of the Word.