Dear Radio Friends,
The Word of God that we bring today is found in Psalm 119:11, these words: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” The Word of God today is bringing to us a simple message, the importance of knowing the Word of God, of memorizing God’s Word, and having it in our heart.
How exactly do you write God’s Word in your heart? The Holy Spirit has to do that. But how do we put that Word down in our heart? Is there some kind of marker or chisel or pen? The answer is: by memorizing it. Through memorization the Holy Spirit writes the Word of God upon our hearts so that we know the Word of God, we are able to talk about it, we are able to repeat it. And it gives us direction in our life.
The importance of memorizing the Word of God is clinched by this consideration, that without the Word of God in our hearts we will never be able to live a holy life. “Thy word,” we read, “have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” It is not the Bible closed at home that will do you any good this week when you are confronted by temptation, despair, and the lie of Satan. It is not by walking by your Bible occasionally and rubbing it like a genie bottle that is going to give you spiritual protection. It is not some vague, nebulous idea of what it says: “What does it say again … where is that… oh, it’s somewhere, isn’t it?” Such a knowledge is going to be of no benefit to you as you engage the foes of temptation. But it is the Word of God in your heart, where you need it, that will be the strength of God to preserve you in your daily walk of life. You will need to have God’s Word in your heart if you are to stand and live a Christian life. The man who goes to work without lunch money or without a lunch is going to suffer hunger. The young person who is white from the winter and exposes himself to four hours of the intense sun on a summer afternoon at the beach will burn. The soldier in Iraq who has no bullets in his weapon or whose weapon is at home in a display case is defenseless. So any child of God who goes into life, who goes to his job, on vacation, to school, or in any part of life, into the business of life, into the temptations against sin, into the questions and struggle of life, without the Word of God in his heart, is going to be burned, is going to be hungry, and is going to be defenseless.
Young people, the Christian life is not a do-it-yourself project. It is not something you feel your way through. There is a manual, there is a Word. It is a powerful Word. It is God’s Word. It is the power unto a Christian life — when it is in your heart!
Psalm 119, from which the passage is taken today, is the Bible’s tribute to itself. It is really a love-song. It is a sonnet of the Bible to the Bible about the preciousness and profit of the Scripture. It has twenty-four sections, according to the Hebrew alphabet, with eight verses in each section. And it is a tribute, as I said, a love-song, of the Bible to the Bible. It was written, evidently, by a young man who was being persecuted severely for his faith. We do not know exactly who this young man was or when he lived. The psalm does indicate that he lived at a time of departure from the truth of God. He was, evidently, persecuted. He was imprisoned because of his walk and confession of God. That persecution had come to him from the highest levels of the kingdom. He speaks of princes and kings who had ridiculed and mocked him and locked him up. He writes in that situation of what was his treasure, of what kept him — the Word of God. He says it was the Word of God that was the power to preserve his faith in the most difficult and trying of circumstances. He said he had hid something in his heart. As a person will hide something to keep it away from his jail keepers, something that gives him hope, something that gives him the promise of freedom, so he had hid something. He had hid it where no jail keeper would ever be able to take it away. He had hid God’s Word in his heart, so that he might not sin in the face of persecution. We are to hide God’s Word in our hearts.
Now the psalmist is speaking of “thy word”: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart.” If we are to learn who the “Thy” is, we need to go all the way back to the first verse ofPsalm 119 where we read, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.” “Thy” refers to the Lord, or Jehovah. It is Jehovah’s Word that he hid in his heart. “Jehovah” means “I AM THAT I AM.” It is that name of God that declares to us that God is eternal. He never became something. He always is. I AM THAT I AM! It speaks to us that He is sovereign in power, that is, He possesses all power to rule. He does not derive His being or His power from another. He did not get it from someone. But “I AM,” He is the God of all power. And it speaks to us that God is faithful. “I always am what I am.” There are no changes in God. Jehovah’s Word is the Word of the eternal, the sovereignly powerful, and faithful God. We have the Word of the eternal, almighty, independent, faithful God; the God who is and ever shall be; the God who made all, and holds all; the God alone who is to be worshiped and extolled and honored as God. We have that Word. It is in the Bible.
The source of the Bible is God, Jehovah. The Bible is not, as is taught in many Christian circles today, the catalog of men’s impressions about God, the record of various encounters with God. The Bible is not a sort of Norton Anthology of Spiritual Encounters. It is the Word that Jehovah has written. It is “Thy” Word. It is the Word that He writes about Himself and all the wonderful things that He has promised to do to glorify Himself in Jesus Christ.
Because it is the Word of Jehovah who is the supreme and the eternal God, the God who alone is good and glorious, it is a Word about Himself. It is a Word in which He tells us about Himself and all the things that He will do for us. It is the Word that He speaks to us about Himself and of His love and of His power and of His purpose in Christ. To us poor sinners, lost sinners, dust creatures, rebel-hearted sinners, He comes to tell us of His great and precious promises, says Peter in II Peter 1 — the great and precious promises of God. This is a treasure, a great treasure.
Thy Word, the psalmist says, have I hid in my heart. What does that mean? I thought, children, that we were supposed to tell others about God’s Word. What does he mean when he says that he hid it? Does it mean that he kept it secret, kept it to himself? No. He means that he stored it up as a treasure in his heart. When he says that he has hid God’s word in his heart he means that he stored it up as a special treasure in his heart.
The word “hid” has a basic meaning: “to conceal.” It is the word that is used, for instance, to tell about Moses’ being hid three months by his parents when they were not afraid of Pharaoh’s commandment to have all the boy children of Israel killed. But that word goes on to refer to something more than just concealing. It means laying up what one considers a treasure. One considers something to be extremely valuable and he wants to keep it. So, you could say, lay up: “Thy word have I laid up, have I stockpiled, have I treasured, have I stored in my heart.” That is the idea. God’s Word is the best treasure because it is about God.
And the psalmist says, “I have stored up that treasure in my heart. The written Word of God I have memorized, I have prayed over it. I want that Word to be in my heart.” You see, the psalmist was in prison. He had been torn from his family. He was cruelly treated. He was laughed at. What did he have? He had no one. He had no friends, he had no possessions. But he had a treasure! As I said, he had a treasure where his jailers could not take it away from him. He had it in his heart. He did not have a copy of the Word of God. But he had that Word of God written down on the pages of his heart, where it could soothe him, where it could comfort him, where it could make him glad in a prison cell. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart!” He thought about it. He poured over it.
You say, how did he get it in there? Well, he went to church. He went to the temple, where he could hear the Word of God. He listened. He paid attention. And then he memorized it. It is easier for us to store up that Word of God in our hearts than it was for him. But he did it. He did it because he loved God, he loved the Word.
Do you have this treasure? I am not asking you if you know where a Bible is to be found in your house and you could go and find it a moment for me. I am not asking if you have some acquaintance with its message — a little head-knowledge to find your way around in the Bible. I am not asking that. I am asking, “Is it hid, is it treasured, is it coveted, is it stored in your heart? Do you love it? Do you know its power? Do you rejoice, do you tremble before it? And do you use the means to get it into your heart?” The church, reading the Bible, Sunday School, catechism classes, Christian school — memorizing. Do you treasure the Word in your heart?
The psalmist had a great purpose in treasuring up God’s Word in his heart. He said, I did this that I might not sin against Thee. He wanted to live a holy life. That was why he did that. That was his purpose. He wanted to live a life in Christ. If you want to live a life in Jesus Christ, then you will treasure the Word of God in your heart. You will want the Word of God deep down in your heart because only there will you have the strength to keep you from sin.
This means that the psalmist lived a new life. He had been given a new life in Christ. He had been given a life that wants to serve and glorify God. Yet there remained within him his sinful flesh. And he understood that it was the Scriptures, the Word of God, not simply on his night stand, but in his heart, which would be the power to live a holy life, a power to overcome his inclination to follow the pack, the power to overcome that which would make him ashamed of living a Christian life.
Do you know in your life the power of sin? Do you sigh in weariness as you struggle against sin? Are you ready sometimes to despair? Do you ask, as a young man with lust within you, how shall my way be directed to the Lord? What can take me away from the seduction of lust and bring me to Jesus’ arms? Here is the answer: God’s Word in your heart.
The answer is not the intention that one day you are going to read the Bible. The answer is not “Well, I’m a member of a solid Reformed church.” The answer is the Word of God in your heart.
That Word of God had made the psalmist very sensitive about sinning against God. He did not want to sin against God. The word “sin,” in both the Old and New Testaments, has the idea of “missing the mark.” The mark that we are to aim at is God, for He alone is good. Sin is when we do not want to. We do not just miss the target a little bit. Rather, we aim at the opposite, we aim at our own pride, our own way. That sin always disrupts fellowship with God. It spoils our relationship with God. We cannot look up to God. We cannot say, “I know the sweetness of walking with God in love.”
The psalmist looked to the Word of God as the only defense against sin. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, lest I sin against thee.”
Hide God’s Word in your heart. Memorize the Word. Meditate upon the Word. Recite the Word of God. Speak the Word of God. God’s Word, because it is God’s Word used by the Holy Spirit, is the power to give us to walk with God in a sinful world and as sinners. “My son,” says the Scripture, “lay up my words beside thee. Keep them before thee.” Have close contact with God’s Word in your life, even if it comes at a cost. Do not say, “I don’t have time to read God’s Word.” Do not say that! Say it the way it is, “I will not take time.” Say it that way, then. Do not say, “I can’t understand it.” Say this: “I chose not to try to figure it out. I evidently don’t have enough zeal in my heart to try to figure out what my God is saying to me.” Do not say, “But I can’t remember it.” Boys, you can remember the score of the ball game. You can remember line-ups. You can remember!
The Bible is God’s cleansing agent for sin. The psalmist was determined to study the Word of God and to commit large portions of it to his memory so that his spiritual weapon was loaded. Grab hold of the Word of God. You see, Satan knows that God’s Word is a treasure, so he tries to snatch it from you. He says to you, “You’re too tired. It’s too hard. It doesn’t make any sense. Tomorrow you can read it when you aren’t as busy. Something else right now is more important. There’s something else you need to do for a moment.” The psalmist said, “No. I’m tempted right now as a young man to compromise. I’m fighting against despair. I’m seduced by sin and by greed. I need God’s Word right now.”
We must lay up God’s Word in our hearts as a treasure. Many in the Christian church do not. The devil has struck a sore blow into the soul of God’s church when the church denies the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. That means when the church says that the Bible is not word-for-word God’s Word, and it has errors. When that happens, the devil has struck a sore blow into the very heart of the church. When the Bible is no longer held by the church to be as completely inspired, but men are allowed to contradict it and to say that portions of it are in error, then the power of holy living will go out of the church! Mark that down. When the church will not tremble before the Word of God, when the church will not preach the Word of God, when the church will not cherish the Word of God, when the church compromises the Word of God, then, in time (only time) holiness of life will go away.
But there are other ways for that Word to be lost as a treasure in the church. That is when we lay up all kinds of other things in our hearts as treasures instead of God’s Word. God made your heart for one treasure — Him. When we make, perhaps, learning our treasure, or sports or entertainment or possessions, so that the Word of God is neglected and there are all kinds of things vying, fighting for attention within our hearts and we become ignorant of the Word of God, then, too, a holy walk of life will leave the church.
Lay up God’s Word in your heart. Be in God’s house twice on the Lord’s day. Make sure the second service is as well attended as the first. And be there to listen, be there to engage. Come as a humble and thirsty sinner for the Word of God. Discuss the Word of God in your homes. Discuss the Word of God with your children. Understand that there is no vacation from the Word of God. Hold that Word close to your heart. Make it your family project. Take time to read it. Take time to memorize it. Recite the Word of God to each other. Show your children that memorizing is as important for you as it is for them. Then gather with your fellow saints to discuss the Word of God.
Is the power of a holy Christian life to be found in your life? Do you feel close to God or far from God? Does sin lead you astray further and further and further? If the answer is, “Yes, it does, to my shame. I must answer that, yes, I feel far from God. I see that sin is simply leading me further and further and further away,” then I will guarantee you that the reason for your state is this: You have left the Word of God closed. We have not cried out to God that He put it in our hearts.
The psalmist was resolved to have God’s Word in his heart so that he could live a holy life. Are you?
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the Holy Scriptures. And we pray that we may be faithful, faithful to love them, faithful to memorize them, faithful to treasure them in our hearts, that we might not sin against Thee. In Jesus’ name, Amen.