Psalms 119: 9-11 (ESV)
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119 is a great psalm. I love the tone of celebration, of hope, and longing for GOD and his word that David has in this writing. This is one of the first verses I can remember memorizing outside of the Romans Road series of verses. I even wrote a song about it once.
I began meditating on this verse a couple of days ago and in particular where David ask the question’ “How can a young man keep his way pure?” For which he is quick to answer: ” By living according to your word (NIV translation). Then in verse 11 he says, ” I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” This lead me to ask the question, ” What does it mean to store up GOD’s word in our hearts?” Does it mean memorization? Is memorization enough or is there more? Does it mean understanding and application? How do I apply this to my life so that I can “keep my way pure?”
Firstly, Let me answer the first two questions with a simple no. It is crucial for us to memorize GOD’s word and to meditate on it, but this in itself is not enough.
GOD wants us to know his word:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Simply knowing the word is not sufficient. Even Satan knows the scriptures, yet he does not seek after GOD, and he twist the scripture to his advantage:
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
In order to hide GOD’s word in our heart in an effective, worshipful manner we must first seek him. I will elaborate on what I think this means, but I have to begin by giving credit where it is due. I believe that David answers the aforementioned questions even before he says “I have hidden your word in my heart…” In short, hiding GOD’s word in our heart is a matter of more than simple memorization, it is a matter of the heart itself: In order to effectively live for GOD we must seek him with all our heart and allow GOD to do his work in us. David says so in verse10.
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
In 1976 as man named David L. Ward wrote a hymn that called O God the Holy Spirit. Here is the fourth stanza of that hymn:
O God the Holy Spirit,
Come deepen and impart
These saving, loving lessons
Upon my desp’rate heart
That I might loathe my evil
And flee from Satan’s snares
Then run to my Redeemer
And cast on Him my cares.
Text: David L. Ward (1976)
I think this agrees with the point that David is making in Psalm 119. In his hymn, Ward ask GOD to come to him, to change his heart, to teach him to hate what is evil and therefore love what is good. This brings a peace to his heart because he can then run to the redeemer.
David conveys the same message in various parts of the Psalms, including 119:
Psalm 119: 29 (ESV)
Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
David knows that his ways and desires apart from GOD are evil (as is the condition of all mankind) and wants to be transformed by GOD.
This also brought to mind Deuteronomy 6:5-6 (ESV)
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
Here the scripture says that we are to love GOD to the fullest extent. The result of that seeking and loving of GOD comes in verse 6, which I believe to be both a command and a result:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
And according to Psalm 119: 11 this helps us to live for GOD (avoiding sin).
One might question Deuteronomy 6:5 and ask, ” This says we are to love him with all our might; so does this mean that it is our efforts that lead to the storing up of GOD’s word in our heart.?” Here is what I contend in answer to this inquiry- No. At least not entirely. I do not mean to say that we have no part in it, only that it does not begin or flow from us. David says as much when he asks GOD to change his heart to love GOD’s law an not his own evil desires in Psalm 119:36.
Our salvation, our longing for GOD, even our faith, come from GOD. He is the changer of hearts and minds.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
“So, clearly this means I am off the hook. I don’t have to do it, GOD will do it for me.” One might contend. Wrong again. What we have here is a situation in which GOD is giving us the knowledge of him, the faith to act on that knowledge, and a responsibility to live in obedience. See here the words of Christ himself.
Luke 11: 28
But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Matthew 16: 24-25
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”
From this we can see that we must: 1)Know GOD’s word 2) Obey it 3) honor GOD by following Christ with our hearts and lives.
In review, this is what I discovered about storing up GOD’S word in my heart:
1. Storing up GOD’s word in my heart helps me to keep my way pure.
2. Storing up GOD’s word in my heart begins with earnestly seeking and loving GOD himself.
3. Storing up GOD’s word in my heart also includes reading, memorization, and meditation on his word.
4. I am obligated to obey GOD’s word, but he is the source of my strength for doing so.