Psalm 16 is a wonderful and joyful Psalm of David in which he speaks of his confidence in the Lord. He speaks of his commitment to God (1) and of his contentment and joy in God and God’s people (2-4). He praises God, rejoicing in God’s blessing, instruction, protection, and the pleasure found only in the Lord (5-11). Of all the great worship contained in this Psalm, one line, in particular, struck me as I read it last week, and it has been turning over in my mind ever since. David says in Psalm 16:7–8 “I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” (ESV).
What does your mind default to when you day dream? What do you meditate on when your mind wanders or when you can’t sleep, or when you are stuck in traffic? David praises God because God gives him counsel, but then he says this curious thing. He says that his heart instructs him at night. I love many of the things like this that David says in the Psalms because I can relate to them. Often I wake up in the middle of the night with the words or themes of scripture running through my mind. This is a precious thing to me, because it transforms the way I think, the way I feel, and is often a great defense to me in times of spiritual attack. During the day I set my mind on things that are above, the great and many precious promises of God. At night my mind ponders them as the Holy Spirit applies them to my heart.
This is not just a theoretical exercise, but a real help in the course of my daily life. David thought so too because he said: “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” David knew and I have learned— by his testimony as well as my own experience—that the Lord’s counsel is a firm foundation on which I can stand. He counsels me through prayer, through his Holy Spirit, through his Word, and even through his people. When all else around me seems to shift and change, God’s word stands forever because it is his word, and he never changes. That is one of the reasons why I put so much effort into memorizing scripture.
I memorize God’s word because the very act of memorizing it causes me to focus on and to meditate on its meaning. God promises that those who delight in his word are like well-watered trees that are fruitful and prosperous. (Psalm 1:2-3)
I memorize God’s word because there are times I need it but am not able to grab the Bible to look for its counsel. It is in those times that the Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures I have hidden in my heart to keep me from sinning. (Psalm 119:11)
I memorize God’s word because it is the means by which God uses me in order to strengthen the faith of other believers, to encourage those who are in despair, and to assure those who doubt. (2 Tim 3:16–17)
I memorize God’s word because it is how he gives me counsel. It is the sword of the Holy Spirit by which I fight the spiritual battles that I face, even daily. (Eph. 6:10–18)
I memorize God’s word because God tells us through Paul in Philippians 4:8 to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…anything [that] is excellent or praiseworthy.”(NIV) What is more excellent that God and his word?
I memorize God’s word, not because I have to, but because I get to, and because when I do it the LORD who gives me counsel and instructs me even in the dead of night.