Treasure In The Heart
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11
INTRODUCTION: John Ruskin lived in the nineteenth century. He was not a theologian or a minister. He was probably the most influential art critic of 19th century England and helped form the tastes of her Victorian era. However, he was raised by a godly mother who insisted that he memorize large portions of Scripture. Some of the passages he memorized as a boy were Psalms 23, 32, 90, 91, 103, 112, 119 and 139. Later in life he wrote regarding Psalm 119:
“It is strange that of all the pieces of the Bible which my mother taught me, that which cost me the most to learn, and which was, to my childish mind, chiefly repulsive — the 119th Psalm — has now become of all the most precious to me in its overflowing and glorious passion for the Law of God.”
God’s ways are not our ways. He continually chooses to bless us in ways that go against our soft, self-pleasing, self-centered culture. He hides his most precious treasure in places that are only accessible to those who are willing to dig. If you want leaves, a rake will do. But if you are looking for gold, it will take a shovel and some diligent, disciplined digging. Psalm 119 has a gold mine of hidden blessings that awaits the joyful discovery of the diligent faithful miner.
A friend of mine recently decided to join us in our study of Psalm 119. He also determined to use it as the curriculum for his adult Sunday school class. He asked his students what their first impression was when they thought of Psalm 119. Somebody responded, “Long;” somebody else, “Law.” Those responses are not uncommon. Consequently, we are not surprised when people are shocked at the suggestion that Psalm 119 is really a storehouse of great delight. Who gets excited about “long-law”? The psalmist is either extremely weird or he is extremely wise. I will spend the rest of this study trying to convince you that the psalmist was not only extremely wise, he was extremely blessed.
BACKGROUND: In our last study we saw that Psalm 119 is an acrostic. Each of its twenty-two stanzas begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In verses 1-8, each line starts with the first letter of the alphabet, aleph. In the next stanza, verse 9-17, each verse begins with the letter beth. This pattern continues throughout the rest of the psalm.
We also saw that the central focus of the psalmist was to express his delight in the law of the Lord. The law, here, does not just refer to the law given to Moses on Sinai. It refers to all of God’s words that have been revealed to His prophets and written down for His people’s instruction. Words like “law,” “precept,” “testimony,” “statute,” “decree,” “commandment,” “ordinance,” and “precept,” are God’s revelation of Himself in written, objective truth.
It is absolutely crucial that you understand that when the psalmist meditates on the law, he finds much more than words written on a page. He meets God. This is a very personal psalm. This is not a study in law. This is communion. God speaks in and through His Scriptures. And, you will find that the psalmist personally responds to God in prayers and cries and complaints and vows and requests and questions. This is not monologue. This is dialogue. This is not just information for the mind. It is communication from the heart. The treasure that the psalmist hides in his heart is a means to a face-to-face, life-transforming relationship with his Creator and Redeemer. The same precious communion awaits you. I pray that as you begin to hide the Word of God in your heart you will also discover Delightful Decrees.
EXPOSITION: “There are two ways to state the ultimate goal of life, one positively and one negatively. Positively, we could say that the ultimate goal in life is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. Or, negatively, we could say that the ultimate goal of life is not to sin. They both mean the same thing because sinning is failing to glorify God by valuing other things as more enjoyable than God.” (John Piper: as quoted from a sermon called “Thy Word Have I Hidden in My Heart.”)
That is what the psalmist is talking about when he says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” If we could learn how not to sin, we would learn to enjoy God more. And, if we would learn to enjoy God more, we would learn to sin less. Scripture is God’s means to do both. The Scriptures reveal the beauty of God. The more we know about Him, the more we will enjoy Him. The Scriptures reveal the sins of our lives that keep us from enjoying Him. So, the psalmist treasures the Word in his heart because it enables him to be what God created him to be: A man who glorifies the beauty of God by enjoying Christ more than idols of this world.
The way we find ultimate pleasure is not by relying upon some subjective feeling or some self-centered thought. It happens by knowing in our mind and loving in our heart the objective, written Word of God. God has chosen to reveal Himself through the law. The law, as the psalmist uses it, is all of the written words that came by revelation from the mouth of God. It is the written, objective Word of God that the psalmist treasures in his heart.
The heart is the place inside us. It is what we think and feel. It is not enough for us just to know the truth. The devil thinks and knows more truth about God than any of us. But he does not love Truth. That is why we need the work of God’s Spirit to open the eyes of our heart so we can see the glory of Christ as being so valuable that we want Him more than anything else. To hide God’s Word in our hearts is both to store His words in our head and to love His words in our heart. That is why we must pray with the psalmist: “Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in your law;” (Psalm 119:18) and, “praise be to you O Lord, teach me your decrees” (119:12).
The word hidden is the Hebrew word tsaphan. It has a secondary meaning of “treasure.” In a day when there were no banks that is what you did with what you valued. You hid it. So, the psalmist is saying that God’s law is so valuable to him that he stores it in his mind and heart. The reason that it is so valuable is that it keeps him from losing out on the joy and pleasure he was designed for: seeing and savoring the glory of God.
The way we store God’s Word in our hearts is by memorization. We memorize Scripture and store it there like an ant who stores food for winter. When the cold harsh winds of temptation and doubt intensify, we have resources that are more than enough to win our battle for joy. Memorizing Scripture is not just a mental discipline. It is a strategy for war.
Jesus memorized Scripture. How else could He recall the Scriptures that sent away the devil in the desert? He said, “It is written.” Why didn’t Jesus just say, “Devil be gone. I can see through your lies.” The answer must be that there is something so powerful, so evident, and so truthful in God’s written Word that the devil must flee. All of his subtle and deceptive ways cannot overcome God’s truth, stored, loved, and obeyed by the heart of faith. The devil is wasting his time with a person who has the Word hidden in his heart.
The reason that the Word is so crucial to our victory is that it is tied to our faith. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing comes by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Strong men of faith have always memorized Scripture because faith depends upon a constant interaction with the promises and commands of God. If you choose to not memorize, you cut yourself off from the food that is necessary for a strong battle for faith and joy in Christ Jesus.
COMMITMENT: If you want to experience the delight of the psalmist, do two things. First, read it every day. Second, hide Psalm 119 in your heart. Memorize it. Do not say you cannot memorize. You can do it! If I were to give you $10,000 dollars for every verse you memorize, do you think you could do it? Think of the time and the energy and the creativity you muster to gain that much money in other ways. After all, the Bible says that God’s Word is more “precious than gold, than much fine gold” (Psalm 19:10). Is it possible that our failure to memorize is not about ability but motivation? We just do not believe that Bible memory is that valuable.
Let me share my testimony. I began to memorize Psalm 27 a few years ago. Then I meditated upon it for a whole year. What I did not know was that God was getting His Word into my heart because He knew what was ahead. Then the tuff times hit. I went through a wave of painful and hurtful experiences. My faith was rocked. I struggled with depression. I heard accusing voices that said I was a failure in every area of my life. But in the darkness of night, when I could not sleep, I was held together by the Word of God that was hidden in my heart.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation,
whom shall I fear,
The Lord is the strength of my life,
of whom shall I be afraid.”
I literally fed on that psalm. It was my hope. It was my strength. God spoke to me through His Word. What He said by His Word was more real to me than what I was hearing from my enemy.
The darkness is now gone, but I learned a valuable lesson. I learned the value of hiding God’s Word in my heart. So, I proceeded to memorize Psalm 1, then 19, 23, 27, 42, 63, 119:9-16, Isaiah 40:25-31, Romans 8:28-39, and Ephesians 1 and 2. I am now committed to memorizing all of Ephesians and all of Psalm 119. Bible memorization no longer is an optional discipline. It has become my joy.
STEPS TO MEMORIZATION:
1. Motivation: Do you want to see God’s glory more than anything else? To see the glory of Christ must be a passion.
2. Supplication: Ask God for that passion. It will take a miracle of God to see and love His glory revealed in His Word.
3. Selection: Choose a passage that speaks God’s promises to the specific needs of your life.
4. Repetition: Begin to memorize by repeating one verse over and over until it becomes imbedded in your mind.
5. Recollection: Every day begin by reviewing every passage you have already memorized before you add more verses to your treasury. (Each day I try to go through all of the chapters that I have learned before I go to my new passage.)
6. Meditation: Write the passage down so you can think about it and rehearse it and pray over it at any place and at any time.
7. Be prepared to be drawn back to the passage at any time of the day or night. Check out how the psalmist points to the value of remembering God’s Word in the night time (Psalm 119:55; 63:6).
8. Communion: Set specific spaces to get alone with God throughout your day and spend time praying God’s words back to Him. Keep a diary of what God is saying to you and what you are saying to God.
For forty years William Wilberforce fought to end slavery in the British Commonwealth. It was a long harsh battle that cost him dearly. Strong political and financial opponents made his life miserable, but he refused to give up. It wasn’t till forty years later, one month after Wilberforce died, that the full victory was won. What kind of personal resource gave Wilberforce the inner strength to sustain him in this long, intense battle? Maybe a piece taken out of his personal diary of 1819, will give us a clue: “Walked today from Hyde Park Corner, repeating the 119th Psalm in great comfort.”
May God grant you the same comfort and strength to accomplish what He has designed for your life. And, may Psalm 119 become a constant source of delight as you wage the war for His glory and your joy
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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