Day 5: May 7, 2018: Storing God’s Word in our Hearts
Psalm 119:11-13: I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
The verb translated “have stored up” in verse 11 means to “conceal something with a definite purpose, either for protection or for sinister reasons.” Moses’ mother “hid him three months” (Ex. 2:2) to protect him from Pharaoh’s decree that all Hebrew baby boys be put to death. Conversely, David’s enemies concealed themselves so that they could attack him from the shadows: “All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life” (Ps. 56:5-6). The purpose of storing up the word of God within ourselves is plainly stated in the text: that we might not sin against God.
What does it mean to store up God’s word in our hearts? How does having God’s word hidden within us keep us from sin? Let’s take each of these questions in turn.
In order for God’s word to have its full effect it cannot only be words on a page, or the sound of the preacher’s voice. Rather, the word of God must settle into the deepest places of our lives. The word of God is a seed, and our hearts are the soil (Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23). Just as a seed must be planted beneath the surface and into the heart of the soil to grow into a flower or tree, so must the word of God be planted beneath the surface of our lives down into our very souls. Storing up the word of God in our hearts is about taking God’s word into ourselves so that it transforms us from the inside out.
How can we store up God’s word within us? We can read it regularly. We can memorize verses and passages of Scripture. We can meditate on the word – prayerfully wrestling with it and turning it over and over in our minds. We can study the Bible with others in a class or small group. We can listen attentively to preaching with open and searching minds. We can read other books which will help us to better understand and apply what the Bible says. All these disciplines involve us in sustained exposure and attention to God’s word. We will successfully store up God’s word in our hearts only if we treasure it enough to consistently invest our time and effort in taking it into our lives. Job’s plea of his own integrity before God can be an inspiration for us: “I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23:12).
Second, there are several ways in which the word of God works from deep within us to keep us from sin and to form the likeness of Christ in us. To begin with, the living and active word of God discerns the “thoughts and intentions” of our hearts (Heb. 4:12). Our own hearts can deceive us (Jer. 17:9), but the word of God can purify us from the evil things which come from within and defile us (Mark 7:21-23); and the word of God can bring truth to our innermost thoughts, desires, and attitudes (Ps. 51:6). Next, the word of God opens our eyes to the ugliness of sin – so that we are increasingly repelled by it; and also to the beauty of holiness – so that we are increasingly attracted to being like God. This is how God’s word re-orders our distorted desires. Also, the word of God builds up our faith with the knowledge of God’s faithfulness, power, and love. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ. (Rom 10:14-17). As our faith grows so does our ability to resist temptation and walk in obedience. Lastly, the word of God hidden within us is our powerful resource for saying no to the devil. Our example in this is Jesus Christ. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he overcame those temptations by means of the word of God which he had stored up within himself (Matthew 4:1-11).
I have personally experienced the power of God’s word at work in me in each of these ways. Many years ago when I was in the midst of a strenuous struggle with sin I memorized 1 Thessalonians 4:7: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” This single verse judged my impure thoughts and desires. It created a longing for holiness in me. It strengthened my faith because I knew that the holiness for which I was longing was God’s will for me. What is more, on many occasions recalling this verse in my mind and reciting it on my lips gave me strength to say no to sin.
Truly the Lord is to be blessed for giving us his word! Let each of us pursue God through his word, that it might dwell richly in us (Col. 3:16), so that we will flee from sin and walk in the ways of Jesus. Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer can help you get started: “O Lord, help me to spend time in your word that I might store it up in my heart. Plant your word in me, O Lord. Let the truth and beauty of your word replace the impure and unclean things which are there now. Thank you that your word can keep me from sin and help me be pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”