One of the most familiar verses in Psalms, in fact, in the Old Testament, is “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (119:11). One of the blessings of a familiar text is that the truth it contains is readily accessible to our minds and hearts. But with familiarity also comes the danger of allowing our knowledge to become presumptuous so that the sharp edge of newly-discovered truth that quickly pricks grows blunted and dull. Let’s take a few moments to rediscover the blessed sharpness of this verse.
“Thy word.” What whets the psalmist’s desire is the realization that he has in his hands (and, consequently, may have in his heart), not merely a piece of great literature (the best-expressed thoughts of the best minds), but the very words of God addressed personally to him. Such a treasure should be esteemed. And the psalmist realizes that the proper use of such a gift is not the placing of the book in a museum for everyone to view as an icon; rather, it is to put it to the full use for which it was intended, namely, his edification and sanctification. The reality that God has imparted His thoughts to us by His Word should produce in us, not only reverence, awe, and thankfulness for it, but also faith and obedience to it.
“Have I hid in my heart.” We sometimes use the expression “to learn by heart,” meaning “to memorize.” There is certainly an element of memorization involved in what the psalmist is confessing. But there is much more than that. For as the final clause indicates, this “hiding” keeps us from sin. Mere memorization does nothing of the sort. No, this hiding, which may include memorization, also entails meditation and application. To hide the Word of God in our hearts is to suggest that our thoughts, our desires, our will, and our actions are controlled by the Word of God. Proverbs warns: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (4:23). All that conduces to eternal life, to blessed life, and to victorious life find their springs in the heart. When faced with a choice or a temptation, we are to be governed by the Word of God. Oftentimes that controlling influence will be the conscious recollection of a specific scripture; sometimes it may simply be a “sense” of blessing or of foreboding that the Spirit of God is free to convey to the heart that is saturated with His Word and submitting to it.
“That I might not sin against thee.” Whether by blessing or foreboding, the Word of God secured in our hearts keeps us on the path of righteousness and off the path of sin. When we come to God’s Word to know His will that we might do it, we are kept from sin, whether a sin of omission or commission. We are blessed if we recognize and utilize the Word of God as the instrument of God to keep us from sin against Him and in the center of His blessed will. The New Testament underlines the same truth with these words: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
What a gift we have been given by God! His own thoughts in a language we can understand. His will revealed that we might be delivered from sin, that we might glorify Him, that He might be able to bless us. Given such a rich gift, how can we ever depart from the Word, regard it carelessly or even casually? How can we ever come to the Word without reverence, awe, and thankfulness, and without a desire to believe it implicitly and obey it explicitly? All we need, yes, all that God desires of us, we find in Him and in His Word.
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