Storing up Your Word in My Heart

How can a young man keep his way pure?

By guarding it according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you;

let me not wander from your commandments!

I have stored up your word in my heart,

that I might not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O LORD;

teach me your statutes!

With my lips I declare

all the rules of your mouth.

In the way of your testimonies I delight

as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts

and fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

(Psalm 119:9-16, ESV)

Have you ever done something half-heartedly? You knew it was a good thing to do, or that you had to do it, and you mustered enough energy and focus to get it done, but you weren’t really entering into it with any energy or enjoyment. I think, from time to time, we all experience that in our devotional practices, and maybe even when leading a Bible study. We’re faithful to the task, and we know it is good to do, but something inside of us just isn’t engaging with it as we should. God desires whole-hearted engagement, and it begins with how we respond to His Word, the Scriptures.

Two things stand out to me in this passage: (1) The psalmist’s intense desire to please God; and (2) His great confidence that knowing and following God’s Word is key to doing this well. This desire leads him to treasure and delight in God’s Word, and to commit himself to learn and obey it. What we see is a whole-hearted engagement with Scripture as a means to seek and know God better, enabling the psalmist to avoid sin. So eager is the psalmist for this kind of help, that he begs God to teach him and he commits himself to do what he can to learn and internalize God’s Word. He isn’t content merely to read the Scriptures and then move on to other interests. Look at how he describes his actions:

Storing up God’s Word in his heart. Not content to read and forget, the psalmist invests time in learning the Scripture to the point where he can recall it when needed. He memorizes it, but does so with a purpose of using it later to guide his life, not to earn points or win approval from others. Lois LeBar once critically quipped, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might get a star on my chart.” What drives the psalmist is his desire to avoid sin and live a life pleasing to God.

Declaring all God’s rules. As he learns God’s Word, the psalmist shares it with others, knowing its message is meant for all of God’s people, that they may benefit as well.

Delighting in God’s testimonies. The psalmist does not consider this a task of drudgery, or mindless rote memorization. Both his mind and his heart are engaged as he reads, and he learns to delight in God’s love and care for His people shown in His Word. Learning becomes an enjoyable task, encouraging the heart.

Meditating on God’s precepts. As he learns God’s Word, the psalmist takes time to prayerfully reflect on what the Scripture says and means—its significance for him and God’s people. “Marinating” in God’s Word allows its influence to penetrate deeper, helping us see relevance and implications that we may miss with just a casual reading. Meditating on the Word allows opportunities for the Holy Spirit to show us where the Word is relevant in our lives, and helps us more fully appreciate the person and character of God.

Fixing his eyes on God’s ways. The psalmist’s learning of God’s Word does not stem from idle interest, or simply to know more about God. He focuses his attention on what God has said and done. He concentrates on what he reads so he won’t miss anything important. It has his full attention. At the end of this passage he summarizes his resulting hope: that he will delight in God’s statutes and not forget His Word.

The psalmist’s description of his whole-hearted pursuit of God, his love of God’s Word, his desire for God to teach him, and his commitment to learn and respond in obedience are all convicting for me. Many times, I share this same desire. But at other times, I lose some of that desire, and am content to prepare to lead my Bible study with a distracted or half-engaged heart. I pray that as you study God’s Word in preparation to lead your study group, God will be your teacher, you will delight in His Word, and your own desire to know and obey Him more fully will overflow as you lead. May you meditate on God’s Word and see the riches that are there for you!

Father, please forgive me for those times when my pursuit of You, and engagement with Your Word, have been half-hearted. Help me to more fully engage, learning and meditating on Your Word, that what I share as I lead others in studying Scripture shows my own delight in Your teaching, and a heart that longs to obey You. Help me more fully appreciate the riches of Your Word. May I not forget it, but store it in my heart, that I might not sin against you! Amen.

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