Theme: Hiding God’s Word in Our Hearts
In this week’s lessons from Psalm 119, we learn from the Word of God how to live a pure life.
Scripture: Psalm 119:9-16
Despite the need for the memorization of Scripture, many churches have toned down Christian education so that children are barely taught anything. Years ago we determined to resist this trend at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, where I serve as senior minister. Shortly after I began my pastorate in the late 1960s, a number of interested people put together a Sunday school curriculum in which the emphasis is upon the great truths of the Bible, taught in three-year cycles. The first year teaches them a sequence of important doctrines. The second year approaches the same truths in terms of a person’s relationship to God and other people. The third year looks at these same teachings from the standpoint of history, asking, What is God doing in history? How do I fit in? The curriculum repeats this cycle every three years, so there is a constant reinforcement of these truths among the young people.
Together with this curriculum, we outlined a thorough Bible memorization program in which parts of verses are learned by the youngest students, the whole of these verses and short passages by older children, and eventually even several long chapters by those who are coming to the end of their Bible school years. We also have the children memorize a simplified catechism, based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. And we teach them some of the great hymns of the church instead of choruses.
Does it work? It is impossible to produce the regenerating work of the Spirit of God in their hearts by any amount of good teaching, of course. Regeneration and growth are the work of God, not the work of man. But if what we are seeking is going to happen in any way, it is going to be by such teaching, since it is only through the saving revelation of God in Scripture that God himself may be found. We should notice that in these first three verses of this psalm section the poet links pursuit of God’s Word to the pursuit of God himself. “I seek you with all my heart” (v. 10). Therefore, I live “according to your word” (v. 9).
Thus far in our study we have seen: 1) that we must begin to study the Bible when we are young or, at any rate, at the earliest possible moment; and 2) that we must proceed by memorizing the Word in order that it might be hidden in our hearts and thus be readily available to us. Now we ask why we should engage in such study. We have already seen one answer already; it is that we might get to know God. But what the poet is particularly interested in here is that we might live holy lives, that is, that we “might not sin against God” (v. 11).
We live in a corrupt and sinful world, and there is nothing in the world which in itself will help us live a pure life. More than one hundred years ago, the great Bible teacher Alexander Maclaren wrote that the world is “a great deal fuller of inducements to do wrong than of inducements to do right,… a great many bad things that have a deceptive appearance of pleasure, a great many circumstances in which it seems far easier to follow the worse than to follow the better course. And so unless a man has learned the great art of saying, ‘No!’ ‘So did not I because of the fear of the Lord,’ he will come to rack and ruin without a doubt.”1
What can preserve us from ruin? What can empower us to say “No” to temptation? What can enable us to live a holy life in the midst of our most wicked surroundings? Only the Word of God, the Bible, which we must study and hide away in our hearts. Jesus told his disciples, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). He also prayed to the Father on their behalf, saying, “Sanctify them by the truth,” noting that “your word is truth” (John 17:17).
Here is an outline for verse 11 that may help you to remember what we have noticed in the psalm thus far. It goes like this:
The best thing—”thy Word”
Hidden in the best place—“my heart”
For the best purpose—“that I might not sin against thee.”2
Remember that the Bible is God’s cleansing agent for sin and that without it we will never live a holy life.
1Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol. 3, The Psalms, Isaiah 1-48 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1959), p. 286.
2Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3a, Psalms 88-119 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), p. 159. Herbert Lockyer has a similar outline which goes:
The Best Possession—”Thy Word”The Best Plan—”Have I hid”The Best Place—”In my heart “The Best Purpose — “That I might not sin against thee.”
See Herbert Lockyer, Sr., Psalms: A Devotional Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), p. 544.
Why is it important to teach children the Scriptures?
With what does the psalmist link the pursuit of God’s Word?
What enables us to live holy lives in a corrupt, selfish world?
For what two reasons should we engage in Bible study?
What role does Bible study play in your life? Why do you do it? And if you do not study the Bible very much, what steps do you need to take to correct this?
Evaluate the messages of how to live that you get from our culture. What results from following that path?
Key Point: Remember that the Bible is God’s cleansing agent for sin and that without it we will never live a holy life.