Hide God’s Word in your Heart
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, ESV)
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV)
One of the disciplines that is vitally important for spiritual growth is the practice of hiding (or “storing”) God’s Word in our hearts. If we want to be faithful, growing disciples of Jesus, our souls need to be so gripped by Holy Scripture that it governs our priorities, guides our values, and directs us in the way of obedience and holiness. But how do we go about “hiding God’s Word in our hearts”? Is it just through the practice of memorizing Scripture verses, or is more involved when it comes to hiding God’s Word in our hearts? Here are some thoughts on ways in which we can store up the Word in our souls.
(1) We hide God’s Word in our hearts by familiarizing ourselves with the Story of Redemption.
It seems to me that many Christians today have been taught to approach the Bible as a book of isolated, unrelated “proof texts.” In other words, we can quote chapter and verse to make an argument or prove a point, but sometimes those proof texts are lifted out of context, and when quoting verses we sometimes demonstrate ignorance of how the passage we are quoting actually fits in to the “big picture” of God’s unfolding drama of redemption. This may be in part a result of the addition of chapters and verses to the writings of Holy Scripture, which were not originally penned with chapter and verse divisions.
To properly hide God’s Word in our hearts, we need to understand that ultimately the Bible is a progressive, unfolding Divine revelation of God’s plan of redemption. Though it contains many different books written by many different human authors at many different times in history, the Holy Spirit is the Divine author behind the human authors who unifies their message, and the book ultimately contains one major plotline that weaves throughout the Scriptures: the “Story” of how God planned to redeem His people from sin through a chosen Messiah-King. This Story finds its climax and fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and promised Messiah! The point here is this: It is possible to memorize hundreds of Bible verses, but if these verses are understood apart from the “big picture” of God’s plan of redemption through Christ, then God’s Word is not being properly stored in your heart. That would be like studying a few trees in a large forest, but ignoring the forest which gives the trees their living context.
So, don’t just read Bible verses or smaller passages. Read larger sections of Scripture, and read whole books of the Bible. Also, don’t approach the Bible as if it were merely a book of moral tales intended primarily to give moral direction. Instead, understand that, while the Bible does indeed give us (and all humanity) moral and ethical guidance, it is primarily a book of redemption, not primarily a book of morals. The ethical commands of Scripture (for example, the ten commandments) are revealed within the ultimate context of God’s work of redemption (for example, God’s redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt); so a moralistic, “do-gooder” approach to the Bible is a misuse of Scripture, and will not result in properly hiding God’s Word in the heart.
(2) We hide God’s Word in our hearts by meditating upon the Word.
The Scriptures commend “meditating” upon the Word. The “meditation” commended in the Bible is not the kind of meditation advocated by certain forms of eastern mysticism, where the goal is to empty your mind so as to gain a sense of tranquility or mystical oneness with ultimate reality. Instead, biblical meditation means reflecting deeply upon, thinking upon, chewing over and inwardly digesting the biblical message and biblical teachings. It is filling your mind, heart and soul with the Word of God, so that it shapes not only the way you think and believe, but also the way you live. Remember that the goal is to hide God’s Word in your heart, so that you may not sin against Him (Psa. 119:11). The flip side of “not sinning” against God is obeying Him. The goal of biblical meditation is not escape or self-emptying, but faithful living in obedience to God and fulness in Christ.
(3) We hide God’s Word in our hearts both by personal study and public attendance upon the ministry of the Word.
Personal Bible reading and personal meditation upon the Word are vitally important, and can be a great aid in hiding God’s Word in our hearts. But often lost today is an equal emphasis upon the importance of publicly hearing the Word of God read and preached in the congregation. Reading the Word is one means the Holy Spirit uses to aid us in hiding God’s Word within our hearts, but hearing the Word read and preached in the public assembly is at least an equally (if not more) important means of learning the contours of the biblical story and storing it up within our souls.
In earlier ages when many of God’s people were illiterate, their only access to the Word was through hearing it read and explained orally. Yet even within the context of such oral cultures where access to the printed word was limited, God was still able to make His Word abound in the hearts of His people, through the public, oral reading and proclamation of that Word. Many of the books of the Bible were in fact written to be read out loud in the congregation, so clearly God intends the hiding of His Word in our hearts to take place not only by means of the private reading the Word with our eyes, but also by the public hearing of the Word with our ears.
Dear readers, let us strive to hide God’s Word in our hearts, that we may not sin against Him; indeed, that we might love, serve and obey Him out of gratitude for His grace to us in Christ our Lord!