Beth, the second strophe of Psalm 119, begins with a very well known and oft quoted verse. Take a look at it for yourself in Psalm 119:9-12:
The most dominant theme that comes through in this second stanza is one of joy and praise. In these four verses, the psalmist writes about holding fast to the Word of God, and then ends with an exclamation of praise in verse 11. And where does this delight and joy find its source? In God’s Word.
This passage starts off with a simple question: How are we to live a holy life? How are we to keep ourselves pure? The answer is immediately given, and is found in living our lives in accordance with the Word of God.
As a youth minister, I cannot count the number of times I heard people say something to the effect of, “I want to enjoy my life while I am young. I’ll consider church and Christianity when I’m older.” But the psalmist reverses that, and says that the way to purity begins when we are young, or at least as young as we can possibly be. This does not discount the possibility of people coming to know God late in life, but rather states the principle that we need to turn to God now, before another moment goes by, as soon as possible. Or, as Hebrews 3 tells us, this is a decision to make today.
The next couple of verses show the lengths we are to go to in order to seek after God’s Word and make it a priority in our lives. Verse two tells us to seek it with all our hearts. Verse three states that we must hide it in our hearts. Doing so will have the effect of helping us not to stray, and helping us to avoid sin.
Both of those results bring an expression of joy and praise to our lips, and to the pen of the psalmist: “Praise be to you, O Lord!” True joy comes from God, and can be found in pursuing his Word.
So how are we to do this? I think there are two avenues to which we can find such joy, through the study of Scripture, and through the memorization of Scripture.
Studying Scripture is more than just a Bible reading plan. Studying Scripture is more than just getting through the Bible in a year’s time or however long it may take us. Studying Scripture means digging into the text and finding out as much as we can about it. Reading through the Bible is good, and we should read it. But to stop there is to stop short. We must study it. We must dig out the meaning of words and phrases. We must find the intent behind what the authors and God want us to see. We must find out what it meant to the original hearers, and what it means for us today. We must seek out those golden nuggets of truth that are in there that must be mined out and examined closely. We must seek, actively; not just read, passively.
The second thing we must do is memorize Scripture.It is only when the Word of God springs readily to our minds when we need it that we are able to profit by it. All too often, when I am faced with temptation, I rarely have a Bible handy to grab and read in order to guard myself against sin. That’s because I may be out and about, or simply nowhere near my Bible at the moment. But when Scripture has been committed to memory, then when temptation strikes, passages pop into my mind, and help me guard against sin. That’s the intent behind verse 11. And it works.
This brings us to verse 12. Because God’s Word is hidden in the psalmist’s heart, his natural inclination is to praise God. The older I get, the more I find this to be true. God’s Word brings me to praise more than anything else in this world; more than anything else in all creation. And that leads me to seek it even more.
The second half of this strophe gives four simple ways to put this into practice. We will look at these in depth next week.
Question: How often do you practice the discipline of memorizing Scripture? What can you do to incorporate it more into your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.