Hiding God’s Word in Your HeartDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
I can still hear the voices of my Sunday school teachers as they taught me to memorize Psalm 119:11 in the classic King James Version: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Hiding God’s word in one’s heart was a matter of Bible memorization, which was highly prized in my Sunday school. If we memorized passages from Scripture, we’d get little stickers that would be applied to our 12x24 inch cardboard shields. The more passages, the more stickers. Some of my friends had memorized so many portions of Scripture that their collection of stickers covered their entire shield, cascading below it like a waterfall of living water. I earned enough stickers to avoid embarrassment but was never at the head of the class when it came to hiding God’s word in my heart.
I’m still not great at Bible memory. I can tell you the basic content of hundreds of biblical passages, but I can’t recite many of them verbatim. Partly, this is a matter of how my brain works. Partly, it’s a result of studying the Bible in many different translations, including the original languages. Knowing Greek and Hebrew might be great for learning what Scripture means, but it wreaks havoc on word-for-word memorization of the English Bible.
Nevertheless, I believe that memorizing passages of Scripture is an invaluable spiritual discipline. In times of trial, it’s wonderful to be able to run through Psalm 23 in your mind without needing to read it. When sharing your faith with others, it helps to be able to cite relevant biblical passages, such as John 3:16 or Romans 6:23. Of course, it’s not essential that you get every word right, but it’s helpful when you know certain verses “by heart.”
When Psalm 119:11 speaks of hiding God’s word in our hearts, however, it is not referring only to memorization. This phraseology refers to what we might call internalizing God’s word: reading it, studying it, believing it, marinating in it, being filled with it, being shaped by it. If you memorize the whole Bible but are not being transformed by it, then you’re not hiding God’s word in your heart. Conversely, if you are allowing the truth of God to guide you, teach you, admonish you, and form you, then you are hiding it in your heart, even if you can’t perfectly quote dozens of biblical passages.
So, by all means, develop the discipline of memorizing Scripture. But, even more, develop the discipline of letting God’s word fill your heart, mold your character, direct your behavior, and change your life.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are your experiences with Bible memorization? When have you found it helpful to know passages of Scripture by heart? When have you wished you had done so? What helps you to internalize God’s word, to take it to heart and be transformed by it?
PRAYER: Gracious God, I would like to hide more of your word in my heart. I would like to memorize more of Scripture than I have already. Help me to develop this discipline so that I might carry your words around with me (and not just in my smartphone).
Beyond this, may your word make a home in me, taking up residence in my thoughts, feelings, dreams, and visions. May all that I am—inside and out—be shaped by your truth as it’s revealed in Scripture. Amen.
We have asked some members of our community to share their holy routines. At first glance, these routines may not seem holy at all. However, in this series, Holy Routines, our writers extend an invitation to you to walk beside them in the actions and interactions and spaces that often seem ordinary but also usher them into the presence of God. We hope that spending a few moments in the holy routines of a few friends will inspire you to see and meet God in daily moments you may be tempted to rush through, or where you feel tempted to overlook the presence of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this series will give you permission to savor the sacred in the ordinary moments of your day.