“Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11, NASB95)
I’ve heard this simple line from the 119th Psalm often used to encourage Bible memorization. Yet, I wonder if the meaning isn’t far deeper and more powerful. Let’s ponder this verse for a moment or two.
Let’s focus on the word treasured. Other English translations use the word hidden. Taken together, they create a word picture of something that is so valuable to us that we take extra measures to keep it safe. My wife and I have a safety deposit box at the local bank. In that box are some important papers such as car titles and birth certificates. Sorry, no gold or silver, although there are a few old coins that have more sentimental value than real value. And there is a portable hard drive with decades of family photos. These are the things we chose to treasure, to value highly, and to keep safe.
The Psalmist encourages the readers to treasure, to keep safe, to highly value God’s word in our hearts. Notice that it’s more than just memorization. We have an emotional connection to that which we treasure in our hearts. We can memorize all kinds of things without an emotional connection. During my training in Computer Networking, it was necessary to memorize the structure of the small electronic packets used to transfer information across networks and the Internet. My mind remembers it, but my heart, my emotions, could care less.
Anyone can memorize passages from the Bible, even whole books, and come away unchanged unless they highly value and treasure the words. We can read the Bible many times over, but if we don’t treasure it, then it is nothing more than a religious text from antiquity. Jesus said, “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” (Luke 6:47–48, NASB95)
Hearing and acting, that is the key that unlocks the treasure of God’s word. Another word that I like to use is “apply.” Many times, we view God’s word as a kind of rule book. But how many things in our daily lives didn’t exist 2000 or more years ago? Yet, as we treasure God’s Word, we begin to understand principles that we can apply wherever we are. The principle of gracious speech (Colossians 4:6) applies face to face and over social media (something never envisioned in the pages of the Bible).
It is in that steady growth of treasuring God’s word that we increasingly enjoy the second half of the Psalm, “that I may not sin against You.” As we treasure and apply God’s word in our hearts, we increasingly make choices away from sin. Not because we have to, but because we want to. I think that is why Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God with everything we are and to love others as we love ourselves. Love is emotional, but it is also actionable. As we treasure and apply God’s word in our hearts, we love Him more and more.
Yes, memorize God’s word. Yes, read it often, even daily. Yes, study and meditate on it. But more importantly, do it. Apply it to your life, and in the process, love and treasure it in your heart.