Psalm 119:11 has long been a key verse for memorizing Scripture. The psalmist says he hides God’s Word in his heart. By memorizing the Word he wages war against sin. The ESV translates hidden as “stored up.” The psalmist stockpiles God’s Word like a crazed end of the worlder stockpiles food. He has verses to fight fear. He has verses to fight anger. He has verses to remind him to be holy. He has verses to remind him of God’s character. If the enemy confounds him, he runs to God’s Word to find verses so he is not defeated again. By hiding up God’s Word, he is like a well equipped soldier, prepared to enter battle.
However, this verse does not simply mean that we should memorize Scripture. “Heart” in the Old Testament encompasses the entire life of a man, not just the mind. God’s Word is to be internalized by us. It is to become part of who we are. It is to flow through our veins. We should memorize particular verses and passages. But we should also become familiar with all of God’s Word. We should read it over and over again until it becomes “deeply seated in our hearts” (John Calvin). We grow in obedience to God’s Word so that we are able to discern good and evil. We talk about God’s Word with other Christians. We listen carefully to sermons and teaching by our pastors and elders. The goal is not memorization. Memorization is the means. The goal is a life governed by the Word of God.
This verse teaches us that Old Testament saints were supposed to have God’s Word in their hearts. Many Christians believe the OT was focused on the outward rituals, such as washings and sacrifices, while the New Testament is now focused on the internal. Our passage here, as well as many others, cuts down this idea. The OT saints were expected to love God from their heart. Psalm 37:31 says that the righteous man has the law of God in his heart. There are differences between the OT and the NT, but focus on the heart is not one of them.
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