Knowing Jesus through Scripture Meditation (Psalm 119:9-15)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, January 19, 2020
I once came across a powerful quote by Daniel Webster that illustrates this topic. In the presence of Professor Sanborn of Dartmouth College, Mr. Webster laid his hand on a copy of the Scriptures as he said, “This is the Book. I have read through the entire Bible many times. I now make it a practice to go through it once a year. It is the Book of all others for lawyers as well as divines; and I pity the man who cannot find in it a rich supply of thought, and of rules for his conduct. It fits man for life—it prepares him for death.”,
With that in mind, turn to Psalm 119. I read the following:
The anonymous psalmist who wrote this longest psalm sought refuge from his persecutors and found strength by meditating on the Word of God. This psalm, the longest chapter in the Bible, is largely a collection or anthology of prayers and thoughts about God’s Word. C. S. Lewis compared it to a piece of embroidery, done stitch by stitch in the quiet hours for the love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship.
This psalm contains a reference to God’s Word in almost every verse (except verses 84, 90, 121, 122, and 132). (The Jews claimed that only one verse did not refer directly to God’s Word: verse 122.756) The psalmist used at least eight synonyms for the Word of God, each of which conveys a slightly different emphasis. However, sometimes it appears that the writer chose a synonym simply to avoid repetition. “Way” and “ways” (Heb. derek) describes the pattern of life God’s revelation marks out. It occurs 13 times in the psalm (vv. 1, 3, 5, 14, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 37, 59, 168).
We are in a sermon series in which I am talking about knowing God. How do you know God? One way to know God is to know His Word. One way to know His Word is to read His Word. A way to go deeper in His Word is to memorize His Word. While we memorize His Word, we are meditating on His Word.
Let’s read verses 9-16 because the Hebrew Bible would consider that a section, the Beth section.
My theme and application is:
Challenge yourself by meditating on Scripture.
How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.
Think about what this passage says, Hide the Word in our heart:
“The act of ‘hiding’ God’s word is not to be limited to the memorization of individual texts or even whole passages but extends to a holistic living in devotion to the Lord (cf. Deut 6:4-9; 30:14; Jer 31:33).”
Other responses to God’s Word that the writer mentioned and that occur first in this section are “rejoicing” (vv. 14, 74, 162), “meditating” (vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148), and “delighting” (vv. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174).
- This is the longest chapter in the Bible and it is all about God’s Word, the Bible.
- The Psalms have been called the Jewish Hymnbook. Interesting that the longest is all about God’s Word. We have Psalms in the book of Psalms that they would sing on their way to Jerusalem for certain feasts, called Psalms of ascent. These are Psalms 120-134. I find it interesting that these Psalms follow the masterpiece on the Bible. Therefore, I believe meditating on the Scriptures is pivotal in worship.
- There are verses in Psalm 119 that specify praise: See verse 164: Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
- Consider this, the Psalmist is praising God for His righteous law. The Law is the Word, the Bible. In fact, terms used for the Word or what we would call the Bible are:
- The Scriptures are our base in our spiritual life. They are our guide. We must have God’s Word in our head.
- Think of paint, the base is critical. I worked at Lowe’s and I went to a paint certification class. In painting they taught us something like 90% of painting is surface preparation. Not only that, there are base paints which we used to mix paints.
- Our surface prep for spirituality is being in the Bible. Reading the Bible having the Bible handy.
- The Bible is our base. Just like I could not mix paint without the proper base paint, we cannot grow spiritually without the Word of God.
- Think of a building’s foundation. I am not a master-builder, but I have dug holes and we are supposed to go a certain depth. Foundation is important and the Bible is the foundation for us spiritually.
- There was a wonderful family in my youth ministry in Cincinnati. So, I was disappointed to see that the mother posted an article on Facebook, or, rather linked an article, that references things the author wished Christians admitted about the Scriptures. This article had a negative view of the Scriptures. However, the more I study, the more I learn, the longer I am a Christian I am realizing that every Word of the Bible has great value and great meaning. Jesus responded to the devil’s attacks with the Scriptures (Matthew 4; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13; John 4:6-7). The Word is the only, offensive weapon against the enemy in Ephesians 6:17, the Sword of the Spirit. People have sought out to prove the Bible wrong and they become believers.
- I believe the Bible leads us into worship.
- How can we study the Bible, study the promises of God, and not worship the One those promises are about? I believe the Bible is written about a Big God. Tony Campolo was once confronted by an atheist who was one of his students. The young man told Campolo, “For me to believe in God, I have to have a God that I can understand.” And Campolo replied, “God refuses to be that small!”
- I believe the Bible leads us into prayer.
- In Eugene Peterson’s book called Answering God, He makes a strong case that we only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary—that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back. And he said the prayer book of the Bible is the Psalms, and our prayer life would be immeasurably enriched if we were immersed in the Psalms. 
- So, we need to have the Word, the Bible, in our head, we do that by meditation.
- Let’s walk through the passage:
- Verse 9 the way for a young man to stay pure by living according to God’s Word.
- Notice that verse 9 is a question and an answer.
- I don’t believe the author is a young man and so I don’t think the author is talking about himself right here. I think the author is advising young people on how to stay pure.
- What does it mean to be pure? The verb translated as “pure” always means a moral sense. It can mean to be justified, to be righteous before God, to be clean in the sight of God.
- Don’t we all want to be right in God’s sight? Don’t we all want to be clean? Psalm 51 was written right after David, the King of Israel, had sinned by committing adultery and murder. In verse 2 of that Psalm he says, “Wash away all my iniquity, and purify me from my sin.” David had this sin before him and he wanted to be clean.
- David had already committed the sin. But in the passage before us this morning the point is preventive. How can a young person keep his/her way pure?
- The answer: by living according to God’s Word.
- There is something unsaid in this verse. It is implied and will be stressed more in verse 11 and the rest of the Psalm. Listen: a young person or anyone else cannot live according to God’s Word if they don’t know it.
- Think of the Bible as a filter for your life. I have had aquariums for half of my life. An aquarium needs a filter. The filter takes out the impurities and cleans the water. The Word of God is your filter for your life. It is the parent’s responsibility, under God, to teach their children God’s Word. At a certain point, as the child grows up, it is their responsibility to start teaching themselves. God has given us a filter for our life, but it requires that we spend time studying this filter and how to use it. Many times we let the filter sit on a shelf.
- It is not enough to take our filter off the shelf and read it, we must memorize it. We must know the Word of God when it is not in front of us. We must know the Word of God as second nature.
- In the original language the text says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By ‘keeping or ‘guarding’ his way according to your word.” Notice the difference? The NIV says by living according to God’s Word.
- The importance is that in the original language the idea of guarding our life and the guard is God’s Word. We have a guard watching out for evil and sin. Back in Bible times they had watchmen who stood on the city’s wall and watched for invaders. That is what this word means.
- How can a young man keep his way pure? By using the Word of God as a guard against evil.
- Although this is directly to young man or woman, this is not limited to a young person. The very next verse will make that clear.
- Notice in verse 10 the Psalmist changes from a young man to himself.
- He says, “’I’ seek you.” How much does the Psalmist seek the Lord? With every bit of his being, with his whole heart.
- This verse has two parts. The first part is a statement of what he is doing and the second part is a plea.
- Can you say that? Do you want to be able to say that? We all can, but we have so many distractions. Start by making the Word of God a guard for your life. Start by reading it, meditating on it, memorizing it. And start by having a fear of sin.
- Look at the second half of this verse. It is a crying plea. “Please, please do not let me stray from Your commands!”
- There seems to be a fear of falling away, of backsliding.
- I must ask myself, “am I scared of falling into sin? Am I scared like that of going into situation where I may gossip, lie, or sin in another way?”
- If so, meditating on Scripture is the way to purity.
- Verse 11 comes back to the preventive idea.
- It is simply a short sentence: Your Word I have hidden in my heart… this means meditating on it. Thinking about it when you drive, or do other monotonous tasks. Memorize it.
- Why did he hide the Word in his heart? So, he doesn’t sin against the Lord.
- First, we read the Scriptures, then we memorize them, then we meditate on them. That is the way to sin free living. As we meditate on them, they are always before us in thought. As they are before us in thought they are a filter to keep our life pure.
- There is a Campus Crusade for Christ missionary, he memorizes whole books of the Bible. He memorizes the shorter, New Testament books. You know how he does it? When he jogs he takes his Bible and reads them over and over again.
- Ponder this: why are the Scripture worth reading, meditating on and even memorizing?
- These are the words for eternal life. These Scriptures are illegal in many countries. They may be illegal in the US some day. People have died to get you these Scriptures. Truly, people have been burned at the stake for translating the Bible. These are the Words to a full life.
- These are the words by which we can live a pure life. Use the Scriptures as a filter.
- Meditate is used 18 times in the N.I.V. translation of the Old Testament and 16 times in the Psalms. Meditate is used a total of 8 times in Psalm 119. Of course, what does the verb mediate have to do with the Bible.
- I once heard that the Hebrew verb “to meditate” has to do with chewing on something over and over again. From the Hebrew word ‘meditate’ we get our English word “ruminate”. It literally means ‘to chew the cud’. It’s like a cow that chews and re-chews the cud to extract all the nutrients from it. We need to approach God’s word at times and chew the cud.
- The idea of meditation is not necessarily memorization, but making the Scriptures a part of us. This means that we will reason differently, think differently, live differently. The promises of God, the actions of God are a part of us. Then we have the language of God a part of us.
- Look at verse 15: 15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
- I have been talking about knowing God and making the case that we know God by meditating on His Word. How do we meditate on the Word?
- Make it your goal to memorize the Word.
- Choose a Modern translation as it will be easier if you can understand the language.
- Select a verse relative to your needs/life.
- Read a passage several times to understand the full meaning.
- Begin one verse at a time per passage
- List the verbs in the passage/verse in order- ask what is next, add the rest of the verse to the verbs.
- Visualize the sequence of events.
- Carry memory cards.
- Strive for word perfect memorization.
- Practice reciting to a friend.
- Remember you will learn it if you just keep ruminating on the passage.
I drink coffee most days. I love coffee. You know what? I absolutely hate it when I get grounds in my coffee. The grounds look like dirt and so I want my coffee filter to do its’ job and keep the grounds out of my coffee. Likewise, the Bible will help you keep dirt out of your life. Read it, memorize it, and meditate on it! Because meditating on Scripture is the way to Holy Living, the way to purity sin-free living! Try it. This week, memorize Romans 12:1-2 and then come to me and I will recommend another passage to memorize. Maybe there is a group of you that will want to memorize Scripture together?
Do you know Him?
Confess, believe, trust, commit
Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.
Charles R. Swindoll, Insight for Living devotion on Psalm 119:97 (I think)
 1. Daniel Webster, quoted in Stephen Abbott Northrop, A Cloud of Witnesses: The Greatest Men in the World for Christ and the Book (Fort Wayne, IN: The Mason Long Publishing Co., 1894), 491.
 (From a sermon by Jeff Strite, Trusting in Ravens, 8/8/2011)
 Tim Keller