One Little League Baseball game stands out to a young boy. An opposing team’s batter hit a ground rule double that bounced over the fence. Two outfielders scampered over the fence to retrieve the ball so the game could continue (the league had a tight budget on baseballs). Both teams waited for them to return… and waited… and waited, but no one appeared. Concerned coaches finally jogged into the outfield and scaled the fence with other curious players following. They found the missing duo just a few feet beyond the fence, gloves dropped on the ground, ball at their feet and blackberry smiles on their faces!
The two players stepped away from the game to pause and enjoy a moment. Sure, it distracted them from the details of the game. But they did it because they were captured by a delightful taste.
The Bible says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8
Our series in the Psalms, “Living on the Path”, will look at the theme of obedience today. Specifically, we will pickup a challenge that was given last week about spending time meditating and memorizing God’s Word. I believe this discipline is one of the greatest keys to growing spiritually.
Scripture Memorization is the discipline of studying and storing up God’s Word in your mind and heart so that you can recall God’s promises and precepts without having to physically look at the text. God’s people are frequently called to “remember”. As Psalm 105:5 “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.” Meditating and memorizing not only has spiritual benefits but also physical in that it keeps your mind sharp and increases ability to focus. To those who say they cannot memorize Scripture or that it is childish to memorize the response is simply that you memorize that which is important. Do you memorize names of people, house address, phone #’s, bank accounts, directions to places, sport facts, skill sets, etc.? You get the point .
In early church history, Scripture memory was the norm. Scripture was read in repeating cycles as part of corporate worship and often memorized through hearing, since personal copies were minimal or non-existent. Early pastors and church leaders were required to have multiple portions of Scripture memorized. Today, in places where God’s Word is scarce, memorizing Scripture is a necessity for both faith and practice.
Christian Meditation is the discipline of not only remembering but also reflecting. The word “meditation” itself is an onomatopoetic term, reflecting the sounds of growling, murmuring, sighing or chewing. The idea is that meditation is like slowly chewing a meal to savor its taste. Meditation helps free your mind of distractions and focuses your mind on God’s truth. Meditation is not mysterious mind-bending activity or outward body experiences; it simply is the bringing of your whole self before the presence of God. Other religions view meditation is an emptying or detachment of mind and activity, whereas Christian meditation seeks to fill the mind and heart with the fullness of God. Indeed, the Christian life does call for us to empty and detach from sin (this is the biblical and spiritual discipline of confession and repentance). But growth in God is incomplete if pursuit of Him is not included with repentance.
Meditation helps you to remember, reflect on and review Scripture for the purpose of life application. It is not about sitting quietly for itself but stilling yourself to know God (Psalm 46:10).
EXAMINE PSALM 119
Psalm 119, as in Psalm 1, describes the path of blessing [plural: state of blessedness; happy happy]. The Bible often presents two contrasting paths: the narrow way vs the broad way, light vs darkness, obedience vs disobedience, self-wisdom vs God’s wisdom, life vs death. The blessed path is the one that loves God more than the world.
Psalm 119 has 22 stanzas with 8 verses each. Every stanza is represented by a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, with each verse in every stanza starting with that same letter as well. This was likely done for poetic reasons but also practical reasons in that of making it easier for persons to memorize. Further, it appears to be a succession portraying the “ABC’s” for God’s blessing.
Psalm 119 shows at least 3 results of practicing meditation & memorization upon God’s word.
Meditation & memorizing Scripture results in Authenticity (119:1-8).
The first stanza “Aleph” notes that blessing comes from obedience. To speak of God with our lips but not to show God with our lives lacks integrity. The Psalmist grounds a love for God with a love for God’s word. The entire Psalm is dedicated to obedience to God’s word.
The person of God is mentioned or referred to in all 176 verses of this Psalm. Likewise, the “law of the Lord” is referred to in 173 of 176 verses (cf. vv. 84, 90, 149). The various synonyms are torah (24x), precepts (20x), statutes (19x), commandments (22x), judgments/decisions/appointments (22x), word (22x) and promise (20x). Therefore, to love God is compared to a love for God’s Word and walking in His ways.
119:2 Authenticity is “seeking God with your whole heart.”
Where are you giving God fractional obedience rather than full obedience?
– Missionary C.T. Studd “Be extravagant for God or the devil, but for God’s sake don’t be tepid.”
119:3 Authenticity is separating from evil.
119:4-6 Authenticity is being diligent and steadfast in obedience.
– Faithfulness = Focused Priorities; “eyes fixed on your commandments”
119:7-8 Authenticity is having an upright heart (integrity).
– What is your greatest fear? The Psalmist feared shame (v.6) and forsakenness (v.8).
We should fear disappointing God more than others or losing material, worldly applause.
Meditation & memorizing Scripture results in Building faith (119:9-16).
The second stanza “Beth” continues the results of attention to God’s word. Meditating and memorizing Scripture guards your heart from a defiled and debauched world. When our heart and mind are filled with godly treasure then there is little room for worldly trash.
Pastor Chuck Swindoll says, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, p. 61).
119:12-13 Faith is built with a learning attitude. “teach me your statutes”
– Notice: Once the psalmist learns he declares God’s rules to others. The best way to learn is to tell and teach others.
119:14-16 Faith is built with discernment; delighting in God more than worldly riches, fixing eyes…
Meditation & Memorization is not to remind you of school (if you have negative perspective of those days) but to empower your spiritual growth & power.
– Jesus’ life. When Jesus faced temptation from the enemy, He quoted Scripture (Matthew 4). He said “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mat 4:4; Deut 8:3).
– Apostles’ lives. When the disciples faced problems or persecution they recalled Scripture and Jesus’ teachings. The Spirit helped them to do so. (cf. John 14:26; 16:1-4, 33)
– Persecuted Christians’ lives. When Christianity is illegal and Scripture is scarce, believers must pray for copies to be provided or to memorize portions on their own.
– Our lives. We were created and called to glorify God in great ways. Meditating upon and memorizing Scripture helps us to war against mediocrity and to be equipped for effective ministry.
Memorization requires motivation. If someone offered you $1K for every verse you memorize, would you do it?
119:14 “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.”
119:72 “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”
119:127 “I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold
119:162 “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.”
Memorization requires a method. You will need a plan and strategy.
– SPBC: Psalm 1; 1Corinthians 6:12-20; 1Corinthians 13
– Pray about which Scriptures to memorize. Pray for focus & fortitude to persevere.
– Partner with someone to help you be accountable.
– Read multiple times.
– Reflect on passage meaning, flow and application. This is meditation!
– Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
– Review daily.
Meditation & memorizing Scripture results in Contentment (119:17-24).
The third stanza “Gimel” is reflective of contentment. The one who loves God, lives according to God’s word is blessed and content. Contentment is a true expression of understanding one’s identity. The person content with God and His word are humble and prayerful.
119:17-18 Content with God’s grace and beauty in His word.
119:19-23 Content in the midst of enemies and evil.
God’s presence and promises are greater than your problems.
Illus: There was once these city boys who liked watching Duck Dynasty. They decided they were going to go duck hunting. They’ve seen it on the show and thought it would be something fun to do. So they dress in camouflage, get a hunting dog and go duck hunting. After an entire day of not catching any ducks they were disappointed. The one boy says to the other, “Well maybe if we threw the dog up a little higher he could catch a duck next time.”
A lot of people are trying to live and accomplish tasks with tools that don’t work or don’t make sense. A dot is not the right weapon to get a duck; you need firepower!
– What “hound dogs” are you using to fix your marriage?
– What “hound dogs” are you using to parent your children?
– What “hound dogs” are you using to gain purpose and contentment in life?
Contentment comes from Christ. 119:24 “Your testimonies are my delight, they are my counselors.”
When I was younger there was a commercial for Prego Spaghetti Sauce. It was of this mom cooking the sauce over the stove, her teen boy comes up smelling and wanting a taste. Then he asks the questions: Mom, did you put in ripe tomatoes? She replies, “It’s in there.” Mom did you put in the garlic? She replies, “It’s in there.” Mom, did you put in the onion? She replies, “It’s in there.” Mom, did you put in the meat? She replies, “It’s in there.”
The Bible has all we need. It’s in there.
Salvation. Contentment & Purpose. Hope. Guidance….
Meditation and Memorizing requires change: Turn away from sin & Turn toward the Savior and Scripture.
119:37 “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things, and give me life in your ways.”
119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
– Joshua 1:8-9 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
– Psalm 39:3b-4 “as I mused [meditated], the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: ‘O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.”
– Psalm 46:10a “Be still, and know that I am God.”
– Psalm 119:97-99 “Oh how I love your law. It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.”
– Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice! Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about such things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”