Psalm 119: Memorization and Meditation

This is the sixth sermon I will have done from the Psalms. The uniqueness of the Psalms is that it deals with the volatility and power of human emotions within the constancy of God’s sovereignty and his truth. The psalmists never treat human emotions as the ultimate truth that allows them to do whatever they want to. The Psalmists describe how they feel and then remind the reader of the truth of who God is and what he will do for his people.

Proper, God-exalting feelings find their roots in powerful, God-revealed truths. When those are synced together, it becomes a powerful motivation for obedience.

The uniqueness of Psalm 119 is that it shows what a heart feels and what a life does when delighting in God’s Word. How kind of God to give us the longest chapter of the entire Bible so that we can see the importance of centering our life around God’s laws, statutes, precepts, commands and words!

Psalm 1, the gateway to the entire psalter, exhorts us to meditate on God’s words. If we do that we will be like a tree planted near rivers of water. Memorization of, and meditation on God’s Word is one big way in which your heart feels delight in God. Our struggle is that we all too often are numb, bored, or indifferent to the Bible. How often the Bible is neglected in our Christian life and we wonder why we struggle with sin or feel cold towards God.

What would it look like in our church if we were a people that were committed to memorizing large chunks of God’s Word? The proper response to what we see in Psalm 119 is memorization and meditation on the Bible. It is a putting to memory verses so that we can think on them, pray over them, and live them out in our lives.

Here are 14 reasons I have found from Psalm 119 as to what benefits come from memorization and meditation on the Bible.

1. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture is an expression of love for God’s words and hope in God’s words.

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97

“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.” Psalm 119:147

The Hebrew word for law is torah. It means instruction. God has given us instructions on how to live life in the Bible, and the psalmist has an affection for extensively reflecting and praying over it.

The psalmist is acknowledging that he does not have the ability in his own strength and intellect to love God. He needs to spend time early and spend time often in God’s instructions. He isn’t meditating on God’s law only in the morning or at certain points during the day. He loves God’s law so much that it is constantly in his mind. Memorization of God’s Word feeds all-day meditation on God’s Word.

The word hope in verse 147 has the implication of waiting and being patient. A deep love for the Bible does not happen quickly or unintentionally. Unshakeable hope in God’s word doesn’t come quickly or easily. The psalmist is meditating on God’s instructions all the day. He is up before dawn praying for God to help him as he pours over instructions for his life. As this happens, the emotions of hope and love are being shaped and formed.

Hebrews 11 has worked in my heart a greater love for how God has chosen to relate to me based on faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. My heart has said, “God I want to please you! It is amazing that for you to find pleasure in me, first and foremost it doesn’t start with outward acts of obedience. It begins with an inward conformity of my heart to trust in you in all my circumstances, just as these men and women of the Bible did. God I want to obey you more but let it start with a heart of faith in all things.”

2. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture turns our eyes away from worthless things and gives us eyes to see wondrous things.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Psalm 119:18

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” Psalm 119:37

God’s law is a wonder. The heavens can’t contain it’s wisdom. The oceans couldn’t hold its beauty. You will never get to the bottom of the worth of God’s Word. For those who give their life to this book, you will endlessly find new insights and learn to treasure more deeply old insights. You will never get to the bottom of this book because you can never get to the bottom of God!

This type of beholding doesn’t happen in a moment. It happens over time and with repetition. Because of sin we need our eyes opened to the wonders of God’s instructions and we need to choose to turn away from looking at sin. We are turning away from the worthless and setting the eyes of our heart on the worthy. You will become what you behold.

Just as your physical eyes can’t stop seeing, so the eyes of the heart can’t stop seeing. That’s what they do. They see things. You will either look at worthless things or look at worthy things. Memorization and meditation on Scripture is an act of putting the wonders of God’s glory before your spiritual eyes again and again and again. You ought to say to your heart, “Look at this! This is beautiful. This is wonderful. This is amazing. God, give my heart an awe for the wonder of Hebrews 11. Blow me away with how men and women lived lives as exiles and strangers because they were looking to an invisible reward far greater than the treasures of this earth. Give me a heart that turns away from the vapor-like treasures of the American dream and turns towards the eternal treasures of the city of Heaven.”

Hebrews 11 has helped develop my spiritual eyes to look on the unseen. What is unseen is more eternal and real than what I see around me right now. That has taken a year for me to meditate on! Moses endured as seeing him who is invisible. Abraham obeyed by looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. As I have memorized these verses and meditated on them in the past year, I have seen my heart turn away from the worthless, visible things of this world and more towards the invisible worth of God.

3. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture increases our desire to obey God’s commands.

I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” Psalm 119:32

I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.” Psalm 119:131

We do not naturally love God’s commands. We find them burdensome. We find that our hearts would rather disobey God’s commands rather than run in the way of them. Memorizing and meditating on God’s commands (what he expects us to do) develops our spiritual heart to love them and run after them.

In 2014 Pastor Dave asked me to train for and run Grandma’s Marathon with him. For some unknown reason, I said yes. He gave me a 16 week training plan which became my road map for getting to race day. At first I didn’t enjoy the act of running or the feelings of running.

Something began changing though as I was consistent with the runs day after day. Through deliberate, intentional, sustained running I started to see my endurance grow and my pace get faster. I started enjoying the act and the experience of running. I had a greater capacity to run farther and faster and with that came an enjoyment of running that I never had before.

The same is true for us spiritually. You will develop greater capacities to enjoy God and have your emotions conformed to the truth of the Word, as you memorize and meditate on his words. So let’s pant after killing lust, greed, anger, covetousness, lying, deceit, pride and a host of other sins. Let’s run after endurance, patience, loving our enemies, showing hospitality, sharing our faith, giving generously, and having peace in dark times. As we memorize and meditate on God’s words we will have hearts that show a love for going after these things. Our hearts will be enlarged with greater capacities to run in the way of God’s commands and we will be panting after obedience to him.

4. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture increases diligent obedience to God’s commands.

“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart.” Psalm 119:2

“You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.” Psalm 119:4

Testimonies are what God solemnly testifies to be his will. Precepts are what God has appointed to be done.

Memorization is the right expression and the right response to these verses. God has commanded us to diligently keep and seek after him. How will diligent, whole-hearted seeking happen without memorization and mediation on God’s testimonies and precepts? It may happen to some extent and in other ways, but it can happen in a far greater way through memorization and meditation. Through taking passages of Scripture, committing them to memory, and praying them back to God with a heart that is desperate for God to work in you.

We will learn and understand his commands. We will treasure and love his precepts.

We will become more aware when we fall short of this glory and repent. When you are meditating on what God expects of you, your heart will become increasingly aware when you aren’t obeying and respond with a diligent pursuit of obedience.

5. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture helps us treasure God over money.

“Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.” Psalm 119:127

“I rejoice at your Word like one who finds great spoil.” Psalm 119:162

God’s promises are worth more than a retirement account stuffed with cash. You probably knew that coming through the door this morning, but do you feel it? Do you take greater joy in being an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ Jesus than you do in your money or possessions? What God has spoken is worth more than a good paycheck and a nice house. The best way to fight against the love and hope of money is to cultivate a love and hope for God’s Word.

Memorization and meditation on what God has spoken can develop your affections so that you rejoice more in opening your Bible on Friday morning 1,000 times more than you will rejoice at getting your paycheck Friday evening. Memorization and meditation on God’s word can build a deeper hope in the spoils of heaven 1,000 times more than the spoils of a Roth IRA.

Let the stock market fall. Let the housing bubble burst. Let others chase after the fleeting love of money. Let others stress out about how their health insurance costs are doubling.

Rather, let us have the faith of Sarah who considered God was faithful to keep his promises. Let us have the faith of Rahab who harbored spies because she knew they worshiped the true God.

Let us treasure God’s word above the American dream and act as the people we are- strangers and exiles on this earth. Our hope is not in piles of cash in the bank or toys in the garage. Our hope is in God.

6. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture helps keep us from sin.

“Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.” Psalm 119:133

Sin wants to dominate you. Sin wants to grab your feet and pull you into the swamp of its despair and lies. Wield the sword of God’s word to do violent battle against your sin and hack it to pieces. Memorization and mediation helps keep that sword at the ready to do battle against sin and not give into its lies. When the moments of temptation come upon you, you pull out that sword.

If your addicted to porn memorize Matthew 5:27-28. If you struggle with anxiety memorize Philippians 4:6-8. If your faith is weak memorize Hebrews 11. If you struggle with feelings of guilt and shame over your sin memorize Romans 8:1. Go on the offense against your sin and win the day not in your own strength, but in the strength that God provides.

You can turn these verses into prayers. For example, I struggled with anxiety deeply over circumstances I couldn’t control. One week the Fighter Verses were Philippians 4:6-8. So I put it to memory. Each time I started to feel anxiety well up in my heart I would begin praying these verses back to God. “God, give me the strength to not be anxious in this moment. Rather, give me thankfulness for your control over every aspect of this situation. Give me peace that surpasses my understanding. Let me rest in you. Please guard my heart and mind right now through Christ Jesus.” I did this for several years and that prayer in one form or another was said hundreds of times. Philippians 4:6-8 got so engrained in my mind that I could pull it out anytime, anywhere and pray it to God.

Slowly over time, not only did my anxiety lessen, but my trust in God grew greater. The opportunities to get anxious have not lessened in my life. Rather they’ve multiplied as I’ve been married longer, have had kids, and been an elder at Grace. The truths still hold me fast and the anxiety doesn’t grip me like it once did. But I still battle it. I will never put down the sword in this life.

7. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture helps fight forgetfulness.

“Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.” Psalm 119:61

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.” Psalm 119:176

One of the affects of living in a sinful world and being sinful people is that it causes us to forget the glory and the power of God’s Word. We are forgetful because the glory of God’s laws don’t dwell in our hearts as richly as it ought to. We may have our quiet time in the morning, read a profound truth from the Bible, and then go throughout our busy day without giving that truth a second thought. Why does that happen? We are a forgetful people.

At lunch time if you tell your kids that they need to clean their rooms at 6PM that night, they are probably not going to remember to do that. You will have to remind them when the time comes to clean their room.

However, if you tell them at lunch time that the ice cream truck will be driving down our street at 6PM, they will ask multiple times throughout the afternoon what time it is! They will probably be down the block waiting for the truck at 5:30. Why? Because they like the rewards of buying ice cream more than the rewards of having a clean room. They value ice cream over a clean room, as any normal kid would.

We forget God’s truths and promises because we don’t value them as we ought to in sinful bodies. Memorization gives you the ability to bring promises and truths from God’s Word to your mind throughout the day. It allows you to ask God to sink them deep into your heart and to fulfill specific promises in specific situations you are dealing with.

Hebrews 12:1-2 has been a constant reminder for me to look to Jesus in the difficult circumstances we’ve been through with foster care and international adoption. I’ve thought to myself, “God we are trying to obey you here and yet you seem to be making it harder for us. Why? Oh right, your Son, the one I am supposed to follow, had circumstances that brought him to the point of death! He endured though. God, please get my eyes off of my self-pity and get my eyes on Jesus. Give me a joy in you that is greater than my circumstances and please help me cast off my sin and run hard after you through this.”

8. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture gives us strength in sorrow.

“My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!” Psalm 119:28

You will encounter times in your life when your soul feels like it is melting under the heat of trials. What will you do in those moments? Where will you look to strength? Will you look to entertainment or social media? Will you try to escape by cutting people off and isolating yourself? Will you escape to anger or lust? Will you escape with alcohol?

But God’s Word isn’t an escape like everything else is. God’s Word is a rescue because it is truth. You were made to find strength from God when your soul is melting from the heat of sorrow. Your soul was made to find rest and rescue in God. You may get burned but you won’t get consumed by it. Satan can try and blast you with fiery trials but God’s Word is the healing ointment from the fire to draw you into his presence.

Memorizing and meditating on Scripture is like the application of healing ointment on your melting soul.

9. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture sustains faithfulness.

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.” Psalm 119:30

How do you know that by tomorrow or in a year or a decade that you won’t walk away from the faith and abandon God and the gospel all together? I turn 36 years old this year and will be married 12 years this fall. I am just starting to have lived long enough to see others walk away from the faith that I thought never would. I have seen some slowly fade away from walking in obedience to God and walk away from what they once professed as true. How do I know that I am not to follow?

Memorization and meditation on God’s Word is my response. It is not the reason but one big reason. I say, “God, I am desperate for you to sustain me. I want to choose to be faithful and never walk away from you, but I know sin wants cling to me. It wants to turn my heart away from you. So God, I will put your Word ever before me. Please make my heart see you more clearly through your Word that I will choose to continue to be steadfast and have fidelity towards you until the day I die.”

When I have seen others turn their backs on Christianity it is a reminder for me to keep the faith. To not make shipwreck of my faith as some have. It is a reminder that the gate is wide and broad that leads to destruction. The gate is narrow and hard that leads to eternal life. Memorization and mediation keeps eternal truths in front of me that my heart clings to by God’s sustaining grace.

10. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture gives us comfort in affliction.

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” Psalm 119:50

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Psalm 119:71

“I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!” Psalm 119:107

Your heart will not naturally respond to affliction the way these verses are describing it. I don’t by default see afflictions as opportunities for God’s promises to give me life. I don’t naturally see affliction as an opportunity to learn God’s statues. But it is true! Looking back on my life I can see that in times of affliction I have learned more about God and gone deeper into fellowship with him than I have in times of peace.

Memorization and meditation on Scripture are of infinite value during times of affliction. When you have put verses to memory during the good times, they take on greater life during the hard times. You see what you had not seen before. You hold on to the anchor of God’s promises with greater tightness during trials and you can see God’s promises give you life and see how you are growing in Christ through your affliction and are learning God’s statutes.

I had no idea when I began memorizing Hebrews 11 how much I would need it to help increase my faith through trials.

11. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture helps us encourage others Christians.

“Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your Word.” Psalm 119:74

As you memorize and meditate on Scripture, trusting and hoping in the promises of God, your life will be an encouragement to other Christians. They will see you act and speak differently when affliction comes.

When you memorize and meditate on Scripture, you can infuse God’s Word into your prayers. When someone is hurting and shares with you their soul, you can pray for them. You can pray for them with the words of Scripture because they are on the front burner of your mind and you won’t revert to ruts in your prayer life.

12. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture gives you a right perspective.

“My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.” Psalm 119:123

We are strangers and exiles in this world. Our citizenship is in another place, which means that our hearts ought to long for God’s plans to come about. Our hearts find their greatest hope not in which party is controlling the government currently, but our greatest longing is to see God fulfill his righteous promises.

How do you view the latest news on politics? What does your heart long for when your neighbor is annoying you? How do you make decisions about what you are going to do this week and how you are going to spend your time? These are all questions of perspective. Meditation and memorization helps keep your mind from being conformed to the world and helps you be transformed by the renewing of your mind. We can so easily fall into the same perspectives as those around us unless we are awakened by God’s Word.

13. Memorization and meditation on Scripture helps you see what you didn’t see before.

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130

Memorizing and meditating on Scripture helps us see truth and beauty that we didn’t see before. As I have memorized Hebrews 11 in the past year, I have experienced trials, afflictions and tests. As I have worked on adding verses into my memory bank, and memorized new ones I have seen what I didn’t see before. The truths of Hebrews 11 have unfolded to me in ways that have shed more light and helped to increase my understanding of God.

For example, I have seen that the invisible reality around me has more bearing on the visible circumstances that surround me. When I have despaired I have reminded myself that Abraham was able to leave his home and not know where he was going because he was looking forward to an eternal city that he couldn’t see. Moses walked away from visible wealth in Egypt because he saw the invisible riches of heaven.

How does your heart get shaped by what it can’t see? By memorizing and meditating on the Word day after day after day and asking God to enlarge the heart to see it. Through this, the light of God’s Word is unfolded a little more and you are changed by it.

This has been one of the most amazing truths for me in memorizing a large chunk of Scripture. It is like a flower unfolding before me as I see what was once hidden to my eyes. God’s Word unfolds before us as we memorize and meditate on it. When you start to experience this, you see it as a great motivator to memorize more for you will want to see more.

14. Memorizing and meditating on Scripture leads to greater worship of God.

“My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.” Psalm 119:171-172

This is the pinnacle of memorization and meditation. We are not ultimately after piling up more verses into our mind as a goal in itself. We aren’t after memorization to be more morally upright- ultimately. This is about using memorization and meditation as a way to serve you heart for greater, richer, deeper worship of God in your day-to-day life.

Commit to not being second-handers with God’s Word only. Receiving the Word second hand comes through reading what someone else has written in a book about the Bible or hearing Pastor Dave or myself preach about the Bible. Receiving the word second hand can come through listening to a podcast or watching a video of someone preaching or reading a devotional.

Hearing the Word second hand is necessary. The Bible tells us to receive the Word this way, but we aren’t to receive it as the only way. You need to get your heart into the Word first hand and encounter God directly through the Scripture. There is no substitute for that! Memorization and meditation can lead the heart into first hand worship with the living God so that your soul pours forth praise to God because of what you see in it.

In a world that is so temporary and fleeting, memorization and meditation on God’s Word fixes our hearts on eternity. The grass and the flower will fade, the but the word of the Lord endures forever.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a person on the radio interview the person that does the play-by-play for the Minnesota Twins. The person doing the interview was commenting on how amazing it was that the play-by-play announcer was able to distinguish so quickly the different kinds of pitches that the pitcher was throwing. This announcer is sitting far away in a press box, yet in a split second he can describe on the radio whether the pitcher threw a slider, a fastball, or a curve. The announcer even said he could estimate whether a pitch was thrown between 86-88mph or 90-92mph.

The interviewer was amazed at this. He asked how it could be that this announcer was able to discern these details so quickly from so far away. The play-by-play announcer simply said that it came from watching pitchers throw balls over and over and over again.

As we memorize Scripture, we are saying it to our selves over and over and over again. We are saying it in our devotional time in the morning, when we are driving to work, when we are being challenged in our parenting, when we are facing a trial, when we are out for a walk, when we are mowing the lawn, and when we are falling asleep at night. For those who are willing to do this, they will begin to see wonder and beauty and truth in Scripture that others never will, the same way the play-by-play announcer can see things in a major league pitch that I never will.

I can sit in Target Field and watch a pitcher for a couple hours and not pick up the things that Cory Provus will as he calls the plays on the radio. But as I have been immersed in Hebrews 11 for the past year I have seen the beauty and power of faith in God. I have experienced the deeper faith through trials, repented when I haven’t had faith, and worshiped God through the truth of Hebrews 11.

What a gift you can give your soul by memorizing a few chapters of the Bible that you can anchor your life on. If you’ve never memorized Scripture before, start with the Fighter Verses. In the beginning of the week read the verse 10 times, and then recite from memory 10 times. Then work it into your prayers throughout the week. If you have memorized scattered verses throughout the Bible, commit to memorizing a chapter of the Bible.

There are plenty of excuses to be had about not doing it. Whether you are too forgetful or too busy, don’t buy into it. God’s Word is worth it. I almost gave up on memorizing Romans 8 because it was so tough. I’m glad I didn’t because that chapter has been life-giving to me time and time again.

Look to Jesus, the founder and perfector of your faith through memorization and meditation on the Scriptures and run with endurance the race that is set before you.