I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalms 119:11
Many scholars maintain the author of the 119th Psalm is a youth, based on verses 99-100:
I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.
Beside the blatant disrespectful reference to his elders, the author shows a presumption of holiness that is more the thoughts of a first year bible student than an aged saint.
If a young man had said verse 11, it seems more likely that he expressed his heart’s desire than a principle his experience taught him. If this was David, as many want to believe, his commitment to Holiness—we should admit—was on sabbatical during his dalliance with Bathsheba.
I am not railing on the psalmist but my experience with temptation has taught me that my earlier resolve, as a lad, to live a holy life, to give myself wholly to the Lord’s service, would eventually find the devil challenging it. As a young adult, then a married man, then a father, then a pastor, I had no idea what life had in store for me. I need not confess: I wasn’t perfect in my commitment to sinlessness.
If David did write this psalm and if he wrote it after his affair (which is possible since parts of the psalm suggest later events in his life), if he had lived a while and had a time of introspection along with a little added instruction from Nathan, the prophet, then verse 11 becomes a serious lesson forged, so to speak, in the furnace of a self-imposed misery. Life taught him that saying it was far easier than living it!
But the bigger lesson, now having been there and regrettably done that (whatever “that” means for each of us), is that a commitment to holiness requires first a love for God’s Word. The psalmist thought he loved the Word because he enjoyed singing it and studying it, but he found that he needed to “hid it” in his heart—something an aged saint would have spoken with far more meaning and conviction that a young and arrogant theologian. We used to sing a song in church that began: “years I spent in vanity and pride” Even the children learned this hymn but, for obvious reasons, with far less meaning, far less heart.
We could dissect this verse, learn the meanings of the Hebrew words and study the historical and theological context, but do we really need to? I backed away from such a diagnosis of this verse, for starters, because I couldn’t be sure exactly what the psalmist meant by “your word.” To begin with he didn’t have my bible which includes Paul’s letters and the gospels. Even most of the prophets followed him and if he had the “law of Moses” most of this was ceremonial and probably more oral tradition than written down.
As a youth, if it’s David, he probably sat quietly on some hill side practicing the presence of God while his flock grazed peacefully nearby. His heart never stopped panting deer like after God-even though he lived through some very bad personal decisions.
But I will say that “hid” means to “treasure” because we tend to wisely hid things that we don’t want to flaunt. “Treasure,” though, is a better translation: treasure and guard. Hiding God’s word means cherishing it. We don’t hid God’s Word in the sense of not wanting to share or declare it but in the sense of prizing it above all other possessions. We also tend to guard what we treasure [same Hebrew word]. Job taught us that we cannot say we treasure or guard God’s Word unless we are also living it!
I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. – Job 23:12
We are praying: Help me live this truth, Lord! Be my sponsor. Intervene, intercede, interrupt, however and whatever, in my life that I might learn verse 11. And now look out! A cry for holiness God takes very seriously!
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13.
We used to warn about praying for patience and then some humbling experience makes us want to die rather than face our public. And the assumption was that God was behind this embarrassing lesson in humility.
What might God do or allow if we pray for the hidden treasures of Psalm 119:11? Lord, may I love and cherish all you say to me in your written Word and in life that I listen. I cherish your Word and know that following you is my heart’s cry. Help me live it out. Amen.