(9) How can a young man keep his behavior pure?
By keeping your word.
(10) I have searched for you with all my heart.
Don’t let me wonder from your commands.
(11) I have hidden your word in my heart,
so that I won’t sin against you.
(12) You are blessed, YHWH!
Teach me your decrees.
(13) I have declared with my lips,
all the judgments of your mouth.
(14) I have rejoiced in the way of your testimonies,
as much as in any amount of wealth.
(15) I will reflect on your instructions,
And keep my eye on your paths.
(16) Your decrees are my continual delight.
I will not forget your word. — Psalm 119:9-16
From time to time I manage to shock people by saying that I don’t believe that all pastors need to understand Greek and Hebrew. Since my own education focused on the Biblical languages, nearly to the point of excluding all else, people imagine that I think they are the key to life, the universe, and everything, especially theology.
And I do not minimize the benefit of studying the Bible in its original languages. But there’s a risk I take every time I preach or teach from my open Greek or Hebrew Bible. I can easily give the audience, and I suspect most readers of my wife’s devotional list, the idea that they really can’t understand the Bible because they haven’t studied Greek and Hebrew and so they are ever stuck with a superficial understanding of God’s word.
But that’s a lie.
You can study the Bible without knowing the Biblical languages, and you can get deep into your study. You can also be quite accurate, and have thoughts that are worth sharing and teaching. Your sanctification won’t suffer due to this particular lack.
We each have our gifts. The question is whether we will apply our gifts to our study. Frequently I find that in applying a Bible passage, or in figuring out how to teach it, Jody has the words and the experience that I need. Talking to my wife is one of my tools of Bible study. I have met any number of Biblical scholars who need a good dose of talking to somebody like my wife before they get up and teach.
Our passage gives us some suggestions here for meditating in God’s word. Let’s start with verse 9: Keeping or guarding God’s word. One of the key tests for you in discovering God’s will is obedience. Very often we wonder what God wants when we already know.
Then there’s verse 10 and searching. Too often we come to the Bible only when we have a question and we need an urgent answer. We’re in a hurry so we want to scan the concordance and find just the one text that deals with our problem. Try searching God’s word instead, and let your prayer be that God will keep you from wandering.
Verse 11 brings hiding the word in your heart. I know we each have different ways of remembering. For some memorizing the word is best. For others getting a strong grasp of the message of a passage so they can express it in their own words. Whatever works, get some of the word hidden away where you can get hold of it no matter where you are.
I’m going to leave verse 12 for last, so in verse 13 we get declaration. Often we read God’s word, we think about it, but we don’t actually speak. There is a great power in saying what it is that you have learned. Say it out loud. This is good reinforcement for you, it helps keep you accountable, since you have publicly declared the word and your intention to obey, and it might help someone else as well.
Verse 14 gives us rejoicing. Christianity is too often portrayed in our words, but more importantly in our lives, as a series of miseries we go through so we can get to heaven. Try rejoicing in God’s way. Do some rejoicing!
Verse 15 gives us reflection. I’ve already mentioned the emergency verse search, looking for that phrase that has the answer. This verse calls on us to think seriously about what we read over time. Let it sink in and become part of your way of thinking.
Verse 16 tells us not to forget. It’s easy to forget things, but if you follow the previous ideas from this short passage, you will become less likely to forget.
And note that not one of these ideas requires you to be a Biblical scholar, nor do they require you to learn Hebrew or Greek. Don’t reject whatever knowledge you can acquire, but don’t wait to be a scholar to learn from the word.
How does this work? Verse 12â€”ask the Lord to teach you. God doesn’t have prerequisites on the classes he offers, except that you ask.
Note: A blogging friend of mine wrote something related to this, titled Freaks Don’t Want No Greek. Racy title, eh? But he says some good things.