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From the page to my heart

On the last Sunday of the year I always like to present a challenge to you to go along with any other New Year’s Resolutions you might be making.

Last year I challenged you to daily spend at least 30 minutes in the Bible and prayer before you consumed media of any kind. That would be a good one to carry over into this coming year as well!

Another resolution people often make is to read through the Bible in a year. That is very doable if you will just make the time.

Someone once told me you can read the Bible in 40 hours. I took that as a challenge, and so I read through the Bible again, timing myself as I read each day.

It took me 30 hours to read the Old Testament and 9 to read the New Testament.

I think it’s a good idea to try and read the Old Testament through once each year, and the New Testament three times.

Every expectation God has for Christians that carries over from the Old Testament is repeated as a command in the New Testament. So over the years seek to know the entire Bible, and become a Master of the New Testament.

The specific challenge I want to make to you for this coming year is about taking the time to memorize and meditate on individual Bible verses.

To help with that let’s look at Psalm 119.

Psalm 119:9-16                  From the page to the heart                     Let’s Pray!

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, and it is a fitting tribute to the great Word of God! It features an acrostic use of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet.

You may notice in your Bible that before verse one it shows a Hebrew letter and names it – Aleph. That is the first letter of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet. 

In the Hebrew language each of the first 8 verses starts with the letter Aleph, each a tribute to the Lord and specifically His Word. 

Before our verse 9 it shows the Hebrew letter Beth. Each of the eight verses from 9 to 16 starts with the letter Beth in the Hebrew.

And so it goes for all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

If you look at the final verse of Psalm 119, it is verse 176. 22 letters times 8 verses each equals 176 verses!

It’s as if 8 godly Bible reading friends got together and went around their circle and said 8 things about the Bible each going through the alphabet.

God’s word is Alive!

The Bible is Active!

The Scriptures are Awesome!

This Book is Amazing!

God’s Word changed my Attitude!

The Bible helped me achieve new Altitude!

The Scriptures taught me that the Ant can be a role model for a lazy person!

This Book is more important that ACC basketball!

Let me challenge you to go through the English alphabet like that with your family and friends this week!

For each person present, bring out one truth about the Bible for each letter of the Alphabet!

Now let’s look down through verses 9-16 of Psalm 119.

Look at verse 9 –

How can a young person cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.

When it says the young person has a way, the word for way could also be translated road, path, or journey.

Each of us is on a life’s journey.

How can we keep ourselves clean and right as we walk our road?

By taking heed according to God’s Word.

To do that we have to spend lots of time reading the Bible.

As Psalm 119 unfolds, the author uses some words repeatedly to extol God’s Word.

‘Word’ appears 39 times in Psalm 119 (1,439 times in the Old Testament). It is the Hebrew word dabar (H 1697), and means speech, what God says.

If we take seriously what God has said, we can keep our way pure!

Look at verse 38 –

Establish Your Word to your servant, who is devoted to fearing you.

Are you devoted to fearing God, and doing what he says.

From my earliest days as a Christian, I have seen professing Christians who disrespected God’s Word.

Fellow teenager in high school church – I don’t want to drink, I don’t want to do drugs, but I want to have all the sex I can.

I quoted what I had just read in I Thessalonians 4:3

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality. -I Thess. 4:3

Disregard that and your way will be impure; embrace that and your way will be cleansed.

Look at Psalm 119, verse 11.  

Your Word have I hidden in my heart, that I may not sin against You.

How do you hide God’s Word that you have read in your heart?

You memorize it.

I am so glad our children in Awana and our youth using Word of Life material have memory verses.

But let me encourage all the adults listening to this to also memorize Scripture this year.

Specifically, let me encourage you to memorize at least two verses a week this year – that will give you 100 verses memorized by the end of the year.

In your regular Bible reading time, you will come across verses you don’t want to forget.

Write them on a 3 x 5 card. Keep that card before you as you go through the day, reciting it out loud.

Let someone you know hold the card while you say it back to them. Add other cards as you go!

I memorized Psalm 119:11 as a young Christian and it has stayed with me to this day –

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I may not sin against You.

Look at verse 160 –

The entirety of Your Word is truth, and everyone of Your righteous judgments endures forever.

Look back at verse 10 –

With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh let me not wander far from Your commandments.

‘Commandments’ occurs 22 times in Psalm 119 (181 times in the Old Testament. It is the Hebrew word Mitsvah (H 4687). Commandments from God are not suggestions! He means it when He says “Thou shalt” and “Thou Shalt Not.”

Did you catch that word Mitsvah?

You have probably heard of a Bar-Mitsvah, or a Bats-Mitsvah.

It is when a young Jewish person becomes a Son or daughter of the Commands.

Are you a child of what God commands?

In verse 10 his prayer is that he would not wander from God’s commands but continue to seek what God want with his whole heart.

This wonderful Psalm acknowledges it is not always easy!

In fact look at the last verse, verse 176.

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commands.

God’s commands are not given to cramp our style but to help us live out the design God has on our lives; God’s commands are like the owner’s manual for our lives.

Look at verse 32 –

I will run the course of Your commandments, for you shall enlarge my heart.

I hope you runners like that beautiful verse!

Let’s stay on the course prescribed by God’s commands!

It makes no sense for a runner to get off course, or a follower of Jesus!

A closely related word to Commandments is the word law.

‘Law’ occurs 25 times in Psalm 119 (219 times in the Old Testament. It is the Hebrew word towrah (H8451). It means instruction, direction, legal directive.

The first five books of the Bible are called the towrah of Moses.

Look at verse 142 –

Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law is truth.

And verse 165 –

Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble. 

Don’t keep on going astray and stumbling in 2021, get back to God’s Word!

Look at verse 12 –

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.

‘Statutes’ occurs 22 times in Psalm 119 (127 times in the Old Testament). It is the Hebrew word Choq (H2706). It means prescribed limits.

Guardrails keep a car from going off a mountain road.

Statutes help a Christian keep from spiritual near death experiences. Obeying God’s statutes keeps us within the guardrails that protect us from harm.

If you don’t believe in God’s goodness, you will ignore His statutes to your own peril.

Because of our stubborn wills, we often have to experience some kind of affliction before we take the prescribed limits seriously.

Look at verse 71 –

It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.

It is a good thing when we learn God’s limits!

But we don’ need to learn the hard way – we can just trust God who created us knows what He is talking about!

A closely related word is ‘precepts.’

Look at verse 15 –

I will mediate on your precepts, and contemplate your ways.

‘Precepts’ occurs 21 times in Psalm 119 (24 times in the Old Testament, all in Psalms). It is the Hebrew word piqquwd. It means properly appointed mandates.


Look at verse 173 –

Let Your hand become my help, for I have chosen Your precepts.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, we learn that God’s Word profits us with knowing what to believe and not to believe, how to behave and not behave. It equips us to be ready to do every good thing God calls us to!

Look at verse 13 –

With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth.

‘Judgments’ occurs 17 times in Psalm 119 (421 times in the Old Testament). It is the Hebrew word mishpat (H4941). It means God’s verdict or pronouncements.

Look at verse 52 –

I remembered Your judgments of old, O Lord, and have comforted myself.

I hope you too find comfort in remembering the ways God has dealt with His friends and enemies in the past – He will be merciful to you if you humble yourself before Him! He delights to show His lovingkindness.

That also makes us think of the testimonies of the Bible.

Look at verse 14 –

I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much in all riches.

‘Testimonies’ occurs 22 times in Psalm 119 (59 in the Old Testament). It is the Hebrew word eduwth (H5715). It means ‘witness.’

The Bible is chock full of people’s good and bad testimonies!

We see people we do want to be like, and people we don’t want to be like.

Fortunately, we see many testimonies of people that have messed up bad being received by God when they repent.

Look at verse 99 –

I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.

And that’s my final challenge for you – to mediate on God’s Word this year.

Let’s keep it simple –

The same 2 verses a week you make a memory card for, mediate on those verses.

Eastern meditation instructs you to empty your mind and think about nothing.

That is a recipe for letting the Devil fill your mind with stupid thinking.

Christian meditation involves thoughtfully contemplating everything a verse means and does not mean for your life.

 Let’s briefly mediate on one verse – Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. -Psalm 37:4

Let’s Pray!