In Your Heart

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Abstract

God commands us to memorize His Law, the Torah, and to meditate on it all the time. God's purpose in telling us to do this is to bless us through the renewing of our minds, yet most of us let the enemy steal this blessing from us. Why and how to obey God here is explored in detail, with practical help for anyone who is willing to try.
 

Introduction

In the Bible it is written, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

This text in Deuteronomy 6:4-7, considered by many to be one of the most important in the Scripture, even having a special name (the Sh'ma), contains a command that is very practical, very valuable, and very often overlooked. God says to each and every one of His children that the words that He commands us are to be "in thine heart." It is not a suggestion but a command, just like loving God is a command, and it is to the individual (thy, thou and thine are all singular). What does this mean, to hide the actual words of God's commands in our hearts? Why is it important, and how do we do it?
 

The Command

Simply put, God commands each and every one of us to memorize His Law, the Torah, the Mosaic Law, and to meditate on it all the time. To meditate is to think deeply or carefully about something, to focus our mind on it, to contemplate, ponder and reflect on it. Like a cow chewing its cud, we are to ruminate on the words of God's commands: we are to bring these words up into our conscious mind from memory, carefully and prayerfully consider the wording of each command, comparing and contrasting the ideas and concepts with other portions of the Word (also from memory), pondering them, and considering how our own attitudes, feelings, thoughts and actions align with these concepts. We are to cultivate and maintain this activity as a constant pattern of life, throughout each and every day. God wants this to be our addiction, our obsession: "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day." (Ps 119:97)

We can see that God intends this by considering the implications of the immediate context of the Sh'ma: we are to be always speaking about His commands to others as we go about our day, especially to our children whom we are responsible to instruct in the ways of God. The following verses continue: "And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." (De 6:8-9) In other words, we are to be constantly thinking about the actual wording of God's commands and we are to arrange our lives and environments so that we are being continually reminded of these words.

In order to be constantly thinking and speaking about the words of God's commands throughout the course of our daily lives we must do two things: [1] we must memorize them and [2] we must cultivate a regular practice of meditating on the words of God's commands in an effort to understand His laws in all levels of application so that we might obey them in every possible way. Trying to obey God's command in the Sh'ma without doing these two things is practically impossible, as anyone attempting the same will promptly discover.
 

Our Resistance

As in all of His commands God's purpose here is to bless us, yet our initial response is invariably one of resistance. Firstly, we may think we are actually unable to memorize His commands; most of us are not blessed with a photographic memory and we may struggle to recall even simple things, so it is easy to give up before we even get started.

However, regardless of our capability, if we aren't even trying to obey God here it is, in the end, not so much a matter of ability as it is a matter of priority: we don't realize how important and valuable it is so we don't take the time to do it.

To demonstrate this fact, if a wealthy patron offered to pay you a hundred dollars for every word of the Ten Commandments you were able to recite, I am quite sure you would start immediately and have it memorized word-perfectly within a very short time, pocketing thirty-two grand and asking for more. If your benefactor was game and you are like most, you'd take up Scripture memory with feverish intensity and be a millionaire in short order, no doubt about it.
 

How To

Seriously now, don't be stubborn about this and say you can't do it that you simply cannot memorize no matter how much someone offers to pay you. You can do what you ought to do if you will do it. Every one reading these words has already memorized vast amounts of information by learning to speak, read and write a language. It took several years of constant effort but we all did it because it was important to us. We still memorize: people's names, phone numbers, dates, things we need to do, and we do this every day. Of course you can do this, if you will just try. I will show you how in three easy steps.

Step 1: Read the following words out loud three times: "Oh, How I love thy law! "

Step 2: Recite; look up from the page and say the same six words without looking. If you can't say them all on your own yet, then repeat Step 1. If you need to work with fewer words at a time, even one at a time, uncovering them as you go, do what works for you.

Step 3: Review. Keep saying the words you've just memorized out loud or in your mind a few more times without looking. Then cover up the printed words, uncovering them a phrase or line at a time after you say them, checking to see if you are getting it right.

Bravo! You just memorized half of Psalm 119:97. Now let's memorize the rest of this verse the same way: "it is my meditation all the day." Read it out loud several times; repeat it, hear it, speak it, see it. Then recite it in small sections with the words covered up, uncovering and checking yourself as you go. Then review and recite the entire verse a few more times until you have it down and lock it in.

Read, Recite, Review: it's kindergarten kind of simple. Some of us do this much more efficiently than others, but we can all do it when we are motivated. I've just offered one simple technique, but there are many tools and resources available to help. It may work better if you write your verses out, or play an audio version to yourself over and over, etc. Whether it takes you a few seconds or several minutes to memorize a verse you can do this! What we lack is the motivation: memorizing isn't very entertaining; for most of us it's hard work.
 

Motivation

For a few of us, the fact that God tells us to do something is more than sufficient motivation; we love Him enough to know He is worthy of obedience and we really do try our best. The rest of us need some additional incentive; we instinctively ask ourselves "What's in it for me?" 

The answer here is simple: Everything.

Our thoughts define and shape who and what kind of people we are; they are the inward expression of what we believe and value, and these thoughts translate into actions through our will. We are almost always thinking about something in particular, and taking an inventory of our thoughts is the only way to truly understand ourselves, to know what we believe and value. This is actually how God Himself defines us: "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Pr 23:7)

God being central in our lives means that He is central in our thoughts: pursuing, understanding, enjoying and obeying God is at the core of who and what God's children are. Yet we are all born broken, alienated from God, and we need to be transformed. Meditation on the Law of God is the vehicle through which God renews our minds -- nourishing, healing and transforming us to be like Himself. It is an ongoing process with a constant dynamic of either growth or decay. Without this discipline firmly rooted in our experience we will weaken, succumb to the lies of the enemy and live distanced from God, largely deceived about both Him and ourselves, ignorant of His values and ways.

In truth, this is what is at stake: nothing less than our spiritual health and freedom it is everything.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the importance of meditation is to compare it with eating. Jeremiah said, " Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." (Je 15:16) Hearing or reading the Word of God is like putting food in our mouth, memorizing the Word is like chewing food up, and meditating on the Word is like swallowing food and digesting it so that it becomes a part of us. Most of us are spiritual anorexics, starving to death spiritually because we don't eat. We may hear some scripture in Church or even read and study the Bible for ourselves and we are happy to get the taste of some food in our mouths but if we never chew it up and swallow it down we will never get strong enough to live in our gifts and calling. Is it any wonder that we're always finding ourselves back on life support in God's intensive care unit? We've been there so long we are thinking it's normal. It's not.

What would happen to you spiritually if you started taking care of your spirit, eating three square meals a day? What are some of the blessings God promises to those who meditate on His Word?
 

Blessings

Understanding

The main blessing of meditating on the Word is that it will help us to understand God's nature and His ways: "I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation." (Ps 119:99) God is not easy to understand; He seems very far away to most of us and His ways are often hidden, not obvious to the casual observer. This text indicates that if we are meditating on God's Laws and testimonies that we will move beyond the understanding of our teachers implying that even most of our teachers are not doing this for themselves, just passing along what others have given to them, unable to discern truth from lies. If we are not meditating in His Word for ourselves then we are easily misled by others who misread it and/or take it out of context. Such ignorance and deception will cause us to misunderstand God and have inappropriate expectations, fears and desires resulting in much confusion, frustration and disappointment.

Holiness

Meditation will also help us understand and remember what sin is: "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Ps 119:11) The Word takes for granted that God's children want to avoid sin; when we break God's Law we hurt Him and separate ourselves from Him: no one can be in fellowship with God while they are willingly disobeying Him or neglecting His commands. When we memorize God's Word and prayerfully meditate on it, particularly His commands in Torah, we understand them better and more accurately so that we are able to obey Him more fully, keep our spirits free, clean and holy, and walk with Him more consistently.

Prayer

When we are obeying God and walking in fellowship with Him we are abiding in Him. When we are meditating on His word, constantly thinking about Him and His ways, His Word is abiding in us. In putting these two together, abiding in Him and having His Word abide in us, we meet the conditions for answered prayer detailed by Yeshua in John 15:7: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." In this state, our will becomes His will because we are filled with an awareness of God's priorities and values: "we then (are) as workers together with Him." (2 Co 6:1)

Success

Meditating on the Word is God's prescription for leading a successful and fruitful life: "Blessed is the man (whose) delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Ps 1:1-3) Scripture memory and meditation is the discipline which lays the foundation for a full and rewarding life with God; it is the very first principle introduced in the Psalms, our songs of worship.
 

The Goal

In pursuing the blessings of God here we must ever keep in mind that God's command is not merely to memorize His Word: memorization itself is not the goal. Many people devote themselves to memorizing the Bible for ulterior motives: perhaps to look good before others, or to be able to win theological debates, or to try and win favor with God. The scribes and Pharisees in Jesus' day were like this: they could quote the entire Old Testament verbatim but they were not meditating on it, so they missed its main message and killed their own messiah. Their goal was religious power and prestige, and they received their reward.

The goal is to meditate on the Word; memorization is merely a necessary means to this end. Meditating regularly on God's Word requires a shifting of our heart's focus from ourselves and the world to God and His kingdom. We must try to cultivate this discipline through personal effort and accountability to others, but God Himself must be the one Who ultimately delivers us from ourselves and renews our hearts in Him. The going may be slow, but the discipline of memorization and meditation is the means, and God will help us to do this well the more we continue in it. As we prayerfully pursue Him in this we find that He is more than willing to assist and complete in us the work He has begun. (Php1:6)
 

Tips

Be Persistent

Experts say that developing a new habit takes about 3 months. Just like making adjustments to take care of your body by eating well and exercising takes time, developing the discipline of scripture memory and meditation takes time. It should become part of your daily routine, as natural to your life as eating or getting dressed for the day. And you will need to think long haul - this is not merely a new project or a fad, it is a way of life.

Be Creative

One of the big obstacles we think we face is time: many of us are already overloaded in the extreme, and adding one more thing just doesn't seem possible. But memorizing scripture need not take up a lot of time out of your day, or even any at all. You don't have to actually set aside time to do it if you are creative in how you go about it. For example, you can find a free Bible app, download it to your smartphone and bookmark a section of scripture to memorize. Whenever you find yourself idle for a couple of minutes you can work on it. You could prop it up in front of you while you are on the treadmill, or brushing your teeth, or combing your hair, putting on makeup or shaving, glancing at it when you need to. If you are caught in traffic, waiting in line at the store or in an office, or eating a meal you can take it out and go through your verses. Any place where you can read you can memorize, and any time your mind does not need to focus on the task at hand you can review your verses and meditate on them. In the same way, if you like something more tangible, you can write your verses out on 3X5 cards and keep the stack in your purse or pocket.

Be Accountable

Let's face it: we are all forgetful and lazy at times, and even if we do get off to a good start with scripture memory, after a few days or weeks we can easily slip back into old patterns. This is especially true after a disruption of our normal routine, such as a debilitating sickness or even a weekend getaway. We need other people in our lives to help us stay on track. Being in relationships where you have invited another to hold you accountable is one great way to help you here.

When Jesus sent out His disciples on a journey he never sent them alone. Invite someone else into your scripture memory journey with you so that they can ask you how you are doing, listen to your verses at regular intervals, and check your progress. Share with them what you are learning in meditation, where you are struggling, and where you have been blessed.

If you can find someone else who is willing to actually walk with you here so much the better; you can take the journey together, helping and encouraging each other along the way. Memorizing passages together with someone else and sharing what God is doing in each of your lives in the same text of scripture is one of the most powerful bases of fellowship: the richness of this kind of spiritual intimacy is hard to describe.

Be Realistic

Each one of us has a gift, and some of us will find this harder than others. Don't bite off more than you can chew and burn yourself out or get discouraged. A verse a day is actually plenty, especially if you are spending a good amount of time in reviewing what you have already learned. My advice would be to not focus so much on how many verses you are getting down, but on how consistent you are being with the discipline and how well you are integrating it into your regular pattern of life. Like the proverbial tortoise and the hare, slow and faithful progress will serve you much better than jack rabbit starts and stops.

Be Accurate

When it comes to hiding the very words of God's commands in our hearts, the question of which translation to use naturally arises. As it is beyond our present scope to discuss the validity and accuracy of the various modern Bible translations, suffice it to say that if you don't really trust your Bible then meditating on it won't be easy, and submitting to it in areas where you are broken and need healing will be even harder. You need to trust the very words of your Bible as inspired -- enough to let it judge you and change your life, as if God Himself is speaking the very words to you, rather being its judge and deciding whether it is correct or not.

It seems very few of us today believe we actually have an English Bible we can trust like this, one that is as accurate and inspired as the original manuscripts but without such a Bible we cannot actually obey God's command here like we should. My advice? Consider that God powerfully used the old Authorized King James Bible in the two Great Awakenings. No other English Bible has been so used of God. The motives of its translators should also be acknowledged: they did so under threat of severe persecution, and not to make a profit as so many do today. We also do well to note that the KJV is actually the only Bible we can freely quote at length without breaking copyright law; it would be a sin to quote the full text of any book of the Bible from any other modern translation without written approval from the publisher. Puts a bit of a spin on this, does it not? For further insights here, The Syrian Recension and Given By Inspiration may be very helpful.

Be Humble

One of the biggest pitfalls that can endanger us as we make progress in this journey is that any success here can start making us proud. Whenever we begin to feel the slightest bit of this sickness coming on we should immediately start meditating on verses that will help correct the situation: "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished." (Pr 16:5) If we don't humble ourselves, God will do it for us and in my experience, we're much better off self-correcting here. Don't let this go to your head; remember how long it took you to get on board and how poorly you still do it compared to your potential. After more than three decades in this journey myself, believe me, I could still be much more faithful here.
 

The Journey

Armed with the knowledge of God's will and way, prepare yourself for the journey of a lifetime, a journey into the Father's heart and arms. Saturate your soul with the Words of God as you walk with Him; as you abide in Him let His words abide in you. Let the meditation of your heart be acceptable in His sight. (Ps 19:14) This gift of God is one that keeps on giving, like a well of water springing up into everlasting life, feeding you and those around you with the sacred bread of eternity, nourishing, refreshing and strengthening you to be all that God has intended you to be. May He bless you richly as you pursue Him.

 

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