Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Psalm 119 was written by a young man who was being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. We do not know the identity of the psalmist or when in Israel’s history he lived. It is apparent from the Psalm, however, that it was a time of departure for the nation of Israel. The result was that the psalmist was being persecuted for his godliness. This persecution came from the highest levels of the land. He was being opposed by the rulers. He was imprisoned, facing possible death.
The Word of God figures prominently in this Psalm. Seven different terms are used for the Word of God in all but two of the verses. The psalmist sets forth the Word as the power to persevere in godliness. This thought is certainly set forth in the verse before us in this meditation. The psalmist speaks of the Word of the Lord. This Word he had hid in his heart. He had done so specifically that he might not sin against the Lord.
Notice, the Word of the Lord was the key to the godliness of this young man. You will find in the church today those who are strong in godliness and those who are weak. This is true not just of the young, but of every age group. The difference is the Word of the Lord. Those who hide the Word of the Lord in their heart as the psalmist did are strong in faith and godliness. Those who have neglected the Word are weak.
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart”!
The “word” here is specially the Word of the Lord. Throughout this Psalm the Lord is addressed. “Thy word,” therefore, is the Word of the Lord. And the name “Lord” in our KJV is really the name “Jehovah.”
Jehovah is God’s covenant name. Jehovah’s covenant is the intimate relationship of friendship that He establishes and maintains with His chosen people in Jesus Christ. As their friend, He saves them from all their sins, provides for all their needs, and lives with them in blessed fellowship. The name “Jehovah” emphasizes especially God’s faithfulness to His covenant.
The Word of Jehovah is Jehovah’s Word about His covenant. It is the Word of Jehovah about His love for His people, about the salvation He brings them in Jesus Christ, about His intentions to provide for them, body and soul, for both time and eternity. It also includes the requirements He has for His people as their part in the covenant. These are covenant requirements that they are able to keep only in the power of Jesus Christ, but that are necessary for them to live with Jehovah their God and to enjoy Him forever.
That Word of the Lord is contained in all of Scripture. For the psalmist, that Word was the Old Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament was dominated by the law, as suggested by the terms law, statutes, commandments, testimonies, precepts—all terms found in this 119th Psalm. That law proclaimed the gospel of the covenant. This was because this law was not just the Ten Commandments but also the civil and ceremonial law. The ceremonial laws instructed Israel in how to worship God through the priests of the house of Aaron, the tabernacle, the bloody sacrifices, and the feast days. The civil law organized Israel’s national life in the land of Canaan. Both sets of laws pointed Israel ahead to the great Savior of God (Jesus Christ) in whom the covenant and its blessing would be fully realized in the everlasting kingdom of God. But that Word of God was incomplete. It only pointed ahead to what was to come. Today, the Word of Jehovah is full and complete. The New Testament shows how God has fulfilled the covenant promises of the Old Testament in Jesus Christ. We now have the full revelation of Jehovah God.
This Word the psalmist hid in his heart.
The word translated “hid” is rich in meaning. The word originally meant to conceal something for a definite purpose, either for protection or for sinister reasons. Moses was hid by his parents from Pharaoh’s solders for three months (). The wicked hide themselves in order to ambush the innocent ( ). From this basic meaning developed the idea of laying up treasure that is hidden from public view for safekeeping. From the idea of laying up treasure came the idea of laying up as a treasure in your heart the instruction and knowledge you receive. In that case, the idea of being hidden falls to the background, except that what you treasure in your heart is hidden from the view of others. And so the word used here is in other passages simply translated as “laying up.” “My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee” ( ). This latter is the meaning here, only with respect to the Word of Jehovah God.
The psalmist considered the Word of Jehovah God to be a great treasure. He considered it to be a great treasure exactly because he himself belonged to the covenant of God. He knew Jehovah as his covenant friend. The Word of Jehovah assured him of God’s love, spoke of the salvation God had for him, and assured him of the wonderful promises of the covenant.
And so the psalmist laid up (stored up) the Word of the Lord in his heart. He sought out the Word of the Lord so that he grew in the knowledge of the Word. He accumulated knowledge. He did that by hearing the Word of the Lord, studying it, meditating on it day and night (), and discussing it with fellow saints.
Have you hidden the Word of the Lord in your heart?
“…that I might not sin against thee”!
The psalmist understood his inclination to sin against the Lord. Having been brought into God’s covenant of grace, the psalmist had also been changed by the grace of God. He was born again. In that new birth He loved the Lord and was empowered to serve the Lord with a new life. Nevertheless, the psalmist was much inclined to sin, as are all who belong to the covenant of grace. This was due to his sinful nature. The works of God’s grace are only begun in this life. This leaves us with a sinful nature that not only inclines our hearts to sin but also leads us into sin daily. And the devil works on that sinful nature. He does so through the intimidation of persecution, the allurements of sin’s pleasures, discouragement, and many other means.
It was the psalmist’s purpose not to sin against God but to live a godly, sanctified life. All those who truly belong to the covenant of God hate their sin. This is because sin dishonors and offends the God whom they love. This is the emphasis of the word “sin,” which means to “miss the mark.” In keeping with this, the psalmist speaks of sinning against Jehovah. Sin does this too: it disrupts the fellowship and friendship he had with God in the covenant.
Hence, that he might not sin the psalmist laid up the Word of God in his heart. He found that the Word of the Lord was that power of God to keep him from sin and to make him faithful to the God of the covenant. This is true because the Lord uses His Word to preserve and advance His work of grace in the hearts and lives of His people. This fact is explained in the Canons of Dordt, V, 14: “And as it hath pleased God, by the preaching of the gospel, to begin this work of grace in us, so He preserves, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of His Word, by meditation thereon, and by the exhortations, threatenings, and promises thereof, as well as by the use of the sacraments.” Notice, God begins His work of grace in us by the preaching of the gospel. God also preserves, continues, and perfects that work of grace in us by the same Word. Mention is made specifically of the hearing, reading, and meditation of that Word. The content of that Word is also identified, namely, its exhortations, threatenings and promises. Because it was the psalmist’s desire to turn from sin to live a godly life, he laid up the Word of the Lord in his heart.
We too must lay up as a treasure the Word of the Lord in our hearts.
There are many today who are not doing this. They do not consider the Word of the Lord to be a treasure to be laid up. They rather treasure such things as the human philosophy, wisdom, and learning of this world. They treasure also the music and entertainment of this world. To this list you can add the earthy pleasures of houses, clothes, vacations, recreation, and sports. And the list goes on. These then become the things they seek and lay up to themselves. And they neglect the Word of the Lord.
Sad to say, this is true of many in the church!
As members of the covenant of God and the household of faith, we must lay up the Word of the Lord. We may certainly treasure music, sports, learning, and many other things. But our great treasure must be the Word of the Lord. And that must reflect itself in that we lay it up in our hearts by hearing it, studying it, and meditating on it. We must do this by coming regularly under the pure preaching of the Word. We must study and discuss God’s Word daily in our homes and in the fellowship of the church. Parents and children alike must take catechism instruction and Christian education seriously.
And our purpose must be that we not sin against the Lord. Those who truly belong to God’s covenant hate their sin and desire to walk godly.
Let us lay up the Word in our heart that we not sin against our covenant God!