Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: As we approach Scripture, sometimes we need to slow down. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You can never know the heart of God if you don’t know the Word of God. And you won’t know the Word of God if you just skim hastily through its contents and don’t learn to read the Word thoughtfully.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Wednesday, January 7. In an era of Blackberries, blogs, and Facebook, you probably take in volumes of information very quickly. It might tempt you to do everything quickly. But there are times when you need to stop and savor what you are reading. Nancy’s here to explain.

Nancy: As we were growing up—I’m the oldest of seven children—there were certain skills that my dad wanted us to learn and encouraged us to make a part of our life. One of those skills was speed reading. He felt it would be a blessing in life to be able to read quickly. I am so thankful for that ability and the training. But as he encouraged us to learn to speed read, he reminded us that there were two things that you should never speed read. One is love letters and the other is the Scripture—the Word of God.

Now I don’t have a lot of experience at the former—love letters—but I do have some experience with the Scripture. If you’ve ever received love letters, you know that (especially in those pre-marriage days when you didn’t have email and couldn’t talk on the phone as inexpensively as you can today and some of you can remember doing your courting through correspondence) when you would get that letter, there was no way you were going to just rip it open and hastily skim through it and toss it aside.

Instead, you were going to pore over its contents, word for word, read it, re-read it, and look for every single nuance of meaning that you could drain out of that letter. You'd probably read some things into it that weren’t even intended there, but you were just wanting to know, “What does he mean? What is he thinking? What is he saying?” You were reading it thoughtfully, carefully.

Well, the Bible is a love letter. It’s God’s love letter to us. It reveals God’s heart to us. The more carefully and frequently and thoughtfully we read it, the more we will come to grasp His incredible, immeasurable love toward us. You can never know the heart of God, if you don’t know the Word of God. And you won’t know the Word of God if you just skim hastily through it’s contents and don’t learn to read the Word thoughtfully.

We talked in the last session about reading the Word of God prayerfully. Now we’re going to talk about reading the Word of God thoughtfully. I want to give this session and another one or two further to how we can read the Word of God thoughtfully. Let me just say if we read it hastily and casually, we will never mine the riches that are there. We’ll never plumb the depths that are in the Scripture.

Psalm 19, verse 10, tells us that the words of God “are more precious than gold, than much pure gold.” You don’t walk down the street and typically stumble onto something as valuable as gold. It’s a rare commodity. It’s buried deep in the earth and yet you’d spend time and effort to search for it, to extract it from the rock in which it’s embedded.

The Word of God is gold and, yes, there are some wonderful aspects of it that are just lying on the surface for us to pick up, but there are other aspects of it that you have to go down deep. You have to mine. You have to read it thoughtfully and carefully.

So as you read the Word of God, pause to meditate on the meaning of what you read. Stop to think about what it’s saying. Absorb the Word of God into your system by dwelling on it, pondering it, going over it again and again in your mind, considering it, as you would that love letter, from every possible angle until that Word becomes a part of you.

That’s what James means when he talks about getting the Word engrafted into our system. The way we do that is through meditation. Over and over again Scripture talks about meditation. The word meditate or meditation is used 25 times in the Hebrew Old Testament and it’s a word in Hebrew that means actually "to mutter."

You think of somebody who’s muttering under their breath. To moan, to growl, to utter, to speak. It’s actually a verbal word—kind of under your breath. Maybe everybody else can’t hear what you’re doing, but you’re muttering about something.

Vine’s expository dictionary says it’s an onomatopoetic term, one of those words that sounds like what it means. It reflects, he says, the sighing and the long sounds one may make while musing. You’re thinking about something. You’re dwelling on it. You’re pondering it and you may even be muttering to yourself about it.

Well, we’ve been looking at Psalm 119, and again let me encourage you to open there as we look at some verses about meditating on the word of God, muttering about the Word of God, speaking it to ourselves over and over again. Verse 15 of Psalm 119: “I will mediate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.”

It’s a concentrated dwelling on something. I’m going to think about this. I’m not going to just read it like I read billboards driving down the freeway. Zoom. It’s past. It’s gone. I don’t know what it said.

That’s the way a lot of us read the Word of God—like we’re driving at 65 miles an hour down the freeway and the billboards just passed us by. We don’t know what they said, what they meant. We couldn’t remember the phone number to call or the web address to contact or even what product it was advertising because we were just skimming past it.

Well, the Scripture says here in verse 15, “I will fix my eyes on your ways.” I will meditate. I’m going to stop and look at that billboard. I’m going to stop and look at that sign. I’m going to stop and examine what the Word says, what it means. I’m going to fix my eyes on it.

Throughout Psalm 119, we see the Psalmist saying that he meditates on God’s Word when he’s in the midst of many different life circumstances, not just when he’s sitting in his quiet time chair at 6:00 in the morning or 8:00 in the evening or whenever you spend your time alone in the Word. You need that time every day. But he says throughout the day, in different circumstances of life, “I will meditate on Your Word.”

Look at verse 23, “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.” When you’re in trouble, people are after you, he says that’s the time to meditate on the Word of God.

Verse 78: “Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.” Even when I’m being wronged by those who don’t love Your law.

Verse 27: “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will mediate on your wondrous works.” When you’re in the midst of God’s creation or seeing the works of God, meditating on His works.

Verse 48: “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.”

He talks in verse 54 about one way to meditate which is singing the Scripture to the Lord. Verse 54: “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.” As I travel on this pilgrim way, the Psalmist says, I sing your words. I sing them back to You. I make songs out of your laws and I sing them to You.

Verse 172 says something similar. “My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.” Now singing is something they don’t let me do on Revive Our Hearts, although I really would love to. I just love to sing to the Lord.

I don’t have a singing voice that anyone else would want to hear except the Lord, but I sometimes take familiar songs and hymns. I almost always have with me a hymn book, a chorus book, so that I can sing the words of the Lord to Him. But sometimes as I’m reading through the Scripture, on occasion I will just make up my own tune. It’s not anything that would ever be publishable, but just singing, chanting, singing, making music out of the Word of the Lord and singing it to Him as a way of dwelling on, meditating on the Scripture.

It’s a great reason, by the way, to have your children learning Scripture songs. That’s how they can learn to meditate on the Word of God. So the Psalmist says at all times, day and night, I will be meditating on your word.

Verse 62: “At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.” Now does that mean if you’re a godly woman that you’ll get up every night at midnight to praise the Lord? I don’t think that’s what it’s saying. I think he’s saying when I am up at midnight, if I’m awakened, what I will do is praise You. I will meditate on Your righteous laws.

Verse 97: “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Thinking about the Word, dwelling on it, so that you don’t just have your quiet time for 30 minutes or whatever in the morning and then go away and in the next 24 hours you can’t remember what you read, you’re not thinking about what you read.

I heard a wonderful Sunday school lesson last week at my church and one verse of what was taught was a take-away for me. It was 2 Peter chapter 1, verse 2, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

The teacher did just such a great job of opening up what that word means, but saying that God’s grace and God’s peace to us are multiplied and available in every circumstance of life if we will just get to know God. That’s how we get more grace and peace.

Well, I’m just telling it to you quickly, but I’ve been meditating on that verse since last Sunday, trying to make it a part of my being and realizing that when I need more grace and I need more peace, what I need to do is know God. I need to know His Word. I need to know Jesus better. That’s how I get grace and peace. So I’m meditating on that Word of God throughout the day.

Verse 147 of Psalm 119: “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.” I don’t know if this was one of those days when the Psalmist just woke up early and he thought about what he had going on in his day, what he had to face that day, and already before he got out of bed, he’s saying, “Lord, help! I need You! I can’t make it through this day. My hope is in Your Word.” I can imagine that maybe he slipped out of bed and onto his knees and took out the book of the law of the Lord and said, “Lord, give me what I need to face this day. I hope in Your Word.”

Verse 148: “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may mediate on your promise.” I was talking recently with a friend who’s had some trouble sleeping at night and we were talking about how you can use that time to just lie there in the bed perhaps and think about the Lord, think about His Word. Take a phrase from the Scripture. Meditate on it. Dwell on it.

Well, God’s Word promises success to those who meditate on the Word of God.

  • You want success in your walk with God?
  • You want to grow as a Christian?
  • You want to be successful in the work environment in which God’s placed you?
  • You want to represent Christ well in your vocation?
  • You want to be successful as a wife in loving your husband?
  • You want to be successful as a mom in bringing up children who love the Lord?
  • You want to be successful as a grandmom?
  • In every season of life, you want to be successful in God’s calling?

The one thing in God’s Word that promises success is if we will meditate on the Word of the Lord. Psalm 1, verses 2-3: “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

No matter how old it gets, no matter how stressed out, no matter how hard life is, no matter what the circumstance, this person who meditates on the law of the Lord day and night, his leaves never wither. He never becomes spiritually barren. He’s always yielding fruit. In all that he does, he prospers.

If you have Psalm 119 there, let me ask you to look at verse 16. In Psalm 119, verse 16, the Psalmist said, “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” Then verse 93, “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.” Several times throughout Psalm 119 we hear the Psalmist saying I will not forget your Word.

Now what does that mean—“I will remember your word”? In order to remember the Word of God, we need to spend time memorizing the Scripture. Now God may not ask you to memorize the whole New Testament and there’s nothing even about memorizing the entire Bible that makes you more spiritual than someone who doesn’t. But if you want to get the Word of God really engrafted into your system, one of the things that will help you do that is to memorize portions of Scripture.

In past years, more so than in recent years (I’ve had a harder time of this as I have, one, gotten older and, two, as I have gone to different translations), but for many years over the years I have spent a lot of time memorizing Scripture. As a child, as a teenager, as a woman in my 20s and 30s and now as I’m in my 40s, I am finding such benefit and blessing from those years of getting the Scripture into my mind, into my heart through means of Scripture memory. I have found this one of the greatest helps and tools, not only in meditating on the Scripture, but really getting the Scripture to being a part of my being.

Now I can just hear someone saying, “But I just can’t memorize.” I actually sympathize a little bit more with people who say that today than I did ten years ago. Which leads me to say, by the way, how important it is for children and young people to be memorizing Scripture while you can, while it’s not so difficult.

I have often said to mothers if I were raising children today, one thing I would absolutely do is have those children be memorizing chapters and books of the Word of God. Those kids can memorize. They can put the Word of God away in their heart. I would make sure those children were memorizing the book of Proverbs, many of the Psalms, much of the New Testament, just getting it into their minds, into their systems because I have seen in my own life the value of much of that memorization done as a young girl and young woman.

But those of us who are not young girls and young women anymore, we may think, “I can’t memorize.” Well I read one author, Don Whitney, who said the issue is not so much our inability to memorize as our motivation. He said, “What if I offered you $1,000 for every verse you could memorize in the next seven days? Do you think your attitude towards Scripture memory and your ability to memorize would improve?” Any financial reward would be minimal when compared to the accumulating value of the treasure of God’s Word deposited in your mind.

So it is a matter of motivation. The fact is we all do memorize. We memorize all the time. We memorize people’s names—some do a better job of that than others. But we do. We memorize TV commercials, credit card numbers, phone numbers. I counted up this morning, in order for me to access my voicemail from a hotel telephone, I have to press in 52 digits and I’ve got them memorized. Now I’m getting a little nervous about the day coming when I can’t remember what they are and can’t make a phone call, but 52 digits just to access my voicemail.

We memorize the things that we feel are important or that we’re motivated to memorize or that we use all the time, that we use repeatedly, the things that are a part of our daily lives. Scripture memorization is really no different. It requires motivation—a reason to want to—and regular systematic review.

Now, if you’ve never memorized Scripture before or you haven’t done it recently, let me encourage you to start with small portions. Maybe just one or two verses a week. Jot it out on a card, select verses that relate to specific concerns or needs in your life, whatever season you’re at in your life. Ask God to direct you to Scripture that will help to sanctify you in that season or that need of your life.

If you’re struggling, for example, with talking too much or with a critical spirit, look for some verses in Proverbs that have to do with the tongue and jot them down on a card and take them with you. At different times and places be reviewing them over and over again in your mind throughout the day.

Review the Scripture that you’re memorizing before you go to sleep at night. That helps a lot with reinforcing the Scripture in your memory because whatever you go to bed with at night is often what is going to be working in your subconscious throughout the night. I’ve found that that’s a helpful tool to Scripture memory.

Memorize with a partner. Ask a prayer partner or a walking partner or some friend or your mate or your children to memorize some Scripture with you so you can encourage each other and quote the Scripture to each other.

As you memorize the Scripture, you will experience so many benefits in your life. You’ll find that the Scripture will:

  • Cleanse and renew your mind
  • Keep you from sin 
  • Provide insight and direction that you need when you’re in the midst of real life situations and you don’t have your Bible just there handy. What you have stored in your heart is what will give you direction.
  • It will strengthen your spirit.
  • It will help you combat the attacks of the enemy on your mind and on your emotions.

All of us as women know what that means. We know what it’s like at times of the month, seasons of life to have our emotions and our mind just out of whack. Your husband and your children can’t figure out what’s going on, and you’re not sure you can figure out what’s going on. If you have the Scripture stored in your heart, you will find that Scripture will guard your mind. It will guard your emotions when they just really want to go out of control.

  • Scripture memory will help to increase your spiritual desires, give you more of a hunger for God, and it will diminish your fleshly desires as you memorize Scripture.
  • It will protect you from wrong thinking patterns.
  • It will help you fix your mind and your affection on things above.

I remember as a child getting a letter from an older woman who was a friend of our family and I’ve never forgotten. She wrote me as a little girl, and she challenged me to begin memorizing one verse of Scripture every week. She said God’s Word is like pearls. She said by the end of a year, if you will do that, you will have 52 pearls—Scripture verses—on your strand.

I haven’t done that—one verse a week over all the years—but it’s been a great reminder. Something that’s stuck in my mind was that challenge from an older woman to memorize the Word of God.

As I’ve read the lives, biographies of great men and women of God, I’ve seen the value that Scripture memory has had in their lives. I was reading just recently a book called The Pastor’s Wife, which is an autobiography by Sabina Wurmbrand whose husband was imprisoned in Romanian prisons for 14 years under the communist regime there, and during a period of time she herself, as a pastor’s wife, was imprisoned.

She says in this book,

After work women came to religious prisoners and asked, even begged, to be told something of what we remembered from the Bible. [This was while they were in prison.] The words gave hope, comfort, and life. We had no Bible. We hungered for it more than bread. [When you don’t have it, you really do hunger for it.]

How I wished I had learned more of it by heart, but we repeated daily those passages we knew and at night also when we held vigils for prayer. Other Christians, like me, had deliberately committed long passages to memory knowing that soon their turn would come to a rest. They brought riches to prison.

Isn’t that great? What were the riches? It was the treasure of God’s Word stored in their hearts. She said,

While others quarreled and fought, we lay on our mattresses and used the Bible for prayer and meditation and repeated its verses to ourselves through the long nights. We learned what newcomers brought and taught them what we knew.

So an unwritten Bible circulated through all of Romania’s prisons.

As I read that account I thought of Psalm 119, verse 61. “Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.” Now you may never find yourself imprisoned in a literal prison for your faith, but you may live in a prison, in a marriage, in a family situation, in a work environment, in a church situation, in a neighborhood situation, and it feels like prison to you. “Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,” what is my hope? “I do not forget your law.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written about that kind of hope, the kind that comes from knowing God’s Word. Her book, A Place of Quiet Rest, will inspire you to pursue the Bible more diligently. It offers many practical suggestions for getting into the Word and understanding what it means.

Reading this book could make 2009 the year you truly connect with the Bible in a fresh way. We’ll send A Place of Quiet Rest when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. The program comes to you each day thanks to donations from listeners just like you, and when you send a gift of any amount, we’ll say thanks by sending this book that has transformed the devotional life of so many women.

Ask for A Place of Quiet Rest when you call with your donation. The number is 1-800-569-5959. Or donate online at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com.

Did you know reading the Bible can kind of be like preparing a meal? We’ll find out how on tomorrow’s program. We hope you can join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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