“Thy Word Have I Hid In Mine Heart...”
By Alexander MacLaren
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psa. 119:11).
The Old Testament use of the word “heart” is much wider than our modern one, which limits it to being the seat and organ of love, affection, or emotion; whereas in the Old Testament the “heart” is the very vital center of the personal self. As the Book of Proverbs has it, “out of it are the issues of life” (4:23) – all the outgoings of activity of every kind, both that which we ascribe to the head, and that which we ascribe to the heart. These come, according to the Old Testament idea, from this central self. And so, when the psalmist says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart,” he means, “I have buried it deep in the very midst of my being, and put it down at the very roots of myself, and there incorporated it with the very substance of my soul.”
If you want to be a strong Christian, hide the Bible in your heart. When I was a boy, the practice of good Christian folk was to read a daily chapter. I wonder if that is kept up. I gravely suspect it is not. There are, no doubt, a great many causes contributing to the comparative decay amongst professing Christians, of Bible reading and Bible study. People have so many other books to read now, that they have not much time for reading their Bibles, or if they have, they think they have not. No literature will ever take the place of the Bible. And no religious literature, sermons, treatises, still less magazines and periodicals, will do for Christian men what the Bible will do for them. You make a tremendous mistake, for your own soul’s sake, if your religious reading consists in what people have said and thought about Scripture, more than in the Scripture itself. Why should you dip your pitchers into the reservoir, when you can take them up to where the spring comes gushing out of the hillside, pure and clear and living?
Then there is the drive of our modern life which crowds out the Word. Get up a quarter of an hour earlier and you will have time to read your Bible. It will be well worth the sacrifice, if it is a sacrifice. I do not mean by reading the Bible what, I am afraid, is far too common – reading a scrap of Scripture as if it were a kind of charm. But I would most earnestly press upon you that muscle and fiber will distinctly atrophy and become enfeebled, if Christian people neglect the first plain way of hiding the Word in their heart, which is to make the utterances of Scripture as if incorporated with their very being, and part of their very selves.
The Word Manifested in Life
Our second text brings into view the outer side of the devout life, that which is turned to the world. “I have not hid Thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation: I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth…” (Psa. 40:10).
The Word, if hid in the heart, will certainly be manifest in the life. For not only is it impossible for a man who deeply and continually realizes God’s will, and lives in touch with Jesus Christ, to prevent these experiences from visibly affecting His life and conduct, but also in the measure in which we have that conscious inward possession of the divine Word and the divine Christ we shall be impelled to manifest them to our fellows by every means in our power.
True Christian emotion is like a fire smoldering within some substance that never rests till it burns its way to the outside. As one of the prophets puts it, “I said I will speak no more in Thy name”; he goes on to tell how his resolve of silence gave way under the pressure of the unuttered speech – “Thy word shut up in my bones was like a fire, and I was weary of forbearing and I could not stay” (see Jeremiah 20:9). So it will always be.
Further, the more we show it, the more need there is for us to cultivate the hidden element in our religion. The loftier you mean to build your tower, the deeper must be the foundation that you dig. The more any of us are trying to do for Jesus Christ, the more need there is that we increase our secret communion with Jesus Christ.