“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
(Psalm 119:11, ESV)
This verse comes from the lengthy chapter of Psalm 119, a text many have memorized in its entirety to their great profit. William Wilberforce, the British statesman who was largely responsible for the abolition of the slave trade throughout the empire, wrote in his diary in the year 1819, “Walked today from Hyde Park Corner, repeating the 119th Psalm in great comfort.”
[See Prothero, The Psalms in Human Life, 307; and Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3a, 133.] Does it seem strange that busy Wilberforce should know this psalm by heart? Henry Martyn, pioneer missionary to India, memorized Psalm 119 as an adult in 1804. He had an extremely arduous life, but he confessed that it was the Bible alone that gave him strength to keep going. He died of exhaustion in 1812. David Livingstone, pioneer missionary to Africa, won a Bible from his Sunday school teacher by repeating Psalm 119 by heart—when he was only nine years old.1
Psalm 119 repeatedly declares the value of Scripture. One of the great values is that, when memorized and meditated on, it keeps us from sinning against God. The word of God reveals God’s person, character and purposes to us. It tells us what is sin and what is righteousness. It casts light on our path and shows us how to walk in the way we desire as followers of Jesus: ways that do not involve sin. May God give us clarity of though and action as we memorize his word together this year.
1 James Montgomery Boice, Psalms 107–150: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 973.