Summary: Knowing God's Word can make all the difference in our lives. A sermon delivered in preparation for Vacation Bible School.
The Hidden Word
July 11, 2004
As a child growing up in Chatham, Louisiana, summers were reserved for two things. Little League baseball and Vacation Bible School. Both were the extent of my summer activities because that was all there was to do. I went to church camp a couple of summers, but at that age, I was just not turned on by church camp. The local swimming pool was one of two bodies of water, either Chatham Lake, which was really a pig pond, or the Buffalo Hole, which was a big bend in Casto Creek where local youths gathered to swim with the snakes and each other. There just was not much to do in the small town of Chatham, Louisiana during the summer. So we anticipated the coming of Vacation Bible School.
Vacation Bible School was a big deal in Chatham. Every major church, all three of them, had their own Bible School, and kids from every church would flock to the other churches because it was something to do. Well, perhaps there were more Methodist kids who went to the Pentecostal Bible School than there were Baptist kids who went, but in any event, we shared kids during VBS.
The three weeks that VBS was going on were always busy weeks. Each week began in anticipation and moved almost methodically (if that word can be used of a Baptist or a Pentecostal church) toward the climax event of the week which was the closing program. Parents and grandparents would gather at the church to see what the churches had taught their offspring through that summer week, and the week’s work came down to one thing: Did we learn our Bible verses?
In turn, each class from VBS would march to the front of the church and recite for the gathered assembly the verses they had learned during the week. Some years, there was even a prize for the class who did the best job reciting the selected verses. I think my class may have even won an award or two. Like summer baseball, bible memorization became a competition between the boys in the upper classes. The only thing that mattered was winning. Little did we boys know that those exercises were designed to give us a foundation in Scripture. They were designed to help us “hide God’s word in our hearts.” Had we known their real purpose, we might not have had quite so much fun because then we might have viewed it as work. But it was a game, and we were always up for a game. But it was VBS, and VBS is about learning the Bible. That is why it is called “Bible” school. It is about hiding God’s word in our hearts.
How long has it been since you thought about hiding God’s word in your heart? How long has it been since you memorized a Bible verse? And if you did, what was the point? Were you teaching a Sunday school class and needed to know the passage to teach the children? Or was there a crisis in your life and you were seeking comfort? Perhaps you haven’t memorized a passage of scripture since you attended VBS. So why should we be memorizing scripture? What is the purpose of hiding God’s word in our hearts? Let’s read today’s text and see if we can find out.
9How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word and following its rules.
10I have tried my best to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands.
11I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
12Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your principles.
13I have recited aloud all the laws you have given us.
14I have rejoiced in your decrees and much as in riches.
15I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.
16I will delight in your principles and not forget your word.
The 119th Psalm is the longest chapter of the Bible. For 176 verses, the writer expresses the love affair he has had with God’s word. The writer magnifies it, he praises it, he thanks God for it, he describes it, he asks God to continue to use it. It is, perhaps, the longest love song ever written. The author’s depth of love for God’s word is expressed in the development of the entire Psalm. There are twenty-two letters to the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza of this poem, for that is what it is, an ancient Hebrew poem, begins with a different letter of the alphabet, and each stanza of the poem begins with that particular letter. It is an amazing testimony to the love of the author for his subject, and it was indeed a labor of love. No author could pen such a work except he be totally familiar with his subject. The author was familiar, so the counsel he offered was not something that was wishful thinking on his part. It was what he believed and practiced, and he had seen the benefits in his own life. This was his attempt to communicate the value of knowing God’s word with others.