03 May May note from Dri: The Heart of the Matter
Hiding God's Word in our Hearts
This spring we started the Hidden Word class for kids 3rd grade and up to help them memorize scripture, and they are having a blast doing so! Mrs. Pam is bringing creative and fun ways to hide God’s word in their hearts and helping them to see the reason why we do it in the first place. Truly this age is the best at memorizing and these verses will stick with them for a lifetime, comforting and guiding them as they grow in their relationship with Jesus. I still remember many of the verses I memorized from Bible Drill many years ago.
The name for this class comes from Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” In our modern American culture, the connotation of heart metaphorically means the center of being, our self, and more specifically, our emotions. We make a distinction between heart and brain. In some ways, the Ancient Hebrew word is used very similarly, like being glad in one’s heart or having a sad heart. But did you know that was not the only connotation? Abraham says something “in his heart.” In Exodus, when God is preparing Israel to build the tabernacle, he says he puts skill “in the heart” of the artists and describes them as “skillful of the heart.” (NASB Translation)
The Ancient Hebrews didn’t really have a concept of the brain or even a word for it the way that we do today. Instead, the heart, in addition to being the seat of emotions, was also the seat of intellect! Thinking, skill, planning, speaking, all these things happened “in the heart.” There was no dichotomy between the heart and the brain. They were one. So when Psalm 119’s author says they have hidden God’s word in their heart, they’re talking about more than just feelings. They’re talking about burying it in their thoughts, skills, plans, and words. When God says in Jeremiah 31 that he will write his commands on their hearts, we could even translate that as engraving it on their brains, etching it on their mind. It’s a holistic way of absorbing God’s word into every part of who they were.*
Have you ever had something from a previous generation slip out of your mouth? Maybe a turn of phrase your parents or grandparents used to say? I’m often tempted to say things like “every little whipstitch” or “cattywampus” like my grandma said, or when my kids do something silly and get (minorly) hurt to tell them, in the words of my father, “well don’t do that.” Why? Because they are so ingrained in my heart from repeated hearing, repeated exposure, memorization, not only in my head, but also in my heart, because they come from people I love. If we love God, his words also must permeate our hearts as more than emotion, but our minds, our planning, our thinking, our skills, our very being.
In an effort to hide more of God’s word in my own heart, in the Hebrew sense of the word, I’ve been working with the youth group on a short passage for several weeks at a time. We make up goofy actions and recite it together each week. In Family Gathering we used a lot of Seeds Family Worship, Johanna Musgraves and JumpStart3 and other word-for-word scripture songs to help us memorize. It’s a surprisingly easy way to do it! Check out our Spotify playlist here. A friend recently received the Illuminated Journal Bible of the Gospels, which has scripture on the left side and blank lines on the right. Because she doesn’t like journaling, she has started copy work, just copying the left side to the right. The act of writing it helps solidify it in her brain.
So, can I ask you, how can you store more of God’s words in your heart and mind today?
*Listen to The Bible Project Podcast series The Paradigm episode 9, “The Bible wasn’t Written in English” for more on this subject.