Arthur Rorheim has helped millions of children memorize Scripture. Arthur was better known by his nickname, “Mr. Awana.” He co-founded Awana in 1950, and led the Bible-teaching organization for decades. “Awana” is an acronym meaning “Approved workmen are not ashamed,” a reference to 2 Timothy 2:15. The organization now operates in 100 countries and 30 languages!
Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is devoted to putting God’s Word at the center of our lives. We’re considering its second section today. The question of verse 9—”How can a young person stay on the path of purity?”—signals that this is “wisdom literature,” which is often concerned with young people or the next generation. The answer, “By living according to your word,” is the bottom line, an answer that is elaborated in the following verses.
The verbs alone teach remarkable lessons. What are we to do with God’s Word? Live according to it (v. 9). Ask God to keep us from straying from it (v. 10). Memorize it (v. 11). Ask God to teach it to us (v. 12). Recount or proclaim it (v. 13). Rejoice in following it (v. 14). Meditate on and consider or study it (v. 15). Delight in it (v. 16). These verbs involve both intellect and emotion, thought and action. What happens when we do these things? We stay on the path of purity (v. 9). We avoid sin (v. 11). Overall, a spirit of praise and worship permeates these verses!
To “hide” or “store up” or “treasure” (these are all possible translations) God’s Word in our hearts is to memorize it (v. 11). This is not “rote memorization,” but rather deep and transformative learning. By committing God’s Word to memory, truly taking it to heart, we promote the process of understanding, valuing, and applying His truth.
>> Even if you’re older, it is not too late to memorize the Bible. It’s an essential spiritual habit or discipline. Start small by memorizing today’s verse or (if you’re feeling ambitious) the entire eight-verse passage.
“Praise be to you, LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth...I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (Ps. 119:12-16).