Deuteronomy 11:18-19 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Just recently I heard an American Christian leader speak about a trip he had made to China to teach leaders of the underground Church there. Those leaders endured hardship just to attend the meeting, not to mention the danger of being arrested and imprisoned again. (Most of them had already experienced that.) After the conference, as they were getting ready to leave, some of them asked the American to pray for them that they could be like him. He said no, he would pray that American Christians could be more like them, committing everything to Christ and memorizing the Bible so that it couldn’t be taken away from them in prison. In the message that I heard, the American pointed out that Americans have an average of two Bibles per household, and yet they don’t read them, much less live by them. Those Chinese Christians had passed around scraps of paper with Scripture on them so that they could memorize them and not risk losing the Word. It’s hardly surprising that the Chinese believers are standing strong in the face of increasing persecution, while all too many American Christians wilt in the face of accusations of “homophobia” or “Islamophobia.” My grandfather, a seminary professor, often asked his students how big their Bible was. When they responded in terms of printed matter, he said, “No, how much is in your heart?” Memorization by itself doesn’t guarantee the content makes it into our hearts, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. What is essential is applying the Word in our daily lives, letting it percolate through all that we say, do, and are. I think that’s what Moses is talking about here, and it makes all the difference in the world.
I was blessed to grow up in a household that was steeped in the Word, reading through the Bible for myself for the first time by the time I was 10. I became very knowledgeable about the Bible, but that didn’t mean I was applying and living it out. I was a prime example of what James warned against. (James 1:22) God has had to deal with me many times in many ways to knock some sense into me, to help me really grasp that “hiding the Word in my heart” (Psalm 119:11) is far more than remembering the words in my head. Interestingly, it was the same American I heard talking about China that came up with the SOAP system of devotions that I’ve been using for many years now. In my experience, it’s the A of that acronym, Application, that has made the most difference for me, as I have had to think of how to apply the things I have read each morning. With my background, it’s always been easy for me to explain what a passage was saying (the Observation of that acronym) but far too often in the past I’ve stopped there, thinking that intellectual understanding equaled compliance. That’s just not the case. It’s only as I live the Word out in full obedience that it accomplishes that for which God sends it into my life. (Isaiah 55:11)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me indeed be a doer of Your Word and not just a hearer, or even a knower. May I be an agent of Your kingdom indeed, as Your Word, Your will, is accomplished in and through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!