Remembering all His benefits

One of my long-time favorite psalms, if one may play favorites among Scripture’s inspired verses, is Psalm 103. This song expresses with unparalleled passion the joy and comfort an individual soul possesses in the knowledge of what God has done for him. Here the psalmist is exhorting his own soul to greater faithfulness in praising God for such benefits of inestimable value. The Psalmist lists these benefits given to the people of God at length. The Lord has forgiven us of our sins and cured our spiritual diseases. Not only has He redeemed us from the destruction which was our due, He also has revealed himself to us, made us His covenant friends, and satisfies us with every good thing. Verse two especially has long struck me with its profundity “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” How often is it not the case that we forget the Lord’s benefits to us, and by such forgetfulness fall into sin. Spiritual forgetfulness is indeed one of the most common problems in the Christian life.

The book of Judges for example is a narration of Israel’s persistent forgetfulness of both God’s goodness to them and His commands for them. How soon the people of God forgot the marvels which God worked among them! Judge after judge was sent by God to rebuke them for their sinfulness, forgetfulness, and backsliding ways. Often there was temporary repentance. Yet soon enough they slid back into the all too easy ways of the idolatrous nations which encompassed them. They forgot the Lord’s benefits and His admonitions yet again.  To us it may seem as though the people of Israel suffered from the most acute case of short-term memory loss. Perhaps so. Yet do we not often have the same tendency? I can recall numerous occasions in my own life in which my own neglect of spiritual things and of spiritual discipline caused me to forget God’s benefits to me as one of His children.  Idleness in spiritual matters begets spiritual amnesia. This amnesia is not that the knowledge of God and his benefits is completely removed from our minds, rather the idea is that it is shelved and becomes inactive and ceases to exist in the forefront our minds and to exert influence over our conduct. The moment our knowledge of God’s benefits ceases to inform and shape the way we think, act, and live is the moment in which we have forgotten those benefits. This leads to a state of spiritual lethargy, a particularly fitting word to describe this human tendency to forget. If we pull this word apart it provides a nice illustration. The word Lethargy is a combination of two other words, the first part “leth” meaning forgetful, the other part “argy” meaning idle, lazy, or not engaged in work. Spiritual forgetfulness or lethargy often has this component of idleness, of “not working” after spiritual things. The spiritual life of the Christian is a life of hard work, that is, spiritual work, or “heart-work” as Matthew Henry aptly calls it. The word of God must be read, revisited, meditated upon, discussed, recited, memorized, and rememorized, for it to sink into our minds and souls. So also the Christian life must be one of diligent and frequent prayer. We must go to church on Sunday to hear the word of God preached; the same gospel message which is proclaimed from Sabbath to Sabbath. This repetition is not redundancy, it is necessary for spiritual life. All these things are a joy for the Christian, yet they are still difficult work, and often just as the people of Israel, we can become lax in these areas of the Christian life, and as a result become forgetful and lethargic. We must strive in our daily lives to “work” spiritually and to call to remembrance the benefits which the Lord has bestowed upon us. As the Lord admonished his covenant people in the Old Testament:

“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons…” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

So too He admonishes us, for with the eyes of faith we have seen and know the wonders which God has performed. We know them from the experience of God’s work of grace in our own lives. The Christian life is, among many other things, a life of remembering the benefits of the Lord to us and rendering due praise to his name. Thank God that He, remembering that we are dust, provides the strength necessary to overcome the weakness of our fleshly minds and to continue in the way of remembrance of Him.

JS

Importance of Meditation and Memorization

I am reading a book right now called Giving up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture, by Brian H. Cosby. In a section of this book Cosby lays out the importance of meditation and memorization of God’s Word. It’s an excellent and insightful little section, and thought I would share.

“Robert Dabney, the nineteenth century Southern Presbyterian and theologian, noted that the Christian should meditate on “the ascertained perfections of God, until the soul is suffused with sacred affections.” Two of the most intimate and soul-satisfying disciples of the Christian life are Scripture meditation and memorization. They are also some of the hardest, which is why they have all but disappeared across the evangelical landscape.

The Psalmist writes, blessed is the man whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). The word for “law” may be used broadly to encompass all of God’s Word. Our delight should be in God’s holy Word to such a degree that we should meditate on it – day and night! Meditation is an avenue of using God’s Word as a means of Grace. The Psalmist goes on to describe how that grace is applied: “He is like a tree well planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (v. 3).

Meditating on God’s Word is a way that we enter into intimate communion with Him and rest in His promises. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). It is in God’s Word that we encounter the sovereign Lord, the works of God in creation and providence, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. May [we] say with David, “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate” (Psalm 145:5)!

Closely associated with meditation is Scripture memorization. Memory works like a muscle in your brain, which builds strength and makes you able to retain more, the more you exercise it in memorization. Many Christians don’t attempt memorizing Scripture, and hide behind natural excuses such as, “My brain doesn’t work like that,” or, “Why memorize a verse when I could just look it up?”

In John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the main character, Christian, finds himself battling the evil dragon Apollyon. The description is worth quoting here:

“While Apollyon lifted himself up to deliver his last blow and to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his sword and grabbed it, saying, “Rejoice against me, O my enemy: when I fall, I shall rise back up.” With that, Christian gave Apollyon a deadly thrust, which made the fiend fall back as one who had received a mortal wound.”

What is particularly striking about this story is that Christian grabs his “sword” and then speaks God’s Word, using it as both a defensive and an offensive weapon. In Ephesians 6, Paul describes the armor of God and ends with a description of the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17). The reason this is striking is that the Greek word for “word” here is the more unusual rhema, which is the spoken word. In order to speak this word during battle, Christian had to first know the word in his heart.

It’s quite amazing the number of songs we know by heart. It’s even more amazing the number of songs youth know by heart! Yet we succumb to Satan’s lie that it’s of no great benefit to us to know God’s Word by heart. The Psalmist writes, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). In an age of rampant teen pregnancies, suicides through the roof, and pornographic addictions, we still have the pride to say that hiding God’s Word in our hearts is of no real benefit.

Our only hope must come from the gospel of Jesus, who three times answered the enticements of Satan in the wilderness by quoting God’s Word. While we remain unfaithful to God in knowing, meditating, memorizing, and delighting in His Word, Jesus was perfectly faithful on our behalf. The good news of Jesus Christ has great application for the entertainment-saturated teenager.” (pp40-42)

Earlier this week, Ryan K. pointed out the importance of taking time for meditation on God’s Word’s. I would like to encourage you (and me!) to memorize God’s Word also. It’s something that we often forget the importance of doing. Let us follow the example Jesus gave, and the many before and after Him. Let us be in the Word every day, mediating on it and memorizing it. It is so endlessly rich and full of blessings!

AT