4 “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
Daniel has come to the end of the prophesy and his time as a prophet. The angelic messenger has revealed to him a picture of future events that are both ghastly and glorious at once. Kingdoms will rise and fall before Israel is finally delivered and the messianic promise fulfilled. The last notes of this final prophesy concern the end times and the final word of the God of creation.
Standing on the banks of the river Tigris, Daniel ponders the weight of the information he has received and is given a final command by the messenger: “shut up the words and seal the book…” Daniel must commit this to memory and hold the information in his heart until it is needed.
Imagine for a moment receiving such incredible, wonderful, terrible news as Daniel has, and then being told to “sit on it.” This, of course, not in the sense of Fonzie on “Happy Days” but for the prophet to become a human archive, his mind a living hard drive to store the information contained in rich and mysterious prophesies.
In closing the study of Daniel, this image struck me. God can call His children to do many different things for His glory and the kingdom. Some He calls to teach and preach. Others he calls to show mercy and care for those in need. There is one thing that all of his children are called to do and that is to commit the holy word to heart and memory and meditate upon it all of their days.
I barely knew my paternal grandfather. He died when I was two years old but I inherited his small bible and as a small boy I would take it with me to Sunday school and church. The old book was almost unmarked with the exception of a short passage he had highlighted:
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You. –Psalm 119:11
I do not know if my grandfather was a particularly godly man or even read his Bible often but he had seen and felt the truth of this passage and it still speaks to me today.
Do you hide the word of God in your heart? Like Daniel, you have been given an incredible wealth of information to process and to guide you through this life. This information comes from the bible in your hand and the sermon on Sunday, plus in this modern age there is a vast supply of knowledge pouring from study guides, blogs, podcasts, live streams and devotionals such as the one you are reading now.
A veritable river of God’s word and the knowledge surrounding it flows past you every day and is available at the touch of your fingers—or by speaking aloud to “Alexa” or “Siri” to look up a favorite Bible verse.
The sheer amount of biblical resources and available is incredible to ponder. The modern western world has unprecedented access to the Word of God.
But it could all be gone in a moment.
Earlier this month I was on a kayaking trip deep in the swamps of the Congaree National Park in South Carolina. As I reached the boat landing and beached my kayak on the sloping ramp disaster struck. My smartphone slid out of my pants pocket, over the side of my kayak and into the water.
With a splash my connection to the outside world—my tether to friends and family, email and Facebook—was lost beneath icy black water.
After an annoying and costly three days I was able to obtain a replacement phone but during that time I had become aware of just how addicted I was to this technology—and how total the loss of information can be.
What if your access to electronics, the internet, “the cloud” or even books was gone tomorrow? Western culture frowns on censorship and book burning but it is not unprecedented—even in living memory.
We do not have to go back very far to recall societies, even in the western world, that lived in fear of totalitarianism and treasured every scrap of scripture they could find.
Andrew van der Bijl, called “Brother Andrew,” was a Dutch missionary who took great risks to sneak Bibles into Russia and Eastern Europe in the mid-20th century. His efforts behind the “Iron Curtain” resulted in thousands of Provided to those living under communist rule where the state was god.
Known as “God’s Smuggler,” Brother Andrew knew the power of the Word and how precious it is when it is lost. “A man with God is a majority,” he said, and to demonstrate the power of the Word he proceeded to cross into communist countries to provide copies of the Bible to those who were being denied the light of the Gospel.
Ray Bradbury’s famous novel “Fahrenheit 451” describes a dystopian futuristic society where books are banned and even burned to prevent people from the light of knowledge. The protagonist Montag is a “fireman” in that it is his job to burn confiscated reading material. He begins to steal books to read and becomes an outlaw when his crime is discovered.
Montag makes his way into the wilds where he encounters others who have been stealing books and committing the knowledge within to memory. He ends up with the assignment of memorizing the books of Ecclesiastes and Revelation from the Christian Bible and is introduced to others in the camp:
“Here we all are, Montag. Aristophanes and Mahatma Gandhi and Gautama Buddha and Confucius and Thomas Love Peacock and Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Lincoln, if you please. We are also Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”
The question we must ask ourselves is if we are so convinced that we live in dark times when our culture is far from God, why are we not committing more of His word to memory?
Of course you do not need to wait until society crumbles or until your iPhone falls into a creek. If you love God, treasure the words of Jesus and seek to live by the Word, then you are on your way to building a library of scripture in your heart.
Jesus shows us that he had an intimate knowledge of scripture and as he taught and shared with others in his ministry kept the Word on the tip of his tongue:
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’? –Matthew 21:42
Jesus continually exhorted his disciples, countered arguments from the Pharisees and brought comfort to those in pain using scripture in a manner that showed his knowledge and love of the Word.
The Irish monk Colum knew this love of scripture. He began his studies in the monastery of Finnian and so loved the Word that he made a copy for himself. Banished from the community he sailed to the rugged island of Iona in Scotland to form his own community dedicated to copying and preserving scripture. During the darkest of ages when Vikings swept a bloody path across Europe and the light of knowledge flickered nearly out, the work of Colum and his companions helped preserve the Bible for us to have it today.
Daniel was commanded to “seal the book” until such time as the Word of God needed to be revealed. There is nothing sweeter than being able to recall a treasured verse when you are most in need.
One way to do this is to commit scripture to memory. Do you struggle with memorizing? I do—in the sense that I have allowed technology to make me lazy. By actively committing scripture to memory you are in effect binding yourself to your heavenly father.
When you claim and commit the words of Jesus to memory you will have a perfect tool for later use but you will also claim a part of him for yourself:
2 Keep my commands and live,
And my law as the apple of your eye.
3 Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart. –Proverbs 7:2-3
When you write the word of God on “the tablet of your heart” the only way to lose it is for your redeemed heart to stop beating. When that day comes you will then be in the presence of the very author of those words—and he will be welcoming you home.
The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.