This Book will keep you away from sin,
sin will keep you away from this Book.
— Howard Hendricks
Howard Hendricks related that early in his life, a Sunday School teacher had given him a Bible. Inside the front cover was written the following note. “This Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” These words have been proved true in many lives over many generations. When I was about ten years of age, my mother started me on a scripture memory program. It was not the TMS, nor Memorize the Word, nor was it a few isolated verses. She recommended an entire chapter of the Bible! The one she started me on was not an ordinary chapter by any means. I learned later that it was, in fact, the longest chapter of the Bible! It contained 176 verses, each arranged in a series of eight verses. (For each eight verses I memorized, I would earn a dime.) Early in my scripture memory program, I came across this verse in Psalm 119:11. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” There is no doubt that she was very familiar with this verse and had chosen these series of verses carefully so as to impact my life with the word of God in such a way that it would keep me from sin. The Bible has much to say about its purpose in keeping us from sin. In I John 2:1, we read the following. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.” Perhaps the most prominent example of how either the Bible keeps us from sin, or sin keeps us from the Bible is seen in the life of King Solomon.
This Book will keep you away from sin.
“When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.” Deuteronomy 17:18-20.
Sin will keep you away from this Book.
“The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again.’ He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.” Deuteronomy 17:16-17.
Which path did Solomon choose to follow? Sadly, we read the following in II Chronicles 9:25 and 28. “Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem.” “Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from all other countries.” We also read in II Chronicles 9:13 that “The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents.” Finally, we find in I Kings 11:3 that “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines and his wives led him astray.” These sins in which King Solomon persisted kept him from keeping the covenant and decrees which he was commanded to obey. We read later in I Kings 11:9-10 that “The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command.” Solomon initiated a disregard for the law of the LORD in his life that was to recur repeatedly throughout the Kings of Israel and Judah. We eventually find such a disdain for the word of the Lord that we read the following story in Jeremiah chapter 36. In verses 6 and 7 it says “So you go to the house of the LORD on a day of fasting and read to the people from the scroll the words of the LORD that you wrote as I dictated. Read them to all the people of Judah who come in from their towns. Perhaps they will bring their petition before the LORD, and each will turn from his wicked ways, for the anger and wrath pronounced against this people by the LORD are great.” When these words were read to the King from the scroll, we see his response in verses 22-24. “It was the ninth month and king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.” Sin was, in fact, keeping King Jehoiakim away from the Book.
If Solomon, endowed with wisdom from God and used by the Lord to write part of His word, allowed sin to keep him from the Book, what hope do we have in trusting His Book to keep us away from sin? Thankfully, we find the answer to this question in Deuteronomy 17:19. In the King James Version it reads as follows. “And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.” The three words of particular interest to us in terms of our responsibilities are read, fear and keep. We are commanded to read all the days of our lives. One of our recent men’s conference speakers described a study done several years ago in which an evaluation of the frequency of reading the Bible was compared with differences in the lives of the men in the study group. The results were quite striking. Those who read their Bibles three days a week or less had no significant differences in their lives compared with those who never read the Bible! Deuteronomy 17:19 speaks about consistency. (“Read all the days of our lives.”) It is the hunger for a daily intake of God’s word, knowing that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Deuteronomy further speaks to us about the purpose of our daily reading. It is to “learn to fear the LORD our God.” He is the focus of our reading. Our primary purpose is to know Him more fully, to love Him more deeply, to worship Him more perfectly, and to fear Him more completely. It is the attitude of David reflected in Psalm 27:4. “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” The result of this fear is described in Psalm 31:19. “How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you.” This fear of the LORD is reflected in our obedience to Him. “To fear the LORD is to shun evil.” (Proverbs 8:3) We are no longer simply informed by the word of God, we are transformed. II Corinthians 3:18 states it this way. “But we all, with open faces beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” As we spend time daily in His word, learning to fear the LORD our God, our lives are being changed into His likeness by His Spirit, enabling us to “keep all the words of this law and these statutes to do them.” Thus the truth of the statement, “This Book will keep you from sin,” will become a reality in our lives.