Scripture memorization: what?

If you walk into the religious section of any bookstore, you’ll find aisles filled with how-to guides for spiritual growth. Some of them are good, and some of them…not so good. This post is going to concentrate, not on the bad or good disciplines, but on one of the greats: memorizing Scripture. For while there are many worthwhile spiritual disciplines, only a handful of them come directly from the Lord Jesus Himself: the ancient practices of prayer, baptism, Lord’s supper, and the internalization of God’s Word.

Why memorize Scripture?

For one, because God tells us to over and over and over…

  • If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples. (John 15:7-8, HCSB)
  • How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
  • I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11)
  • I will never forget Your precepts, for You have given me life through them. (Psalm 119:93)
  • Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)
  • This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. (Joshua 1:8)
  • My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands. (Proverbs 3:1)
  • Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
  • Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
  • We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)
  • So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19)

We are not to settle for the mere reading of God’s Word, or even understanding His Word (though we are certainly not called to less than these!).

God calls us to know His “every word” (Matt. 4:4) “richly” (Col. 3:16) “in our hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19) and  “minds” (Deut. 11:18) so that we can “recite it day and night” (Josh. 1:8).

But why devote such labor to memorizing words that for some of us feel very archaic? Wouldn’t we be better served by memorizing one-liners from contemporary sermons, pithy sayings of wisdom, or quotes from modern authors? I will share more exhaustively in the following post the value of memorizing Scripture. But today I wish to leave you with this:

Have you ever been through a traumatic experience?

If you have, you know that in that moment time seems to blow by you without much warning. When I’m in a sudden place of distress, or I lose a loved one, or someone cuts me off on the highway, adrenaline sets in and my mind becomes discombobulated. In a moment of abrupt chaos, I’m not going to remember Wayne Grudem’s systematic chapter on God’s sovereignty over circumstances. Nor am I going to recall John Piper’s 7 point sermon on enjoying God in suffering. In fact, I believe it was Piper who once said, “You might remember a sentence.”

If I can only remember one sentence in the worst moment of my weakness, I want those words to be divine.

When Satan tempts me to despair, I want God’s Word to lift my spirit.

When my mind loses its grip on God’s faithfulness, I want God’s Word to anchor my soul.

When I am too easily consumed with the delicacies of a fallen culture, I want God’s Word to satiate my heart.

When I can’t control my bitterness, I want God’s Word to saturate my thoughts.

“All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, HCSB).

Scripture memorization is easy to cultivate in times of security and comfort. But it’s in the seasons of difficulty that the most fruit is evident. So if you haven’t experienced any setbacks in life; if you haven’t been sifted like wheat by Satan; if you haven’t trembled at the thought of eternity; if you haven’t lost anything of value; if you are too young to have suffered. Give it time, you will.

But what are you going to remember in your moment of darkness?

How will you align yourself with heaven in all the circumstances that come your way? What will be your weapon of choice to fight the devil? What will fixate your mind on Christ? But, O! Let us consider the Psalmist’s hope with tremendous confidence, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105, HCSB)

About Lazo

Lazo is the pastor for preaching and vision at Reality SB. He is committed to spreading the value of our union with Christ in Santa Barbara, through the expository preaching of God's Word. You might like these blog posts, 5 Wrong Ways To Comfort Hurting People, or Daisy Love and the Magic Eraser. You can follow Chris on twitter at @LazoChris.

Posted on February 6, 2013, in discipleship, reading, realitysb, Scripture, spiritual formation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The first scripture you quoted (John 15:7,8) should let everyone know how important it is to know the word of God. In order to have fellowship with God we must do it on His terms not our own. Thanks for sharing. Good word!

  1. Pingback: Scripture Memorization: why? « ChristopherLazo

  2. Pingback: Memorizing long Scripture passages « ChristopherLazo

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