“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9)
When I was in high school, I volunteered in a retirement home. One of the elderly men, far past his prime, became a friend. I resonated with his kind manner and deep faith. One of the staff told me that one day this man quoted the whole Gospel of John to him. He said that when the man arrived at the part about the crucifixion, he wept. That story left a lasting impression on me; not just that he memorized a whole book of the Bible, but that it so affected him that it moved him to tears.
Memorizing Scripture is like sculpting our soul. I realize that often, people who have Scripture memorized are Bible-thumpers. They use verses as weapons to show their superiority. Deuteronomy addresses this proud flaunting of Scripture when it begins by saying we are to have the Word “upon our hearts.”
Consider David’s exaltation of the Word of God in Psalm 119:
- “My soul is consumed with longing for your law at all times.” (vs. 20)
- “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (vs. 28)
- “I put my hope in your laws.” (vs 43)
- “I delight in your laws because I love them.” (vs 47)
- “The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” (vs 72)
- “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (vs 97)
- “but my heart trembles at your word.” (vs 161)
I have been surprised at how often I am reminded of a passage I am memorizing throughout the day. The act of memorizing creates a constant conversation with God. It makes the Bible come alive in ways I never imagined.
To be frank, memorizing Scripture is like exercising at the gym. People tout the incredible benefits of exercise. Those benefits sound like extreme hyperbole to the person who does not exercise. It seems even worse after the first few weeks of painful, breathless, humiliating workouts. Then, almost miraculously, energy increases, moods elevate, and those ridiculous claims become real. So it is with memorizing Scripture. At first, it seems a tedious waste of time. Then, just like consistent exercise reshapes our body physically, memorizing Scripture reshapes us, and we recapture our joy in the Lord and our hope for our future.
Memorizing is an invaluable part of meditating on Scripture. By memorizing a passage, we are loosed from thinking about those verses only when we have our Bibles nearby. We can mull on the passage when we are in the car or waiting for an appointment. What better way to make the Word part of our DNA than to also make it a part of our long-term memory.
If this challenge intimidates you, then start really small and memorize a phrase, like “Be anxious for nothing” or “Trust in the Lord with your whole heart” or “pray always.” Memorizing Scripture is not a competition with points being tallied in heaven. In a culture that resembles a riptide pulling us further and further from God, memorizing Scripture anchors us while it reshapes us. This is what we need going into a new decade.