Most of us memorized Scripture during our childhood. Regardless of the church denomination, we were at least taught John 3:16, or remember the shortest verse in the Bible. (Jesus wept) Most adults come to the opinion that, although beneficial while growing up in the church and having the value of introducing us to some truths, it is not necessary to memorize Scripture later in life. Many are content with simply hearing the word preached from the pulpit. Multiple efforts to encourage people to read their Bibles have met with success and some even study the Bible as individuals or in groups. Few, however, regularly memorize Scripture itself. In my childhood, I was started on Scripture memory when I was ten years of age. This continued only a short time, however, and I did not begin to memorize Scripture again until I was thirty two years of age. Even when repeatedly challenged to join a Scripture memory group, I delayed doing so for six weeks. What reasons are there to explain this reluctance to hide the Scripture in our hearts?
The most obvious reason is that we have enemies in this world who oppose any spiritual activity that would draw us closer to the Lord. The world, for example, always presents more alluring and pleasurable things to do with our time. The flesh, another enemy, rises up to say “I am sufficient, and doing quite well without that activity, Thank you very much!” Such was the case in my life. Our third enemy, the devil, has many lies with which he may distract and prevent us from laying up Scripture in our hearts. The Bible tells us not to be ignorant of his devices. Three lies which I have heard from others recently which illustrate his activity are as follows: 1) “The Pharisees memorized Scripture but a lot of good it did them!” 2) “All we really need to do is to trust Christ. Any effort to read, study or memorize the Bible is unnecessary. We already have everything we need if we simply trust Him.” 3) If we truly have a heart for His word, then the devil may subtly suggest that “Any effort we make is an attempt to earn God’s love and favor.” Jerry Bridges once stated, however, that “our effort is simply to avail ourselves of His means of Grace.”
Although the above enemies are active in their opposition to us, another significant reason preventing our memorization of Scripture is that we do not understand the Scriptural basis for memorization of His word. Although numerous reasons might be given scripturally to support memorization, I will cite only six of these for our review.
The first of these is related to the Lordship of Christ. He says in Luke 6:46. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” If we call Him “Lord,” then we must be attentive and responsive to His voice, as described in John 10:27. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Where, then, do we listen to His voice if not in His Holy word, the Scriptures? How can we follow Him if we do not know specifically what He says? This is the most obvious and compelling reason for laying up His words in our heart.
The second reason for memorizing His word is that it is the most effective way of exposing our lives to the Scriptures. Hearing the word preached and taught is mentioned in Jeremiah 23:22 and again in Luke 11:28. Within twenty-four hours, however, we forget ninety-five percent of what we have heard. Reading is commended in Deuteronomy 17:19 and in Revelation 1:3. That practice, by itself, only results in fifteen-percent recall in twenty four hours. Studying the Scriptures is both commended and commanded in Acts 17:19 and in II Timothy 2:15. Only forty-percent recall, however, is noted over the next twenty four hours. Only memorization, with review, will result in one hundred-percent recall of His word. This practice allows the Holy Spirit access to our hearts and minds as He uses the word of God in and through our lives. Psalm 119:11, Deuteronomy 6:6-7 and 11:18 speak to its importance. As we do this, we can have the opportunity to meditate on memorized verses as related in Psalm 1:2-3 and Joshua 1:8.
Memorized Scripture also keeps us from error. The Lord says in Matthew 22:29, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” It is only when we have the knowledge of God’s word in our hearts that the Holy Spirit is able to keep us from error in our thinking, our words and our deeds.
Additionally, Hebrews 4:12 relates to us that Scripture is a sword. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” It is the thoughts and attitudes of our heart that determine the course of our lives. If we desire to follow our Lord as His disciple we must have constant guidance in these areas. The Holy Spirit uses memorized Scripture as a living, active means to penetrate, to divide and to judge so that we may say with the psalmist in Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
The last reason to be mentioned regarding the Scriptural basis for memorization of His word is that of the example of Jesus Christ. Matthew chapter four, as well as Luke chapter four describe the temptation of Christ by the devil. In all of these, He was triumphant over temptation through His dependence upon and use of scriptures which were memorized. In Luke 24:27, it was additionally recorded that, “… beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Well over several hundred memorized scriptures were recalled and used in that conversation. I would like to have a record of that conversation! Our Lord was dependent upon Scripture for His own life and the communication of that life to others. How can we hope to live our life, then, without the resources that He chose for Himself?
All of the above six reasons to memorize God’s word have been used by the Holy Spirit in my life. As a result of exposure to His word over the years, I have increasingly been aware of the truth of II Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” It is my desire that His Scripture hidden in your heart will so transform your life that you, also, will be thoroughly equipped for every good work in which you are led by the Holy Spirit.
In Christ, Richard Spann