“My name is ______, and I have a memory verse.” Getting nostalgic? I bet this takes many of us all the way back to our Sunday school days. Many of the verses we remember today are a result of repeated memorising and reciting in Sunday school. Often when we think of memorising scripture, we think of an activity designated for young children in Sunday School. We have ceased to have much regard for scripture memory. The benefits of scripture memory are not familiar to many today. Those able to accurately memorise and recite scripture are seen to be peculiar.
In the Bible, God calls us to train kids in godly statutes (Proverbs 22:6), so they will not depart from them when they are old. The Bible, therefore, implies that the things we learn about God in childhood are to stick with us through all our days; it would even be impossible to teach our kids that which we do not uphold ourselves. In this article, my goal is to convince you to delight in the discipline of scripture memorisation regardless of age or season. Scripture memory is a truly rewarding discipline for the soul that desires to grow in godliness. This is what Nancy DeMoss once said about the practice of memorising scripture:
“One of the most valuable aids to meditation is scripture memorisation. In fact, when I encounter someone who is battling discouragement or depression, I often ask two questions: “Are you singing to the Lord?” and “Are you memorising Scripture?” These two exercises are not some magical formula to make all our problems go away, but they do have incredible power to change our perspective and attitude toward the issues we are facing.”
Here are a few reasons why we, as Christians, must give ourselves to consistent scripture memory.
God Commands Us to do so
In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God commands the Israelites to have His Word in their hearts, whether sitting or walking, to teach it to their children and write it on their doorposts and gates. Here, the children of Israel were being instructed to “Let the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly…” (Colossians 3:16). The word “dwell in you…” refers to having God’s Word reside in our hearts (Proverbs 3:3, 7:1) or, as the Psalmist would put it, “I have stored up your word in my heart…” (Psalm 119:11). And how else would we let God’s word dwell and get stored in our hearts if not through interacting with it continually and memorising it? And what is our duty? “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
Our Source of Guidance and Wisdom
Consider the words of Mathew Henry, “The word of Christ must dwell in us, not in all notion and speculation, to make us doctors, but in all wisdom, to make us good Christians, and enable us to conduct ourselves in every thing as becomes Wisdom’s children.” God’s Word is His power and has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Yet, we often find ourselves seeking to understand God’s will for us or guidance for our lives. His Word is the direction (Psalm 119:105, Proverbs 6:23), wisdom, insight and understanding we need (Psalm 119:97-100).
To live in purity
Psalm 119:9-11 instructs that for one to live a pure and godly life, they must have God’s Word hidden in their heart. When we receive salvation, our flesh does not change (Romans 7:15-23); thus, there is a constant war between the flesh and the new indwelling Spirit (Galatians 5:17). When faced with temptation, the need to fight and the pressure to sin hardly give one time to peruse for verses against sin. Because of this reason, we should always put on God’s armour and use the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) to stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11-17). God’s Word is pure and perfect, able to revive the soul (Psalm 19:7-8), sanctify and renew us daily (John 17:17, Romans 12:2). When God’s righteousness and our sinfulness are revealed to us, our hearts are humbled and turned to repentance. What joy it is to have his Word remind us of the holiness we have been called to.
Ability to Distinguish Truth from Falsehood
People who work in banks or wherever money is constantly handled can spot a counterfeit bill just by touch. In such places, since huge sums of money keep streaming in, they really have no time to check note by note to verify legitimacy; being familiar with genuine money shields them from falling prey to fraudsters.
Unfortunately, many who claim to be Christians cannot tell what truth is and what is not. Due to this spiritual blindness, many wolves in sheep’s skin have crept in, corrupted and perverted God’s Word (Jude 4-13), teaching what they please and tickling ears with poisonous utterances. To be safe, we must know the scriptures. Like the Bereans in Acts 17, we must examine if everything we hear is true (Acts 17:11). God calls us to test everything and hold to what is good and true (1 Thessalonians 5:21). It is important to memorise scripture and understand context so we can tell when one is teaching contrary to the intended lesson of scripture.
Beyond keeping ourselves from receiving error, knowing God’s Word by heart keeps us from individual error. Knowing the scripture allows us to see the truth for what it is (Matthew 22:29).
Jesus Quoted Scripture
Jesus quoted 24 books of the Old Testament almost 180 times and did it perfectly (word-perfect) from his heart. During Christ’s temptation in the wilderness, Satan misquoted scripture to get Jesus to fall for his schemes, but Jesus used God’s Word to fend off his attacks (Matthew 4:1-11). Scripture calls us to emulate Christ and walk in the way that he walked (1 Corinthians 11:1). We only grow to Christlikeness by imitating Him, even his love for God’s Holy Word.
To Defend our Faith
Beyond sharing the gospel with others, there will be times when we will need to give a reason for our hope of salvation. God calls us to honour Christ, always being prepared to make a defence to those who ask for a reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15) and even ourselves (defending the authenticity of God’s Word to our discouraged selves). Most times, we will barely have the time to peruse through the pages of scripture. It, therefore, helps to hide this precious Word of God in our hearts through scripture memory. As John Piper puts it, “Let us labour to memorise the Word of God-for worship and for warfare. If we do not carry it in our heads, we cannot savour it in our hearts or wield it in the Spirit. If you go out without the kindling of Christian Hedonism, the fire of Christian happiness will be quenched before mid-morning.”
To grow in holiness, we should hide the Word of God in our hearts, which calls for deliberate commitment to meditation and memorisation. God has given us his Word as a weapon against evil and temptation. Thus, we must be armed with it at all times and seasons.