The joys and how-to’s of Scripture memory

POST OVERVIEW. Some quick suggestions for memorizing passages from the Bible.

David asks the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” (Psalm 119:9). The answer is by knowing the word of God. And the best way to have the Word handy so that you can keep your way pure is by memorizing it. “Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You” (119:11).

One of the chief joys of the disciple of Jesus is the joy of reading and meditating on the word of the living God. The Bible is an endless source of enjoyment for those who have been drawn to the Savior. But what happens when you do not have a physical Bible in your hands or it is not convenient to be looking at your phone? What then?

I am glad you asked! Because that is when the benefits of Scripture memory are realized. When you have committed the word of God to memory, you can have a Bible study in your head whenever you choose. The memorized Word is always at the ready to remind you of the devil’s schemes when you are tempted or to allow you to rejoice when you think of salvation. The Word can conquer your fears and can encourage you and can give you boldness in your witness or wisdom in making decisions. All these are reasons to memorize your Bible.

Many people have a general idea of what a given Bible passage says, but there is no power in declaring generally what God has said. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He did not silence the adversary with general words, but with the power of “It is written.” Our Lord crushed the devil with the very word of God. In the same way, the disciple of Jesus can have confidence and speak with authority when he knows he is speaking the Word that he has memorized.

“The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). And so it is the word of God we want to memorize.

A PERSONAL STORY: ROMANS 8

When I came to Christ at the age of thirty-one, I developed an immediate hunger for the Word. Later on I would realize that almost all my spiritual gifts were Word-oriented, but early on I just loved reading the Bible. I also dabbled with memorizing some verses and found that to be enjoyable, as well. But one Sunday morning, our pastor was concluding his sermon with words of great encouragement and I was stunned by the power of these words. “. . . convinced that neither death nor life nor angels . . . nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Whoa! Where is THAT passage? Well, I found out that this was the conclusion of Romans 8. So, I grabbed my Bible and I turned to Romans 8 and I read the concluding verses. “Yep, I am going to memorize those.” Then I backed up a few more verses and said, “Wow! Those are pretty good, too.” So, I decided to memorize those as well. Then I backed up a few more verses and . . . You can see where this is going. By the time I got to, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1), I resolved to memorize the whole chapter. And the joy of having that entire chapter at the ready, available for meditation at any time, motivated me to memorize other passages. For years, it has been my practice to have many verses that I am actively reviewing and each year I try to add more to my storehouse of Scripture knowledge. This discipline regularly yields fruit in my writing as the Holy Spirit brings related verses to mind when I am creating a blog or a longer essay or article. So, I commend to you the discipline of Scripture memory.

SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR MEMORIZING SCRIPTURE

Having hopefully sold you on the joys and benefits of memorizing verses from the Bible, I wanted to share with you some techniques that may make your memory goals more attainable. These are aimed at memorizing chapters, but the ideas should be helpful for smaller memory work, as well.

  • Use the same translation for all your memory work. This is helpful because each translation has its own cadence and its own special words. Each has its own “accent.” Using the same translation reduces the variations.
  • Break the chapter down into sections and memorize a section at a time, then stitch the sections together.
  • Pay attention to the start of each verse. Knowing how the verse or line of the passage begins can trigger the rest of the verse. Also, there is a sense of progress when you first knit together the verses of a section, and this is facilitated by knowing how each line starts. It improves the mental flow.
  • Think about patterns, like repeated words, or memory aids, like “these three words are in alphabetical order.”
  • Start at verse 1, then add verses, then review after memorizing each new verse by going back to the beginning. For example, memorize verse 1, then add verse 2 and go back to the beginning to review 1-2. Then add verse 3 and go back to the beginning to review 1-3. Continue until you have the section memorized, then review the section until you know that you truly have the section memorized.
  • As you progress through the chapter, try beginning your review at different verses.
  • Strive for “word-perfect” on the memorization. Have someone else listen to your recitation of the completed passage to make sure it is all precisely done.
  • It can be helpful to imagine teaching through the passage verse by verse and going through the verses word by word as a means of review.

Hopefully, these suggestions will make it easier to treasure the Scripture in your heart. The fact is that Scripture memory is hard, tedious work. It is a discipline and it is not easy for anyone. It just takes time to go over and over the same verses until they lodge in your brain and become accessible as your soul’s food. Recently I have started memorizing John 15. I am using the ideas above, but most of all I am reviewing the words of these verses over and over until I know them like my own name. But once they are in the brain, they are there for good, ready for meditation and worship.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 1/10/2023                   #610

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