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.


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.


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

Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray . . .

“Before I was afflicted, I went astray,

But now I keep Your word.”     Psalm 119:67

The MAIN CONCEPT from this verse is that the Lord gives affliction as a gift, because oftentimes the Lord’s best training takes place in the furnace of affliction (consider also Hebrews 12:5-11).

In Psalm 119:67, we will see that there are at least two messages in this one verse. There is a primary teaching and there is a secondary teaching. We will first consider the primary teaching of this verse, but we will spend the most time on the secondary teaching. So first, the primary teaching.

The first thing that this verse clearly teaches us is that sin results in affliction. The author of this psalm went astray and that resulted in affliction. Now although painful, this sin-produced affliction is actually a gift of God’s grace, because when an unsaved person is in the midst of affliction as a result of their sin, they are often open to hearing of the Lord and of His healing. In fact, in our study verse, it is certainly implied that by keeping God’s word, the Lord’s affliction is removed.

Sin results in affliction, but when a sinner turns to the Lord and calls on His name (Romans 10:13) and keeps His word, “the affliction” of the person’s lostness and the affliction of their separation from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) is taken away. “But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil [“affliction”] are taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16). So this is the primary teaching of the verse. Consider this as similar to Romans 2:4, where affliction leads you to repentance.

There is here, however, also a powerful secondary teaching that I see in this verse. For the same Lord who is sovereign over the salvation of the ungodly is also sovereign over the affliction He allows into the lives of those whom He has already saved. In other words, affliction is allowed into the life of the believer for the purpose of greater sanctification. The sovereign Lord gives affliction as a gift to those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), for it is in the furnace of affliction that much spiritual dross is burned away. Here I am not speaking necessarily about remaining, indwelling sin in the life of the believer, although, of course, this would certainly be included, but I am speaking instead about besetting habits of mind or patterns of behavior or negative ways of thinking which rob a man or a woman of joy and which render them of decreased usefulness to the Lord and to His people.

As an example, I have been wrestling with discouragement bordering on depression for several years. I frequently wake up a little depressed and then my mind goes to places that further discourage me, dredging up fear and anxiety. On those days I will spend most of my morning time with the Lord in prayer about myself, asking the Lord to drag me up from the pit of destruction (Psalm 40:2),” rather than praying for others or praying big Kingdom prayers. Those mornings are very difficult and this affliction brings me almost to the point of despair.

“Before I was afflicted, I went astray . . .”

This discouragement and fear feels like affliction, but I realize that I have landed in that emotional place because I have gone astray. How have I gone astray? I have dwelt in the land of discouragement. I have not obeyed the Scriptures in taking every thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). I have gone astray in believing the devil’s lies and in comparing myself with others, in not being content and in not rejoicing always. By going astray in my unsanctified and faithless thoughts, I have wandered into the affliction of ongoing depression and anxiety, and now the pain and misery of that affliction have acted as a goad to seek the Lord for relief.

So the Lord brings or allows the affliction so that the affliction will make me desperate for peace. In my case, the affliction of persistent discouragement drove me to discover how to discipline my mind and exercise self-control over my thoughts. I learned where to focus my attention: namely, on whatever is true and honorable and right and pure and lovely (Phil. 4:8). My affliction trained me not merely to memorize and meditate on Scripture, but also to fix my mind on the truth until I firmly believed what it says and to hold the truth of Scripture in my mind so that its power allowed me to stand firm.

My point, then, is that when the Lord brings affliction into the life of His child, He does so as a gracious gift, knowing that the deep places of sanctification are only reached through the flames of affliction. When affliction comes into your life, embrace the testing, knowing that it is from your loving Lord, and seek the Lord diligently to discover His purpose in it.

SDG                             rmb                             2/16/2017