It has been said that Jewish children, during the time of Jesus, were expected to memorize the entire Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) by the age of twelve. It was considered one of the necessary steps of being included as a full member of the community. In the English translation, that would require memorizing 5 books, 187 chapters, or 5852 verses – all before even getting their first pimple.
I am neither Jewish nor good at memorization.
Even the thought of having to memorize something that substantial makes me nauseous. It’s difficult enough for me to remember the passwords to all of my favorite websites and none of those are more than 10 characters long. So when Ajay told us that we would be memorizing 17 verses of Scripture (Acts 20:18b-35) for our second session of Elder Track, I thought he was crazy. Okay, maybe not crazy, but definitely cruel and a bully (I kid). I couldn’t understand how I would do this. How was I supposed to memorize 17 verses of anything?
But I gave it a shot (mostly because I had to). Almost every day, I would memorize a verse or two from this passage and recite it out loud. I would even recite it to Sarah as I drove her over to her grandparents in the morning. It wasn’t easy. It required work. But it also wasn’t as difficult as I imagined it to be. I can’t stress enough how unlikely it would be for me to do something like this. My memory is not one of my strengths. But day-by-day, the Lord began to ingrain these words onto my mind and heart. What was at first just rote memorization became a meaningful few weeks of closely considering Paul’s words concerning the Lord, his life, and ministry.
The process caused me to change my view on scripture memorization. Actually doing it caused me to become more convinced of its benefits. Here are a few:
1) Memorizing scripture helps us to grow both in our love for the Lord and in our hatred towards sin
If all of God’s word is speaking of Christ, then memorizing scripture will aid us in keeping Him at the forefront of our minds. As we continue to gaze upon the person and work of Jesus, our delight in Him will inevitably develop and our distaste for sin will equally grow. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word… I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9, 11). In meditating on the gospel through memorization, we begin to develop a love for Jesus that helps us to see sin as it really is.
2) Memorizing scripture helps us to pray
Last Sunday, Ajay preached on praying using God’s word. During the sermon we were reminded of how the word that we read can be the word that we pray. I don’t know how many times I’ve needed to pray for myself or for others and was at a loss for words. I don’t just mean that I lacked eloquence, but that I sincerely didn’t know what to pray for. When God’s word is pressed onto our mind and hearts, it provides us with words that reflect God’s own thoughts and desires. What better way for us to approach God than to ask him to fulfill the promises He has made to us. Here’s a booklet that will help us in praying God’s word.
3) Memorizing scripture helps us to comfort and counsel others
Have you ever been in a situation where a person shares something with you and you have no idea how to counsel or comfort them? I have. In such instances I’m left with just giving them my opinion on the matter or some cliché statement to tide them over. But if I believe that the gospel speaks to all areas of my life and that all of God’s word points to the gospel of Jesus Christ, then what could be more valuable than counseling or comforting others using scripture? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16a). What you and I need aren’t clichés or opinions, but to remember and to remind others of the gospel truths that we find in God’s word.
So if you’ve never considered memorizing scripture before, I encourage you to give it a try. It probably won’t be easy. It’ll definitely require work. But my prayer is that in doing so, God’s word would stir your affections for Jesus and for one another.