Memorizing Scripture

About a year ago, I went through a time where I memorized the Topical Memory System (produced by the Navigators) with my Bible study group. Here are some reasons I see to memorize scripture, and some not to:

Reasons to memorize Scripture:

  • Jesus did it and quoted it in the desert, in sermons, with His friends, and from the cross. When we’re in times of death, times of crisis, what we are bleeds out of us. Jesus bled the Word of God.
  • The Psalmist of Psalm 119 did it as a measure to keep Himself from backsliding (Ps 119:9, 11).
  • Repeating the verse in your mind over the course of a day or two can do a lot to our hearts (plus, Scripture says to “meditate on it day and night,” Joshua 1:8). Pastor Tim Keller was once assigned to go out and spend 30 minutes with a single verse, listing 50 things that that verse taught. After fifteen minutes, he was frustrated and annoyed. By the end of 30 minutes, he was excited, having seen and learned things he’d never before considered. The rest of the people in his class had similar experiences with the same assignment.
    • This listening through meditation is akin to sitting at Jesus’ feet, as Mary did. Mary alone understood Jesus, because she sat at Jesus’ feet.

Reasons not to memorize Scripture:

  • So you can quote verses (with references) to friends and loved ones when you see them acting wrongly.
    • This is akin to beating someone over the head with the Bible;
    • Though it’s a necessary (and, from what I see, largely avoided) task to confront wayward believers in their sin, this is something that should be done with the care and preparation of a surgeon, not a machine gunner. Don’t who I was, a Scripture machine gunner.
  • So you can win Bible jeopardy.
    • I’ve never played Bible jeopardy but I’d like to, it sounds like a blast, but only because I like the Bible. Winning Bible jeopardy doesn’t make you more or less pleasing to God (but it can inflate your pride, which dishonors Him).
  • To gain God’s favor.
    • In light of the gospel (Christ has done everything necessary to win us God’s unlimited favor; now alive in Christ, God is “well pleased” in us, His children), this idea of gaining God’s favor is absurd, and even more it is a lie from the pit of hell. The devil’s main attack on you is not the temptations you face–those are rear guard actions, as my pastor once put it. The frontal assaults of evil are the lies in our hearts that we must do something to earn God’s favor, that we are not, in Christ, the well-pleasing children to God, that our pleasingness to God is based on our actions, not on Christ’s.
  • So you can witness to all people well: Salvation comes from God; natural witnessing comes from joy in Christ, which comes from the Holy Spirit. Many memorize verses of the Bible and attempt to force a logical progression of verses onto others to win them over. Some (especially those who know the Bible and intellectually accept it’s authority) may be reconciled to God through such a parade of verses, but many are the maladies of the lost and so are their cures. In all of His interactions, Christ acted as He did for the sake of His audience. Paul became “all things to all people” for the sake of the gospel. Simply, we cannot expect to memorize verses and then see droves of the lost fall on their knees. Salvation comes from God alone, not memorized verses.

That last point is completely my opinion, and so is this: memorizing Scripture needs to be for me–my relationship with God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit–not others. I am desiring it more and more lately, not to become pleasing to God or to stay caught up with my Bible study group, but to have His Word available to chew on, to have its marinade present to soak in, wherever I am.

Particularly in the shower.