The children stood in a line at the front of the room, waiting their turns to recite the Bible passage. One by one, they spouted off Psalm 1 with complete ease, until it was Johnny’s turn. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with, um, the wicked, uh, and—“
Johnny stopped talking. Johnny’s team watched in horror as the teacher’s disapproving stare fell on them from where she stood at the back of the room. “Hmm…” she began.
“Looks like your team is gonna lose this time, Johnny” said Matthew with a snicker.
Those who grew up in the “old-fashioned” churches of years gone by will remember these types of Bible memorization competitions. Children lived for those little blue ribbons and Bible Club trophies.
Anyone remember Awana or King’s Kids Bible clubs?
That was back before the days of smartphones and electronic iPad Bibles. If you wanted to look up a verse, you had to know your books of the Bible by heart. Nowadays, you can look up any passage with just a few clicks. There’s nothing wrong with technology, of course. But what has happened to memorizing Scripture? Is it outdated, or perhaps unnecessary?
Guess what— it IS necessary, and YOU should memorize scripture. Yes, you! You and everyone else— whether they be a kid in a Bible club, a dad in an office cubicle, or a grandmother in a nursing home.
Oh, come on! Isn’t it enough to just know the main idea of a verse?
Knowing the main idea of different passages is great, but no, it isn’t enough.
4 Reasons You Should Actually Memorize (and not paraphrase) Scripture:
1. If Jesus only knew the “main idea” of the verses He quoted, things sure would have been different.
For example, what if when Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, he replied, “Well, the Bible says something about not eating only bread.”
Pretty silly, right? Especially when the verse that Jesus was referring to actually says, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3-5 NIV).
That verse in itself is a good argument for the fact that every word God says is important.
2. Ok, but I’m not Jesus!
No, you aren’t.
But if you call yourself a Christian, the word itself means a “follower of Christ”. People started calling Jesus’s followers christians because they acted like Christ. They did as He did.
So why should we do all the other things that Jesus did, like loving others and helping the poor, but skip knowing Scripture? Jesus actually quoted 24 books of the Old Testament over 180 times. It’s pretty clear that He wanted to emphasize memorization.
3. Quoting is much more powerful than paraphrasing.
Here’s the bottom line— we tend to memorize what we think is important. People don’t paraphrase the Declaration of Independence or “Paul Revere’s Ride”.
We don’t paraphrase Neil Armstrong’s famous moonwalk reaction or Martin Luther King’s renowned “I Have a Dream” speech. How much more important are God’s words? Aren’t they important enough to be quoted?
4. A paraphrase can easily become a misquote.
2 Timothy 3:16 says: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (NASB) Proverbs 30:5-6 says, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”(NIV).
In fact, there are at least 5 verses that warn against adding to or taking away from God’s Word. Of course, that doesn’t mean that if you mess up a word while quoting a verse, you will incur God’s wrath. However, it does mean that God said what He said for a reason, and we should be careful to not purposefully change His words. It also means that we should hold His words in high regard.
Imagine if someone misquoted you, and changed the meaning of what you said. How would you react?
7 Reasons You Should Memorize Scripture
Still not convinced? Here are a few more reasons why you should learn Scripture by heart:
1. God actually says you should.
Wait a second! Where in the Bible does it actually say, “Thou shalt memorize verses” ? Ok, you got me. Those exact words are NOT in the Bible. But here are two that are (and there are plenty more!):
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronomy 11:18). How do you fix (basically like gluing) God’s Word to your mind without memorizing it? It’s impossible. So yes, God’s asking us to memorize!
Think it’s cruel that God tells us to memorize His word? This verse proves that He does it for your own good. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8 NASB).
2. God’s Word is ALIVE.
Yes, you read that right. The Bible is not just any book.
Hebrews 4:12a says, “For the word of God is alive and active.” (NIV)
The reason why this book is so special is because it was inspired by God, and not written by men. That means you can consider it “supernatural”— it’s not just words on a page.
What God says is POWERFUL. His words even have the power to create (think “And God said, let there be light” from Genesis 1:3) When you read and memorize Scripture, it has the power to change you and create a better you.
3. God’s Word is DIRECT.
No beating around the bush here! The reason why memorizing Scripture will change you is found in the second part of Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (NIV)
The Bible will get right to the point and “slice and dice” (excuse the puns) right to the heart of your issues. We all love to justify our behavior, but the Bible’s morality is based on God’s and God’s alone.
When you memorize Scripture, the verses will be stored in your heart, ready to be recalled at those opportune moments when you need someone to “tell you like it is”.
4. God’s Word will keep you from sin.
Ever seen the movie Pinocchio? The title character’s sidekick Jiminy Cricket constantly tells him what’s right and wrong, acting as a sort of conscience. The cricket sings an interesting little song called “Give a Little Whistle”, which includes the line, “always let your conscience be your guide”.
Unfortunately letting your conscience dictate what’s right and wrong won’t really keep us out of trouble, because we tend to make excuses for many things that are definitely WRONG in God’s eyes. However, knowing Scripture will help you see things from God’s perspective, and you’ll tend to stay away from what doesn’t please Him. Psalm 119:11 states this clearly: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (NIV)
Please DON’T let your conscience be your guide!
5. God’s Word is our manual for life!
Have you ever wished that life came with an instruction manual? Wouldn’t it be nice to simply check the “troubleshooting” section and figure out what went wrong and where?
Luckily, we do have an instruction manual for life—the Bible. Problem is, most people have it buried in some box down in the basement or sitting on a shelf collecting dust.
There’s a reason why we don’t love to read and memorize the Bible, even though we know it has all the answers. The reason is that NO ONE LIKES TO BE TOLD WHAT TO DO. When the Bible tells us we’ve messed up, it’s hard to take. Nonetheless, the reason why we get ourselves into messes is because we don’t know what the instruction manual says. So why not get familiar with God’s instructions, so that no “troubleshooting” is needed? Check out Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
6. Memorizing God’s Word forces you to THINK about what it says!
Repetition is key to memorization.
Repeating a verse many times over and over will cause you to pay attention to what it says, and perhaps even obey it. To quote Joshua 1:8,“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”
7. God’s Word will help you in hard times.
Ever gone through something tough, only to have a verse pop into your head that changes your perspective on things?
If you have, that means you’ve memorized a verse, either from hearing it so many times, or from learning it intentionally. Being a child of God means you have the Holy Spirit with you at all times. He can bring verses up from the deep recesses of your memory at times when you need them most. Here’s a verse that illustrates this: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26, NASB).
Believe me, there’s a big pay-off for investing time and effort into memorizing God’s Word. You may not experience it right away, but give it a chance, and you’ll see how God will use His Word in your life.
And Now, Bring On the Excuses!
“Well, I don’t have a good memory.”
Yes, it’s true that some people are better at memorizing things than others. However, God never mentioned the length of the verses or passages we should memorize when He asked us to keep His word in our hearts. If the very best you can do is to memorize a short verse or phrase, that’s great! In fact, God would be more pleased with someone who does a little with sincerity than with someone who memorizes an entire book just so he can show off. (The story of the widow’s gift in Luke 21:1-4 illustrates this perfectly).
“I don’t have time.”
Here’s a quick, easy answer to that excuse. You have time for what you make time for. Enough said.
I know many people who don’t memorize Scripture.
I know people who don’t shower. But does that mean I should be like them? Spiritual decisions, like other decisions, shouldn’t be made based on what others do. Rather, they should be based on what God would want us to do.
People Who Have Memorized Scripture
Alright—Let’s quit thinking about all those people who don’t memorize Scripture, and talk about some who have. Some of the facts about their lives may surprise you!
Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983)
This Christian woman was sent to Nazi prison camps for hiding Jews in her home during Word War II. When Corrie’s Bible was taken away, she was still able to recall a large amount of passages that she had hidden in her heart—a place beyond the enemy’s reach. Listen to her personal testimony, or, read her book The Hiding Place, in which she gives many examples of how her faith in God and His Word helped her survive, and even forgive the soldiers who tormented her.
Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)
Being blind didn’t stop this famous hymn-writer from memorizing all four Gospels, among other books. Knowing Scripture by heart was a tremendous comfort to her, and she wrote about 9,000 hymns with the intention of sharing God’s message with as many people as possible. Many of her songs, such as “Blessed Assurance” and “To God Be the Glory” are still beloved today.
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Luther’s love for the Bible was what enabled him to come to the conclusion that justification is by faith alone, and not by works as he originally thought. He spent hours and hours poring over Scriptures, memorizing them, and comparing them. Unlike us, he didn’t have a handy concordance to use when he wanted to find a certain passage, so he had to memorize as much as possible.
Andy Davis, a former missionary to Japan, is the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, South Carolina. He has memorized over 42 books. Before you think he’s some type of genius, you should know that he’s a regular guy who simply dedicates time each day to memorization. His retention of each book begins to fade as soon as he begins to memorize another one. However, he can still remember a good deal of the Scripture he has chosen to keep in his heart.
Hopefully, the stories above will encourage you to try Scripture memorization out for yourself. Here are a few memorization tips to get you started:
1. Repeat…and repeat!
If you’re a visual learner, you can simply read a passage a few times a day for a few weeks until you’ve memorized it. If you lean towards auditory learning, try listening to a recorded passage (some audio Bibles are available online for free!) over and over. You can listen while you’re doing other things, like folding laundry or exercising. And what about tactile learners? They may benefit from writing the passage out a couple of times per day.
2. Try memorizing in steps.
First, read the verse a few times. Then, write down the first letter of each word in the verse, in order. Next, try to say the verse from memory while looking at the letters, using them as “hints”. After you’re able to say the verse using the hints, try to say the verse without them.
3. Find ways to remind yourself of God’s Word.
Deuteronomy 6: 8 talks about tying God’s words to hands and binding them to foreheads. What is up with that? It’s talking about keeping Scripture close to you, and finding ways to remind yourself of God’s words. Of course, many Jews took this literally, and so began the tradition of using phylacteries, which are small containers holding Scripture scrolls that can be bound to someone’s head or wrists. In modern culture, some people tie a string to their wrists in order to remember to feed the dog, or take out the trash. You can write Scripture on post-its, and even hang Scripture on your doors or walls (see Deut. 6:9).
4. Try something unconventional.
There are a few songs everyone knows— the Birthday song, Jingle Bells, the McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” jingle… These songs are repeated so often that they get stuck in our heads easily. Get some Scripture stuck in your head! For many people, songs are easier to learn than poems. Try setting Scripture to music for easier memorization! Here’s some inspiration in a few different musical styles:
5. Don’t give up!
Any effort you make will be worth it! Knowing one Bible verse by heart is better than none at all. Set reasonable memorization goals for yourself, and stick to them. You’ll find that God will use His Word to change your life in ways you never expected.Share this post: