Memorizing God’s Word
Many Christians look on the spiritual discipline of memorizing God’s Word as something tantamount to modern-day martyrdom. Memorizing Scripture is precious when viewed with the understanding of one depositing God’s Word within one’s mind. When Scripture is stored in the mind, it is available for the Holy Spirit to take and bring to one’s attention when they need it the most. Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” When the Holy Spirit brings a verse to mind in a particular situation, it’s an illustration of Ephesians 6:17, “the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” A pertinent scriptural truth, brought to one’s awareness by the Holy Spirit at just the right moment can be the weapon that makes the difference in a spiritual battle. One of the ways one experiences more spiritual victories is to do as Jesus did—memorize Scripture so that it’s available for the Holy Spirit to take and ignite within one when it is needed the most.
Every Christian ought to want to grow in their faith. One way to do this is to strengthen oneself to memorize Scripture. Proverbs 22:17-19 encourages, “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the LORD, I have made them known to you today, even to you.” To “apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you” pertains to Scriptural memory. The reason given here for keeping the wise words of Scripture within you and ready on your lips is so that your trust may be in the Lord. Memorizing Scripture strengths your faith because it repeatedly reinforces the truth, often just when one needs to hear it again.
On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter was suddenly inspired by God to stand and preach to the crowd about Jesus. Much of what he said consisted of quotations from the Old Testament (Acts 2:14-40). There’s a qualitative difference between Peter’s uniquely inspired sermon and our Spirit-led conversations but his experience illustrations how Scripture memory can prepare one for unexpected witnessing or counseling opportunities that come one’s way.
Psalm 119:24 extols, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” The Holy Spirit will use whatever Scriptural truth one has in one’s memory bank for ministry and also provide timely guidance to ourselves.
Memorization Fuels Meditation
One of the most underrated benefits of memorizing Scripture is that it provides fuel for meditation. When one memorizes a verse of Scripture, one can meditate on it at any time during the day or night. Psalm 119:97 provides an excellent example of this, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit, but the Holy Spirit cannot give you a weapon you have not stored in the armory of one’s mind.
The main issue with memorizing Scripture is not a lack of memory, but a lack of motivation. If you know your birthday, phone number and address and can remember the names of family, friends, then you can memorize Scripture. The question becomes whether you are willing to discipline yourself to do it.
Having a plan for Scripture memory is crucial. There are several good prepackaged Scripture memory plans available in Christian bookstores. Memorizing Scripture on a topic of interest is helpful. Also, one can make a list of the verses on a sheet of paper or write each verse on a separate index card. When memorizing Scripture do not lower your standard of getting a few words right. Make sure you are memorizing every word and can recite it word for word. Memorize it word for word and learn the reference, too. Without an objective standard of measurement, the goal is unclear, and one may tend to continue lowering the standard until one quits entirely. Make sure you also find an accountability partner to help you in your quest to scriptural memory.
Meditating on God’s Word: Benefits and Methods
Meditation in today’s culture is most identified as non-Christian systems of thought than with Biblical Christianity. Even among Christians, the practice of meditation is often closely associated with yoga, transcendental meditation, relaxation therapy, or the New Age Movement. As a result of this many Christians are uncomfortable with the whole topic of meditation and suspicious of those who engage in it. Christians must remember that meditation is commanded by God and modeled by the godly in Scripture.
The kind of meditation encouraged in Scripture differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which one empties their mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but biblical meditation requires constructive mental activity. Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to create one’s reality. Christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of one’s God-given imagination in meditation; imagination is one’s servant to help one meditate on things that are true (Philippians 4:8). Instead of attempting to create one’s reality through visualization Christians link meditation with prayer to God and responsible, Spirit-filled human action to effect changes.
Meditation is the deep thinking on truths and Scriptural realities as revealed in Scripture for understanding, application, and prayer. Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying and even memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word.
Joshua 1:8 and the Promise of Success
There is a Scriptural connection between success and the practice of meditation found in Joshua 1:8. As the Lord was commissioning Joshua to succeed Moses as the leader of His people He told him, “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 good success.”
The prosperity and success the Lord speaks here is prosperity and success from God’s perspective, not the world’s. From a New Testament perspective, we know that the main application of this promise would be to the prosperity of the soul and spiritual success. Real success is promised to those who meditate on God’s Word, who think deeply on Scripture not only one time each day but at moments throughout the day and night. They meditate so much that Scripture saturates their conversation. The fruit of their meditation is in action. They do what they find written in God’s Word, and as a result, God prospers their way and grants them success.
Psalm 39:3 says, “My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.” The Hebrew word translated meditated here is related to the one rendered meditate in Joshua 1:8. When we hear, read, study or memorize, the fire of God’s Word, the addition of meditation becomes like a bellows upon what we’ve taken in. As the fire blazes more brightly, it gives off more light (insight and understanding) and heat (passion for obedient action). As a result of this one will be prosperous and fruitful. Why does the intake of God’s Word often leave one cold and why don’t we have more success in our spiritual life? Thomas Watson has the answer, “The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”
Psalm 1:1-3- The Promises
God’s promises in Psalm 1:1-3 regarding meditation are every bit as generous as Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
We think about what we delight in most. The tree of your spiritual life thrives best with meditation because it helps you absorb the water of God’s Word (Ephesians 5:26). Merely hearing or reading God’s Word can be like a rainfall on hard ground. Regardless of the amount or the intensity of the rain most runs off and little sinks in. Meditation opens the soil of the soul and lets the water of God’s Word percolate in deeply. The result is extraordinary fruitfulness and spiritual prosperity.
The author of Psalm 119 was confident that he was wiser than all his enemies (Psalm 119:98). Moreover, he said, “I have more insight than all my teachers” (verse 99). Is it because he heard or studied or memorized God’s Word more than every one of his enemies and his teacher? Probably not! The Psalmist was wiser; not necessarily because of more input, but because of more insight. Psalm 119:98-99 answers this issue, “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.”
It is possible to encounter a torrential amount of God’s Truth, but without absorption one will be little better for the experience. Meditation is the absorption. Meditation is essential for spiritual fruitfulness and prosperity. Even if the total input of God’s Word were the same as it was in prior centuries, we today have experienced a flash flood of information that the Psalmist could never have imagined. Combine this with some of the modern responsibilities, and the result is a mental distraction and dissipation that choke one’s absorption of Scripture.
Select an Appropriate Passage
The easiest way to decide what to meditate on is to choose the verses, phrase or word that impressed one the most during the reading of Scripture. Meditation is essentially a personal activity a fact that underscores the importance of basing it on Scripture. One’s understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit also leads one to believe that many times He, as Author of the book, will impress a particular part of Scripture because that is the very part He wants one to meditate on for that day. This approach can be misused or taken to an extreme. We must use wisdom to make sure we don’t fail to meditate on the Person and work of Jesus and the great themes of the Bible.
Verses that relate to one’s concerns and personal needs are ones that you should use for meditation. We should not approach the Bible as merely a digest of wise advice, a collection or promises or an “answer book,” it is God’s will that we give our attention to those things He has written that directly pertain to one’s circumstances. If you’ve been struggling with your thought life, read Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
One of the most consistent ways to select a passage for meditation is to discern the central message of the selection of your encounter with Scripture and meditate on its meaning and application. After one does this one should repeat the verse or phrase of Scripture by mulling it over. The point here is not to repeat each word of the verse vainly until they’ve been emphasized. The purpose is to think deeply upon the light (Truth) that flashes into your mind each time the verse is turned. After one does this look for an application. Ask yourself, “How am I to respond to this text?” The outcome of meditation should be application. Like chewing without swallowing, so meditation is incomplete without some application.
Pray Through God’s Word
Pray through God’s Word. Psalm 119:18 begs, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your life.” The Holy Spirit guides one into all truth (John 14:26). Meditation is more than just riveted human concentration or creative mental energy. Praying your way through a verse of Scripture submits the mind of the Holy Spirit’s illumination for the text and intensifies your spiritual perception. The Bible was written under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, so pray for His illumination in your mediation. Meditation always involves two people—the Christian and the Holy Spirit. Praying over a text is the invitation for the Holy Spirit to hold His divine light over the words of Scripture to show you what you cannot see without Him.
Take Your Time
When meditating on Scripture, please take your time and read less if necessary. Although many Christians need to find the time to increase their Bible reading, there may be some who are spending all the time they can or should be reading the Bible. If that’s you, please consider using that extra Scriptural reading time to meditating on the verses you’ve already read. Even though you may find moments throughout the day when you can meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 119:97), the best meditation occurs when it’s part of one’s main daily encounter with the Bible.