Developing discipline, developing character
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. (Joshua 1:8).
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3).
I had myself convinced that I’m unable to memorise Scripture. I told myself I’m not naturally gifted at memorisation, and that’s okay. I made excuses such as: “I know x,y,z in the Bible, so why must I know exactly where it is?” But God has challenged me on this. The Bible tells us that we should let the word dwell richly in our hearts, and that this makes our path sure.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. (Psalm 37:30-31).
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. (Psalm 1:1-3).
Meditating on the Word and tucking it away in our heart is what brings change in our lives. We should see growth in our character through time, and the Word and Spirit are the two that bring this about. When we memorise Scripture, the Spirit is then able to bring the right Scripture to mind to guide us in any given situation.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Beth. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9-11).
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).
In Jesus’ time, Jewish boys were expected to have memorised the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy), knowing it by heart by the age of 12! Jesus expected people to know the Law and be able to draw conclusions from it – memorising the Word, but also meditating on its meaning.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28).
The Law also expected the people to memorise God’s commands, write them on their houses, and physically tie copies to their heads and hands to remind them of it. They were to teach the Law to their children, talking and thinking of it all day long.
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
Today’s education system is set up to have us forget – we cram all the information in for a term, are tested, and then forget it the very next term as we move on to new information. There is no building, there is no expectation to remember. How different from what the Scriptures above reveal about treasuring wisdom and knowledge, and what knowledge is more important than what God has revealed to us in His very Word!
We need to walk in obedience to God in all seasons of life, and God’s Spirit will guide us. In this season, God has challenged me to focus on Scripture memory and it is blessing me abundantly. It changes playing toddler games all day (which could feel rather mundane, rather quickly) into hours of worship. It invites God into my relationship with my son, and has me speaking truth over my boy. What a blessing for both of us!
I pray that God guides me into making Scripture memory a life long joy and devotion. I pray that I will pass this treasure on to my children and that they, too, will store the Word up in their hearts and minds. I pray for a change in our thinking as a church, and a change in what we value. Scripture memory takes time and focused attention, it means that we will have to sacrifice other activities and time wasters (Facebook, cough cough), in order to devote time to it – but what rich fruit it will produce! God, make memorising your Word a priority in our lives, and help us to simplify other areas in order to devote time to learning of you in your Word. Guide our memorisation with your Spirit.
In ending, I want to make it clear that we are not under the Law; we live out these spiritual disciplines from a place of sonship, as children who want to spend time with our loving Father. For me, Scripture memory (and meditation on it) is the area God has me focusing on and it is turning daily living into abundant life as it transforms my heart and brings me into His presence. If God is highlighting it to you also, then I suggest starting small – try memorising one verse you love each week.