I’ve Been Thinking About Those “Memory Verses”
Warren E. Berkley
Have you ever wondered why we stop doing certain things? I mean, as a people – in society, in families, in local churches. Do you sometimes remember things we used to do that we no longer do anymore? And why did we stop?
I grew up in the 50’s and early 60’s. In my family and in the Bible classes I attended in my youth, a vital part of our learning was Memorizing Scripture. In Bible classes in those days we used lesson booklets called “Quarterlies.” There would be a subject or passage developed, followed by question and answer exercises. But at the top of every lesson, a memory verse. The Bible class teacher would often call upon students randomly to recite their memory verse; recitation was a valued educational tool in those days.
In the public schools you memorized and recited your multiplication table and the alphabet. When I got into music we committed to memory the lines and spaces on the music staff. Even in my college days in history courses, dates and events would be memorized (even if you did this the night before the exam).
Memory work was a prominent feature of children’s Bible classes. Preachers in those days would memorize whole sections of Scripture, and I remember as a child being mesmerized when preachers would quote the entire second chapter of Acts. In Vacation Bible School in the 50’s everybody learned the 23rd Psalm.
Why did we stop? There was a time in my life when I was tempted to think – Well, we stopped doing those things because we have learned better methods; we are smarter now. But today I don’t think that’s the right answer. I’m afraid so many things we used to do in local churches we simply don’t take time to do anymore and to our fault. Ladies Bible Classes. Vacation Bible Schools. Gospel Meetings. And Memory Verses. Perhaps there can be value in re-visiting things we used to do, if for no other reason – to assess the value and perhaps revise and repeat.
Memorizing Scripture is a valuable legacy of my childhood. Oh, I didn’t always enjoy it then; sometimes, I had to say my memory verse before I could go out to play. Tree houses awaited my constructive skill. There were crawdads to be caught; bikes to ride and balls to throw. But I would have to say my memory verse before any of that. I know the value of it now and appreciate my mother’s diligence.
The case for memorizing Scripture can be initiated in Psalms 119:11. “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against you.” I do not argue this is specifically and only about memorizing Scripture. But I think it obvious, memorizing scripture will facilitate and expedite the application of this!
If I need to have the Word of God in my heart to defend myself against sin – – one thing I can do is memory work. It is not the only thing but let us not exclude this time-honored method. I must read the Word. I must seek to study and understand it within the context. I must make an application of the Word in my daily life – All of this is essential. But one step in this total work can be memorizing Scripture. “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” If this is my pledge to God. If I want to take every step I can away from sin – one thing I can do is, memorize portions of the Word.
Don’t do this to impress others by your recitations (see Matt. 6:1-18). Don’t do this as a substitute for reading and study.
Do it to help put the Word in your heart. Do it for ready use when talking to others (1 Pet. 3:15). Do it to defend yourself against temptation (Matt. 4:1-11). Do it for recall and reference. Involve your children; join with friends in a team effort. It will be a task never to be regretted.