Okay, so it’s my birthday this Sunday. The hair on my head is still mostly brown, but my beard is turning gray at a frightening speed. That’s all I have to say about that. In terms of gifts, I’m good, I’m content — I`m a man with very few wants. In fact, I think the only people I truly envy are those who can type more than 20 words per minute, and those who can read the Bible in Hebrew or Greek.
However, this year I‘ve asked my kids for a special gift: to memorize a few scriptures for me. But this is no random list. Rather, they are the essential Scriptures, the inspired wisdom I want my kids to take with them for the rest of their lives. Here they are:
- The Lord your God loves you.
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart.
- God is your shield.
- A righteous man is cautious in friendship.
- Every word of God is flawless.
- Respect the elderly.
- A generous man will prosper.
- Whoever is kind to the poor, lends to the Lord.
- Do not be afraid of any man.
- A gentle tongue can break a bone.
- The Lord is close to the broken-hearted.
- Sin is crouching at your door.
- The cheerful heart has a continual feast.
- Honor your father and mother.
- Many are called but few are chosen.
- Bless those who curse you.
- Envy rots the bones.
- Whoever resents correction is stupid.
- Rend your heart, and not your garments.
- The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!”
- A prudent man overlooks an insult.
- Love is patient, love is kind.
- Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting.
- The devil prowls around like a roaring lion.
- Be faithful, even to the point of death.
- Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
- Seek first his kingdom and His righteousness.
- The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
- The Lord disciplines those He loves.
- Christ is all, and is in all.
- Give thanks in every circumstance.
I’m sharing these Scriptures with you for a couple of reasons. First, you may want to memorize them, too, if you haven`t already. And second, I want you to notice how simple and straightforward these words actually are: short, pithy sayings that encapsulate very big ideas. No book or chapter references — just the unadorned word of God. Simple to learn. Simple to recite.
I have a new theory on memorizing Scripture, and the Bible itself inspired this simple approach. I’ve realized that what slows many of us down, and even discourages us from memory work, is having to quote the references along with the words: book, chapter, verse. That`s a lot for some of us. Of course, if you want to do that and you can do that, so much the better. If not, don’t let this deter you! The most important thing to realize is that God wants these words fastened to our foreheads and planted in our hearts to make us more like Jesus. The primary objective of Scripture is to transform our lives.
“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Somehow, food turns into us. It’s a mystery: we eat brown bread, white fish, green vegetables and brightly- coloured fruit, and somehow, it all becomes bladder, blood and bone. In the same way, by ingesting and meditating on the Scriptures, they actually become a fundamental part of our being, shaping our character and the whole course of our lives.
Through the Spirit, the Scriptures have power to shut down the tempter, to warn us not to sin, to convict and cut at the precise moment we need it, to speak to the deepest parts of who we are, to keep us from flattering ourselves, to encourage us when we need it most, and to enable us to comfort and counsel one another with the truth itself, with the very words of Christ. Awesome!
You‘ll notice that when the writers of Scripture quote another text to make a point, they almost always just quote the words. For example, see how Paul simply strings together the verses he needs in Romans chapter three:
10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”[c]
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”[d]
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[e]
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[f]
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”[g]
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[h]
- Romans 3:12 Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20
- Romans 3:13 Psalm 5:9
- Romans 3:13 Psalm 140:3
- Romans 3:14 Psalm 10:7
- Romans 3:17 Isaiah 59:7,8
- Romans 3:18 Psalm 36:1
Or the writer of Hebrews, in chapter one:
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father[a]”[b]?
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”[c]?
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”[d]
7 In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
his servants flames of fire.”[e]
8 But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,
and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”[f]
10 He also says,
“In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”[g]
13 To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”[h]?
- Hebrews 1:5 Or have begotten you
- Hebrews 1:5 Psalm 2:7
- Hebrews 1:5 2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chron. 17:13
- Hebrews 1:6 Deut. 32:43 (see Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint)
- Hebrews 1:7 Psalm 104:4
- Hebrews 1:9 Psalm 45:6,7
- Hebrews 1:12 Psalm 102:25-27
- Hebrews 1:13 Psalm 110:1
Or consider the example of Jesus. When He was tempted in the desert, He surely thought about the Israelites wandering in the desert and how God took care of them. So, when he was tempted, he simply quoted from the relevant texts in Deuteronomy 6-8. But how did he say it? “It is written.” “It is written.” “It is written.” On other occasions, Jesus only gave a very simple context to His words, “In the account of the bush” or “In the beginning” or “Isaiah says” etc… My point is, we don`t need to know the references to memorize well, we only need the words. (Of course, knowing the actual context is important for correctly understanding most verses.) But there are hundreds and hundreds of Scriptures that are just a simple, single sentence. And anyone can learn a simple, single sentence. In fact, almost anyone can learn hundreds of simple, single sentences!
So, starting on Monday, February 25, the day after my birthday, I am going to embark on a 365 day memorization journey and it would be great if you want to join me! I’ve put together 365 one- sentence Scriptures from every book in the Bible. Why we should memorize is another discussion. The methods we use to memorize are another. But for now, just going ahead and starting is what counts. Learn some of them or all of them – one per day – but I hope you will at least consider starting a simple plan to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly! That is, if you’re not already doing so.
If you know someone else who may want to join you, spread the word! Here is the PDF 365 Memory Verses:
365 Memory Verses.pdf