I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
Did you ever hear the story of the U.S.S. Pueblo? In 1968, when the American ship was sailing in international waters off North Korea, she was illegally captured by the North Koreans and the captain and crew arrested and imprisoned. As the days began to drag by, the 83 men began to think of their wives and children; and as imprisoned people often do, they began to think of God as well.
"Does anybody have a Bible?" someone asked. But no one did. Finally, someone had an idea. He suggested that every man write down any Scripture he could remember, and they would compile them and share these fragments with each other.
Great idea, but there was another challenge. No one had paper, nor would their captors give them any. Again the challenge was met as someone suggested taking toilet tissue and making a kind of Bible-scroll. This “Bible” of sorts became the only source of comfort and encouragement the crew of the Pueblo had during their eleven months of captivity.
Question: If you were arrested and put in prison and had no Bible, how much Scripture could you quote to yourself? John 3:16 and perhaps Psalm 23, possibly The Lord's Prayer. But how much more than that?
“Why bother”? Among the many reasons that memorizing Scripture is a valuable discipline, here are three guidelines:
Guideline #1: Memorize Scripture because it will give you an understanding of right and wrong. Simply put, it is a barrier against sin. The psalmist wrote: "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11). You can do wrong even as you quote Scripture to yourself that condemns what you are doing, because God gave you a will and hasn’t made you a robot! However, a knowledge of right and wrong gives you an unwavering basis for making good decisions, so sadly lacking in our lives today. Long ago God decried the moral mess of the nation of Israel, saying, "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). If that was true 2700 years ago, it is even more valid today.
Guideline #2: Memorize Scripture because it is a source of comfort and strength. Strange, isn't it? In crisis, when death is on the horizon, rarely do they turn to the words of philosophers or novelists for comfort, but they do turn to the Psalms, to the words of Jesus, to the promises of heaven and the resurrection.
Guideline #3: Memorize Scripture because it gives the Holy Spirit permanent resources with which to renew your mind. Dr. Charles Farah would agree with that statement. When he was in graduate school at the University of Edinburgh, his faith began to die. Under the assaults of atheistic professors, he began to question whether there really is a God. He tells how his crisis came to a head as he walked the streets of Edinburgh, and in the early hours of the morning the Scripture his mother had trained him to memorize kept rolling over and over in his mind. He finally went back to his room, knelt and gave his life to God. It was Scripture which, like an anchor that keeps a ship from drifting on the rocks, was used to renew his mind.
Guideline #4: Memorize Scripture because it is a source of hope when all other hope fails. Do you realize that this Book alone gives you assurance of what lies on the other side of death? When pastor Andrew Brunson, was imprisoned for two years in the country of Turkey, he says that the only way to combat the daily fear and anxiety he felt was to repeat and pray the verses he had memorized.
How long would your list be, if you had to write it from memory?
Resource reading: Psalm 119:1-11