It seems like one of those verses that we ought to commit to memory.
For the past three or four years, I’ve focused a lot of wonderment towards the Bible. I’ve questioned whether it’s as important to me as it ought to be. I’ve thought about Mongolia and the scarcity of the word of God there. I’ve read stories about missionaries taking bibles to people who’ve never held one before – in places where they might be killed for it. I’ve read NIV, NASB, King James, ESV, New Living and more translations than I even remember. I’ve hosted the Gospel Marathon two years in a row; I’ve read the Bible in its entirety multiple times. I’ve forced myself to read when I didn’t want to, forced myself to stop reading when I didn’t want to pray, and I’ve carefully studied and wondered about my relationship to this book and its Writer. I’ve wondered if I know it and Him well enough and if I’d risk death just to hold this book. I’ve wondered whether I’m a silly American who holds the most valuable of treasures in this world with a sense of entitlement and flippancy.
When I was a baby Christian, I refused to leave my Bible on the floor or at the bottom of a stack of books. I also kept one in my car and stacked it on top of valuables so that if anyone ever robbed me, he’d have to go through the word of God to get to my laptop or wallet; maybe he’d even take the Bible with him as he ran away with my worldly possessions. God works in mysterious ways, right? Conversion by robbery seems like something my God might just implement.
Yet it seems like the American church hides its bibles at the bottom of a stack of CJ Mahaney and John Piper books. It seems like our bible studies are less about the bible than they used to be and that we throw King James in the trunks of our cars, because we don’t believe it has the power to change lives; in fact, we sometimes see the word of God as a hindrance to changing lives.
A friend and I were getting coffee last week and I asked her a question that’s been stirring in me for a year or more: Could you stay at a church that didn’t use the bible at its small groups? Is that a deal-breaker?
We discussed the fact that Jesus Himself didn’t cart around a physical bible because He knew scripture by heart. And Jesus certainly didn’t do anything wrong in that. We talked about how the bible is an intimidating book, and perhaps it would make non-believers more at-ease to attend a small group that talks about God, but doesn’t pull out 1500 pages of book the world hates, fears and rejects. Still, I can’t stop thinking about the temptation of Jesus and how God Himself quoted scripture as He faced the Devil, so I have to wonder what makes men think we can convert the world better without our bibles with us. I wonder what makes us think we’ll succeed in battle without the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).
Then, our conversation went somewhere I didn’t expect it to go… what if we all memorized the bible?
What if those 1500 pages were a part of our hearts, souls, minds and identities?
The New Testament was written in a context of memorized scripture, and as far as I can tell, the coolest thing about having portable translated bibles is that we can better reach the masses. Yet, let’s consider that society is changing and that a physical bible might not be as valuable in the U.S. (and other educated 1st-world nations) as it used to be. We might better reach the masses through different means.
If we are a society that is no longer transformed by the turning of red-inked pages, then perhaps we are a society that can again be touched by words spoken from memory – words spoken from God’s word hidden on the transformed heart.
Our challenge, then?
Memorize the bible. Cover to cover.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to answer that same question I asked my friend at coffee: Could I stay at a church that doesn’t use the bible at its small groups? Is that a deal-breaker?
My answer: it’s absolutely a deal-breaker unless all believers memorize all 1500 pages of the word.
I’m about to get really radical, here – ready?
I’m going to start today and commit myself to hiding God’s word on my heart.
All of God’s word.
It’s going to take time.
Like a lot of time.
I might not even finish before I die because I’m slow and inconsistent.
But the journey of a thousand miles starts with a step, so here’s step one:
I’m starting with Hannah’s prayer because prayer is one of my deepest weaknesses:
“Then Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; My strength is exalted in the Lord, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.”
And in a year or two, we’ll see whether the word of God is worth more than $30 to me… if it’s worth a lifetime.