by Scott Broberg
“The greatest minds have studied it (the Bible) over and over throughout their lives, and on each occasion, they find something new. The wisdom therein is infinite because it comes from an infinite source. It is not a book that can be simply read. It is a lifetime pursuit.”
— Rabbi Esther Jungreis, The Committed Life (New York Cliff Books, 1998, 25 and 26.)
Have you ever been reading scripture and thought to yourself, “That passage is EXACTLY what I need!”
For those who read scripture it happens all the time. A commonly heard Christian testimony is that something is happening in their life,…they randomly open the Bible and start reading…and there it is! The perfect verse or passage to provide encouragement and direction.
We are not, in fact, stumbling upon something new. This is exactly the way God designed the Bible to work. Gods words on the page “are living and active.” (Hebrews 4:12). I was never able to clearly articulate this phenomena until one night while reading a commentary book on the Bible, I came across this quote:
“Prayer is you talking to God. Study of scripture, is God talking to you.”
“That’s it!” I thought. God’s word is spoken into and over my life most powerfully when I’m reading scripture!
The Bible is after all, “the very WORD of God,” and I can’t stress enough the importance of routinely seeking God’s word over your life through the spiritual practice of studying scripture.
Should we also seek to memorize scripture? I would emphatically say, “YES!
In the days before and during Jesus, the spiritual practice of memorizing scripture was the cultural norm. They did not have the Bible collected together in a bound-book; rather, all synagogues would have a scroll and parchment papers of the books of the day and if you wanted to ‘take the scripture with you,’ you had to memorize it.
There is power in memorizing scripture, and when you memorize scripture you open up another avenue for God to speak to you. In my everyday life, I’ll be observing a situation, reading a news article, or talking with a friend about a difficult family situation — and suddenly a scripture verse will float into my train of consciousness. Sometimes it’s a verse to center me, sometimes it’s a verse to encourage whoever I’m with. Where does the scripture come from? I am not actively trying to conjure it up, and yet it simply arrives and fits perfectly into the context of the situation. Whatever principle is in the scripture (ex: forgiveness) is relevant and shows up in our lives still today.
As Jesus says in Matthew 10: 19-20 “…do not worry what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” I used to think this meant that it was just going to be spontaneous words coming to mind in the moment. I don’t think so. The context of the verse is that the disciples will be dragged into the synagogue to defend (or prove) that Jesus is in fact the Messiah (Hebrew) or the Christ (Greek). The words they would use, as we see with Paul or Stephen or Peter were directly from the scriptures. Jesus’ promise is that if you have the scripture in you, the Holy Spirit will bring it to mind. It’s a partnership. You memorize. God brings it back to your memory.
So what is the ‘conclusion of the matter’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13)? The scriptures are powerful, life transforming, and an integral part of growing in faith and relationship with our creator. Study and memorization are spiritual practices which, like any other practice, are developed over a lifetime. It’s not always easy but the rewards are great!