On January 6, Pastor Abe Stratton delivered the book of Hebrews from memory, in a sermon titled, “Looking to Jesus.” In this first of a two-part guest-post, Abe shares with us some observations and benefits of Scripture memory.
From the middle of 2016 until the end of 2018 I worked to memorize the book of Hebrews. The following thoughts are observations on and benefits of memorizing large portions of God’s Word. In a future post I plan to offer some encouragements and exhortations. My prayer is that the Word of Christ would dwell richly in the hearts and minds of his followers so that individual believers will be sanctified, the church will be built up, and ultimately our God will be glorified.
Here are some observations and benefits of Scripture memory.
1. A well-organized plan is not mandatory in order to memorize.
Your plan can change as you go along. Mine did as I realized how I needed to memorize a growing portion of Scripture, how I needed to review, etc. Here are some personal examples of how my plan developed and adapted over time.
Because of my office schedule at Heritage, I decided to spend time memorizing 4 days a week (Monday-Thursday). At the beginning of the book I spent about 10-15 minutes a day working on a new verse and going over the previous verses I had memorized. Memorizing out loud was helpful for me to internalize the words and message. Not only was I seeing and reading the words, but I was also hearing them. Aural emphasis is helpful for me in memorization.
As the number of memorized verses grew I had to change plans a bit because the time to review was getting longer. The best method seemed to be to review the previous chapter to the one I was memorizing. But around the time I passed the half-way point of the book, I began reviewing 3 chapters a day in addition to memorizing one new verse. This review was rotational. So, I would review chapters 1-3 while memorizing 10:12; the next day I would review chapters 4-6 while memorizing 10:13; the next day I would review chapters 7-9 while memorizing 10:14.
When reviewing 3 chapters a day and memorizing a new verse, the time commitment was probably 20-30 minutes a day. Note, this may sound like a lot of time, and it is in one sense. We are busy people. But think about your time spent in car line, time spent watching TV, time spent on your work commute. What could be more important than thinking on and treasuring the eternal Word of the living God which will remain forever? We tend to spend a lot of our time on things which are transitory and much less important. Now that I have finished the whole book, I will review 2-4 chapters a day to keep the book fresh in my mind and to keep the connections between chapters.
Your routine can be flexible as you progress. Some days I wouldn’t memorize a new verse if I felt like I had not gotten a good hold on the verse from the day before. Sometimes I would just review the chapters that I had memorized to that point.
2. You begin to see connections in lengthy passages of Scripture when you are in them for long amounts of time.
Not until I was in the final chapters of the book did I see a repeated pattern that the author uses. There are a number of “therefores” in the book; look out for them. Following a number of these “therefores” the author says, “Let us…” The author is making the point that because of a significant truth we must respond in a particular way. Once I saw this pattern, I went back through the book and marked each one. These triggers then became points of emphasis for me in my recitation of the book.
3. Scripture comes naturally and unbidden to your mind in everyday life.
I have found that in writing a note to a person or in reading a book or in fighting my own temptations, some passage from Hebrews will rise to my thoughts. This is a wonderful blessing and a work of grace.