Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Problem With Scripture Memorization

1 Peter 5:7 is one of my favorite Bible verses.  I have it memorized: “casting your care on Him, because He cares about you.” (HCSB)

This verse has become a “go-to” when I face trials or temptations. I refer to it as I praise God for His great attention to detail in my life. None of my concerns, it seems, are too small - or too large - to receive care and attention from the Lord. It’s a gem of a verse, to be sure.

It’s reference came up in a women’s class a few weeks ago and I snuggled in to its familiar comfort… until a friend said, “I love the two verses that this is sandwiched between.”  What? Which verses come before and after it?  Obviously I knew it didn’t stand alone, but I truly had no recollection of the context in which Peter presented it. When we read the wisdom that the disciple shares in context, we realize that the single verse is only part of a larger picture that offers more complete assurance from the Lord. 

Context Brings Clarity

That’s often a problem with Scripture memorization. We are prone to single out a verse without considering its context, it’s intended audience, or application. While God’s Truths are universal and absolute, not all scripture references apply to all circumstances. And some circumstances can benefit from far more than a small snippet of the truth.

While spending time in training with Precepts Ministries, a point that hit home is this: Context is king. We must be sure to consider the environment of a particular verse.  Let me give you a few examples.

Consider the word “Trunk.”  What do you imagine when reading that word?

Maybe you’re thinking of a large piece of luggage.
Or the base of a tree.
Or the storage compartment of an automobile.

Without knowing the context, you can’t identify the word’s intended meaning.  Let’s try the exercise again, but this time I’ll provide some context:

Its trunk swayed from side to side as the large beast ambled through the jungle.

Ahh. Now you’ve seen the environment of the word’s usage and can identify it as the trunk of an elephant. Context provides clarity.

Here’s another example:

Did you know that the Bible says “there is no God”? 

It absolutely does. But when we look at those words in context we see the bigger picture:  

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. Ps 14:1 (NIV)

In this case, the context within the individual verse brings great clarity. It’s the fool who believes there is no God. More often, the best context is much larger, perhaps a few paragraphs of thought, a full chapter, or even the full counsel of God’s Word (the entirety of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation). 

Should We Stop Memorizing?

No - not at all! If you know me, you know that I am 100% in favor of Scripture memorization. I would never discourage it. Memorization is extremely helpful in prayer and praise, in keeping the truth in our minds, and standing firm against the lies of the enemy. it’s a great spiritual discipline to meditate on the Word of God until we’ve memorized it.

I suppose there are some who have memorized full books - or even the entire Bible - and could present any verse in its context from memory. That’s definitely not me. My advice: From time to time, look at our favorite verses in the context in which they’re presented. Read at least the full chapter, if not the entire book where the verse resides. Ask the Lord’s help in providing clarity around it’s full meaning, and receive His blessing in the process. 

Your Turn:

What was the first scripture verse you ever memorized?

Do you know the context of that verse?

To what group of people was it originally delivered?

What verses come before and after it?

Leave your comment below or continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


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