Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scripture Memory - How Do We Help Children Really Treasure God's Word in Their Hearts?

Psalm 119:11 – "Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. NASB"

This one verse is probably the single most often-utilized verse people
turn to when they think about why they should memorize Scripture. Well-
meaning and intentioned people tell me, “We need to have kids memorize
lots of Scripture while they are young so when they are older it will mean
something to them and they will have it when they need it.” When I hear
that, I wonder two things . . . why should we wait till kids have grown up to
expect Scripture to mean something to them and why don’t we think kids will
need Scripture to be real to them, now?

One of the beautiful things about Psalm 119 is it is broken into passages. Let’s take a closer look at Psalm 119:11 in the context of the other verses in this passage.

Psalm 119:9-16 - "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your Word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have told of all the ordinances of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your Word."

What a beautiful and challenging passage, which when taken as a passage –
rather than just one verse – sheds tremendous light on the whole issue of
Scripture memorization. I believe Scripture memorization is something
children, youth and adults should regularly be doing, but not just for the
sake of “memorizing verses”. Lets take a look at this passage – all of it – to
see what it teaches us about memorization.

First, verse 9 begins with a question, “How can a young man keep his way
pure?” – I do believe this is one of the main reasons we want children to
learn God’s Word. We all wonder the same thing, not just for “young men”,
but also for all of us of any age. We recognize we all need help to keep
our way pure. This verse goes on to answer the question by telling us to keep
our way according to God’s Word – this indicates we have to do three things.
We must remember God’s Word . . . this is where Scripture memory comes
in as to keep God’s Word, we have to remember what He said. Then we have
to understand it . . .we have to keep our way according to God’s Word – this
will only happen if we understand God’s Word and finally, we have to put it into practice by living it in our everyday life!

Verse 10 challenges us to seek God with all our heart – memorization is not
just about head knowledge, it has to be something which involves all of us.
When it isn’t just in our head, we won’t wander from God’s commandments.

Then for verse 11 – it encourages us to hide or treasure God's word in our heart – not our head – so we won’t sin. The not sinning isn’t a result of words in our head, but rather from words, treasured and lived out of our very being!
From there, David goes on to praise God and asks Him to be his Teacher so
as David learns from God, he will be able to tell others, rejoice/follow/live
God’s Word, not for some prize or external reward, but rather for the joy
of knowing God and having His Word real in his life – this in itself is more
valuable to David than riches!

Verse 15 shows us David did not consider Scripture memory to be
something he'd “learn” and not use, but rather one reason for learning
was to enable him to continually refer back to and meditate on Scripture so he would be able to continue to learn and know more of God and His ways! Finally, the end result is David delights in God’s Word and will not forget/neglect what he has learned!

This passage, as a whole, has much to say about Scripture Memory, but how
does this translate into our ministries to the children and families in our
churches and communities? How should we approach Scripture memory –
what should our goal be for Scripture memory? How do we develop real,
effective Scripture memory plans where God’s Word is remembered,
understood and lived out in our lives and the lives of the children and
adults in our church and community? And, how to we take into account the
role of the Holy Spirit in teaching people – children included – so they will
understand God’s Word to be able to live it in their lives? In my next post I'll see if I can answer some of these questions!

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