By Sam Gutierrez
A number of years ago, I memorized Psalm 19. I had spent two or three weeks slowly repeating the Psalm to myself and letting it slowly trickle into the depths of my heart and mind.
Years later, on a sunny afternoon in early summer, I took my road bike from the shed and headed out on a long leisurely ride. Slowly the trail rose and I found myself overlooking the most beautiful green gorge filled with deciduous trees and a gentle meandering river. The sky above was expansive and blue with a few white puffy clouds.
Suddenly, the first few verses of Psalm 19 came pouring out of my memory–“the heavens declare the glory of God! The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech!”
As my legs propelled the bicycle up the side of the hill, more and more of the Psalm danced on my tongue–“There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard –Their voice goes out into all the earth – their words to the ends of the earth…"
Thinking back on that moment now, the most surprising part of that afternoon was discovering that the words of Psalm 19 were quietly stored in my heart. They were just waiting there, ready at a moment’s notice to give me the words of praise that captured so perfectly what I was experiencing.
Have you tried memorizing scripture? It’s a wonderful practice that gets you into scripture in an intimate way. There are a lot of good books about the Bible and they have their place. But too often we look to these resources and inadvertently substitute them for the actual words of scripture.
Perhaps give yourself the challenge of memorizing a short psalm this summer. Try something short like Psalm 23, Psalm 100 or Psalm 134. Or maybe, challenge yourself to memorize a key theological passage like Colossians 1:15-23 (The Supremacy of Christ), Philippians 2:1-11 (Imitating Christ’s humility), Ephesians 1:3-14 (Spiritual Blessings in Christ) or John 1 (The Word Became Flesh). You could also spend time memorizing a familiar narrative like the birth of Christ in Luke 2. If that all seems like too much, consider committing one verse to memory and meditating on it by repeating it yourself throughout the day – John 3:16, Galatians 5:22-23, or 1 John 1:9.
Scripture is inspired because God breathes into it, making it live. I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes from John Calvin about the power of Scripture:
“Now, this power which is peculiar to Scripture is clear from the fact that of human writings, however artfully polished, there is none capable of affecting us at all comparably. Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read Plato, Aristotle, and others of that tribe. They will, I admit, allure you, delight you, move you, enrapture you in wonderful measure. But betake yourself from them to this sacred reading. Then, in spite of yourself, so deeply will it affect you, so penetrate your heart, so fix itself in your very marrow, that, compared with its deep impression such vigor as the orators and philosophers have will nearly vanish. Consequently, it is easy to see that the Sacred Scriptures, which so far surpass all gifts and graces of human endeavor, Breathe something divine.” (Institutes Book 1, Section 1)