Memorizing Scripture in the Age of Google 

By Nick Mahabir

A few years ago I found myself seated at a table with other ministers at a prayer breakfast. As we waited to be served, the conversation turned to the memorization of Scripture. A comment from one of the ministers caught my attention and lingered with me. He said, “We have no need to memorize Scripture today because we have Google.”  

One by one, other ministers voiced their opinions about the irrelevance of memorization in today’s world. One repeated the assertion given by a prominent social educator, that memorization was the lowest form of learning. At that point I realized that silence was the better part of valor, so I kept my mouth shut and my opinion to myself. By the end of the breakfast, I felt I had been given a clear idea of the direction of pastoral education and Christian ministry as a whole. Yet, I am willing to embrace memorization as a valid form of learning and to briefly examine some of the benefits of memorization. 

Memorization is not optional (see Deuteronomy 4 and 6). 

With respect to divine Scripture, God’s command to the Israelites was to learn the commandments. He even offered several mechanisms to help with the process: learn the laws, constantly and continuously talk about them to your children, tie them to your hands and wear them like a headband on your foreheads, paint them on your doorposts. In other words, do what you must to have God’s Word planted in your life so that it becomes second nature to you. Then it becomes a lifestyle. How can you determine what God is saying if you are not intimately familiar with the text? 

Memorization facilitates the believer’s edification and sanctification. 

King David said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11, NKJV). When Satan slings his arrows at us, we may not have a Bible on hand to turn to for an appropriate text. Neither will the devil wait around for us to Google a reference. We need to have the Word embedded in our hearts (and in our minds) so that when the tempter takes his best shot, we can respond immediately. Satan’s arrows of doubt regarding the believer’s salvation need an immediate response . . . from the heart and the mind. One pastor of a bygone era remarked quite correctly, “This book [the Bible] will keep me from sin, or sin will keep me from this book.” Memorize God’s Word always and often. It will help you live a clean and holy life in the sight of God. 

Memorization of Scripture is the only sure way to live in spiritual purity and victory. 

In Genesis, Satan tempted Eve by casting doubt on the accuracy and integrity of God’s Word. He questioned, “Did God say?”  

Unfortunately, Eve was not prepared for the biggest challenge of her life. Sometimes our very lives depend on knowing God’s word. Around fifty years ago during a revolt, an Open Bible pastor in Grenada was confronted by one of the proponents of the Black Power Movement. The man placed a machete on the pastor’s neck and asked him, “Pastor, what color is sin?”  

The man fully expected the pastor to respond that sin was black. Then he would lose his head. But this pastor who knew his Bible responded, “The Bible says though your sin be as scarlet . . . .”  

The pastor’s life was saved! There was much thanksgiving in the Church! 

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You”

Psalm 119:11, NKJV

Come with me to the wilderness in Luke 4. Jesus had fasted for forty days. He was tired, weak, and desperately needed nourishment. Satan came along quoting Scripture. During each of three temptations, Satan tried to twist God’s Word to his advantage. Nonetheless, on each occasion Jesus responded with appropriate quotations from the Scripture. Although He did not have a scroll, Jesus responded correctly because He had memorized the Scriptures, giving Him victory on each occasion. If Jesus needed God’s Word to overcome the devil’s temptation, do we need it any less? 

Scripture memorization empowers evangelism. 

Let’s take a walk on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). Two men were walking home when Jesus, whom they did not recognize, joined them. Hearing them express sadness and confusion about His death, the risen Lord immediately began to refer to the Old Testament Scriptures (from memory) and pointed out the prophecies concerning Him. At the end of the journey (and the conversation), their testimony was that their hearts “burned” within them when Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. We can experience that type of response only when we know the Word of God in our hearts and minds. Remember, the Word of God is quick, powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). There can be no space between God’s written Word and its place in our hearts. 

It is worth noting: the Holy Spirit has promised to bring back God’s Word to our remembrance (John 14:26). If God’s Word is not in our hearts to begin with, there is nothing to bring back. 

Memorization of Scripture enriches our lives. 

There is much to be said about the beauty of biblical language. Paul’s writing to the church at Colosse admonishes them to let the word of God dwell richly in them (Colossians 3:16, NKJV). To “dwell” indicates to live in, to inhabit, to take up residence. The Word of God should be second nature to the believer. It is uplifting to hear a believer of any age quote an appropriate Scripture in a specific situation. In addition, think of the impact it has on our own lives. Our language is transformed, elevated. Through our spoken words, Scripture shines a light in dark places. 

Satan himself memorizes Scripture. In the garden and in the desert, he utilized Scripture to his own ends. If our mortal enemy has tools in his war chest against us, can we afford to be so ill equipped?  

What is the appropriate age for memorization? The gospels indicate that at age twelve Jesus was in the temple asking the teachers questions and even answering their questions. No wonder they were filled with wonder! A Catholic priest once remarked that if he had a child until the age of seven, that child would be a Catholic all his life. I still remember the catechism I memorized at age five in Catholic school. Memorization should begin as early as possible. And yes, it is the parents’ duty to teach the child the Scriptures. No one else can be such an effective substitute.  

I sometimes wonder what has happened to Scripture memorization in our Sunday schools. Elegant videos, PowerPoint presentations, and games will never replace the memorization of Scriptures in the hearts of our children. Could this be one of the reasons we are losing our young people at an alarming rate today? It is worth noting that all Hindu and Muslim aspirants to their particular ministry require them to memorize their holy scriptures by age twelve.  

Coming from a Hindu background, I knew nothing about the Bible when I came to Christ at age twelve. Even though I attended Catholic schools, I had never seen a physical Bible until I came to Christ. The catechisms were Bible related, but the church did not teach the Bible itself. My first Bible was given to me by a missionary who received it from a church in the U. S. 

Today, after fifty years of serving the Lord, I say without reservation that ninety percent of what I know about the Bible was handed down to me through my Sunday school teacher. With all respect to my professors in Bible college, seminary, university etc., my Sunday school teacher, with only a fifth-grade education, taught the BIBLE. Each week she would assign a particular verse to be memorized by the class. Then she would call me aside and assign a particular chapter to me. This practice was not just for one week or two, but throughout my formative years. After I became the church’s pastor at age fourteen, my Sunday school teacher became my mentor. Next to my mother, she holds the highest place of admiration and affection in my life. 

With respect to the minister who indicated that Google is the answer to our scriptural needs, allow me to ask a couple of prophetic questions: 

1. What would he do if Google decided the Bible is to be removed from its database because it is a “hateful” book?

2. Or worse yet, what would he do if Google would replace the authentic Bible with one of their own choosing, with all the inclusions of the present culture?  

In closing, fellow pilgrims, I challenge you to be all that Christ wants you to be. Memorize those Scriptures! 

About the Author

Nick Mahabir, a credentialed Open Bible minister who lives in Germantown, Maryland, is an itinerant evangelist, pastor, and teacher. He earned his master’s degree in leadership from Georgetown University and ministers as a leadership dynamics instructor for Open Bible’s Global Church Planters Academy.   

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