One of the verses that I often inscribe in personalized Bibles is Joshua 1:8. “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”. Joshua, the Jesus of the Old Testament, goes on to say, “Then you will be prosperous and successful” (NIV).
Post-Gutenberg, we are primarily people of the written page. Not so the ancients. In a predominantly oral society, people practiced the principles of memory. Indeed, learning was virtually synonymous with memorization. That, of course, does not imply that the ancients did not employ written records; instead, this is just to put emphasis on the right syllable. In other words, manuscript repositories augmented mental recall and not vice-versa. If there’s one thing preserved in the text of Scripture, it is the injunction to record God’s Words upon the tablet of your heart.
Think with me for just a moment to the early stages of Scripture, in what might well be among the most memorable of all biblical texts: Moses exhorts the people of God to impress the words of the Almighty upon the tablet of their consciousness. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the road. When you lie down, when you get up, tie them as symbols on your hands, bind them on your foreheads, write them on the doorframes of your houses and upon your gates. Above all, Moses warns, “do not forget” (cf. Deut. 6:5-12, NIV). Moses was not alone, for Solomon, who prayed for a wise and discerning heart, implored his hearers to bind the Word of God around their fingers or round their necks and to write it on the tablet of their heart (cf. Prov. 7:1-3). More poignantly yet, the Word made Flesh entreated his hearers, “let these words sink into your ears” (Luke 9:44, NASB).
It’s not enough to record the sayings of understanding on a common tablet. We should inscribe the words of wisdom upon the tablet of our consciousness. Not only were saints in an oral culture required to discipline and dedicate themselves to recall the sayings of understanding, but the sages, the teachers, were predisposed to presenting their sayings in an inherently memorable fashion. Even Jesus, the heir to the linguistic riches of the Old Testament and a greater teacher of them all, was the master of mnemonics. He employed repetition and rhyme and rhythm. He employed vivid imagery, visual and emotional stimuli, vibrant associations. God in human flesh communicated the bread of life to those who are hungry and thirsty in an inherently memorable fashion. It’s one of the principles that I have attempted to employ as president of the Christian Research Institute. I want you to be able to remember to write the wisdom of the Word upon the tablet of your consciousness and I’m going to keep nagging this entire year because every week new people jump on board. They’re getting into the Word of God and getting the Word of God into them, and they’re beginning an adventure that I describe as authentic New Testament Christianity. They’re no longer playing the game, “going-to-church-like-a-prop” and then “Leaving-church-cause-I’ve-done-my-duty,” and somehow or other avoiding the One who spoke and the universe leapt into existence, the One who has given us, as God in human flesh, His words of wisdom. Authentic New Testament Christianity means that you are hiding God’s Word in your heart. It’s your lifeline.
Right now we’re meditating on Proverbs. We’re meditating on Psalms, particularly the three Psalms that I mentioned yesterday on the broadcast: Psalm 23, 24, and 25. I mean if you want a great place to start your memorization, start with Psalm 23. It’s familiar. You probably heard it over and over again as you were growing up:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
You could easily memorize that. And if that’s not beautiful enough go to Psalm 51 or Psalm 139 and inscribe one of these passages upon your heart. Choose one and start to memorize it. Digest it; Cogitate it; Ruminate on it! It will be life transformational.