No one in the history of the church has had as much access to Scripture as we do in the twenty-first-century Western world. As I sit at my dining room table in southern Missouri, there are seven Bibles I could reach in ten steps or less. But this hasn’t always been the case for God’s people.
The saints of old were constrained by the expense and availability of papyrus or scrolls and ink, so memorization of the Torah was paramount to their knowledge of and obedience to it. Listening to the Word proclaimed in corporate worship would have been their primary access to Scripture. To “let the word of Christ dwell richly” in a Christian with no written Bible would require them to remember the words of Christ that were taught in the church setting.
Consider our brothers and sisters in Christ today in settings where Bibles are illegal or where there is still no written language. How will Christians grow in the faith and remain steadfast under trial?
The words must be memorized.
Or think back to the Reformation. One of the biggest problems in the Catholic Church of the sixteenth century was that the common person had no access to the Scriptures. The church had corrupted the Christian faith, requiring the purchase of indulgences for the forgiveness of sins, which the people would purchase in desperation, not knowing their money lined the pockets of the religious elite. Without access to the Scriptures, the people did not know what was true.
These examples might seem extreme. That’s not us, right? Memorization might be important during times of illiteracy or oppression or poverty, but now? Why memorize now when we have such free access to the written words of God? Lack of access isn’t the only impetus for memorization. We memorize because God tells us to meditate on His Word day and night.
Psalm 119 is entirely devoted to the value of meditating on Scripture. Consisting of 176 verses that praise the benefits of treasuring God’s Word at all times, each verse speaks of a specific blessing found in meditating on God’s words. Below are some of the benefits and blessings of meditation on God’s Word that the psalmist adulates in Psalm 119.
To endure suffering (vv.25,28,50,52,54,69,71,76,92,107,114,140,147,153,165)
To avoid sin (vv.11,36,101–102,120,128,133,176)
To know God (vv. 10, 12, 26, 68, 75, 137–38)
To have joy (vv. 14,16,35,47,56,97,111,127,143,162,174)
To be satisfied (vv. 19, 57, 72, 81,103,123,131)
To discern truth (vv. 29, 43, 73,105,160)
To share God’s Word (vv. 46, 74, 78–79, 136)
I don’t know about you, but those promises, gifts, and encouragements are blessings I want for my own life as I follow Jesus each day. Psalm 119 promises those benefits when we fix our minds on Scripture day and night.
No matter what century we live in, which country, or the level of access we have to the written Word, the biblical exhortations to meditate on Scripture still ring true for us. We must meditate on God’s Word day and night, and in so doing we will flourish and grow in godliness and joy. Whether an Israelite on the banks of the Jordan, a new Christian in Colossae, or a believer living in Missouri in the twenty-first century, God’s people must meditate on God’s Word. He has instructed us to do so, and we must submit ourselves to His commands. As with all His commands, meditation is for our good and our joy.