Forging a Sword: Scripture Memorization

Sword-of-the-Spirit

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Ephesians 6:4, Psalm 78:1-8, and many other Scripture references make it clear that God expects us to teach our children about Him by teaching them His Word. We need to teach our children the spiritual discipline of Scripture memory. Scripture is the only offensive weapon we have in the spiritual battle – the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Scripture is the sword Jesus used to parry the temptations of Satan in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). Moreover, Psalm 119:11 attests that memorizing Scripture helps keep one from sin.

My wife and I have memorized Scripture with our children various ways, including:

  • Memorizing Bible verses set to music, such as Seeds Family Worship and Go Fish
  • Memorizing short Bible verses that teach foundational doctrine (e.g., Genesis 1:1, John 3:16, 1 John 4:8, etc.)
  • Memorizing strategic Bible verses that address underlying heart issues as one disciplines children (e.g., Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 12:22, Philippians 2:14, Colossians 3:20, etc.)
  •  Memorizing Bible verses using a host of games or manipulatives (especially useful for kinesthetic learners)

The goal of this post, however, is to encourage you to teach children long passages of Scripture. Children are naturally wired to absorb and retain large amounts of information. Take advantage of this developmental stage by feeding them God’s Word!

My children, for example, have memorized Psalm 121, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, Ephesians 6:10-17, etc. The best way our children memorize large passages and at the same time understand what they are memorizing is through teaching the Scripture passages at our nightly family devotion/Bible study. Each night only one word, phrase, or clause is discussed. Let’s take 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a as an example. This passage of Scripture was memorized over 12 nights according to the following family devotion schedule:

  • Night 1: Love is patient
  • Night 2: Love is kind
  • Night 3: Love is not envious or jealous
  • Night 4: Love is not boastful
  • Night 5: Love is not conceited
  • Night 6: Loves does not act improperly
  • Night 7: Love is not selfish
  • Night 8: Love does not get angry
  • Night 9: Love forgives
  • Night 10: Love rejoices with truth, not in unrighteousness
  • Night 11: Love bears, believes, hopes, endures all things
  • Night 12: Love never fails

Each night the children memorize the next phrase. On the first night they memorize “love is patient.” On the second night they memorize “love is patient, love is kind.” Similarly, on the third night they memorize “love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious.” This continues until the entire verse is memorized.

Focusing on a single word, phrase, or clause ensures that the children understand the passage and allows you to illustrate that part of the Scripture passage with a real world, age appropriate example. For instance, on the third night the key concept discussed is “envy” – what is envy, what does the Bible say about envy, etc. My four children are ages 2 to 8. I am not going to illustrate “envy” by describing Dante’s fourth circle of Hell in Inferno. For younger children I will not even use the biblical example of Cain’s jealously leading him to murder his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-8). Rather, I am going to point them to the tenth commandment in Exodus 20 and use the example of them being jealous of their sibling getting a new toy. Then, after the concept of envy has been defined and illustrated, we discuss why “love is not envious.” [Warning: for older or perceptive children be prepared to explain Deuteronomy 4:24 in light of the fact you just said jealously is a bad thing!]

In general the Church has become very lazy in memorizing Scripture. We have succumbed to the false assumption that we can look up a verse whenever we need it. After all, we have countless Bibles at home, Bible apps on our tablets and devices, Bibles on our e-readers, and now even on smart watches. However, God wants us to have Scripture in us, to dwell in us (Colossians 3:16). I encourage you to memorize Scripture and disciple your children to do likewise.

Forge your sword! Arm yourself and your family for battle.

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