How much of the Bible have you memorized? I’m just asking. I’m curious. If you don’t know, fine. I couldn’t tell you either.
When I was in my early teens, my dad bought me the King James New Testament on cassette read by British stage actor Alexander Scourby. It is an absolutely brilliant performance. He passed away some time ago but considered the reading and recording of God’s word the crowning achievement of His life (he read both testaments). He elevated (if that’s possible) the spoken word to an art form that, to this day, has not been duplicated in any recorded version of the Bible regardless of narrator—in my opinion. I listened to it many times as I delivered newspapers in the morning. A lot of the time it was background noise but a lot of it sank in too. I would say that the majority of my New Testament scripture memorization came from the months and years I spent listening to God’s word as read by Alexander Scourby. Don’t worry, I also listened to music. Who knows how many songs I could sing along with. But that’s not the point.
Scripture memorization by rote does not necessarily mean that it’s living in me. The Bible is out there in the world for everyone to read. Take ten people off the street and have them read a passage. You’re likely to get ten different responses. Kind of like the ten lepers that Jesus healed (see Luke 17:12-19)? Only one of them came back to thank Him. The correct response, the correct interpretation. Only as I acknowledge God (see Proverbs 3:5-6) does His word live in me. Joshua 1:8 says to “meditate in His word day and night”. Some aspect of God’s word should be living in me—on my mind and heart—all the time.
James 1:22 says to “be a doer of the word, and not a hearer only, deceiving your own self”. It’s more than knowing the Ten Commandments (see Exodus ch. 20), more than knowing the Beatitudes (see Matthew ch. 5) and more than even knowing all the things that the Bible tells us to “do”. “Thou shalt…” (references too numerous to mention).
It’s about knowing Jesus as the Living Word (John 1:14). Jesus, when He was berating the Pharisees for their dullness and pride, spoke of the Old Testament as scriptures that “testify of me” (John 5:39). The word of God—66 different books in one—is the script that Jesus lived. He fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17) and gave us the Holy Spirit to “teach us all things” and “bring all things to our remembrance” (John 14:26-27). Scripture memorization is important, it’s vital. But without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, it’s just a dry tome. Paul spoke of “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Corinthians 4:2). Shakespeare said that “the devil can cite scripture for his purpose”. These things he did when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, trying to get Him to disobey His Father. We need to make sure that were not deceived ourselves and in turn deceiving others by not doing what the Bible says from a motive of love and honesty. God will help us if we ask. He can bring truth and illumination to our situations and circumstances.
History? Yes. Literature? Yes. Poetry? You bet.
Alive and life changing? Only if you know the author.