Hide it

It was the summer following my high school graduation. For the three summer months before I began college, my Dad allowed me to work with him to earn money toward a car. When we weren’t commuting two hours to a job remodeling some high-end retail stores, we would drive across my little home town of Angwin to my father’s auto-shop to repair cars. On one of these days something took place that will be burned into my memory as long as I live.

That morning began no different than usual. In my devotions, the Lord led me to read Psalms 73, and two verses stood out to me above all the rest. “Memorize these verses!” came the strong impression. Getting a pen and piece of paper, I wrote them out. Soon I heard my dad’s voice, “Time to go!” and we were off.

After working till 3:00 p.m., we headed home to prepare for Sabbath. Immediately after turning onto the main road, blinking hazard lights on the side of the road caught our eye.  Shocked, we saw a woman half stumbling toward the middle of the road, waving her left hand while clutching her chest with her right. Rolling down the window, my dad yelled, “What’s going on?”

“I… I think I’m having a heart attack!” she gasped. I jumped out and asked for her keys. “Get in, I’ll drive you to the hospital,” I said. As we sped down the road to the nearby St. Helena Adventist Hospital,  I asked her what had happened.  She said that her heart began beating incredibly fast (tachycardia), and that it had happened once a few years before. I noticed that her breathing was becoming more rapid, and slowed the car so as not to contribute to her distress. “Ok Lord,” I prayed. “I’ve got to get her thinking about something besides her heart rate, or it’s going to skyrocket and throw her into a heart attack!”

The thought came, “Share a Bible promise.”  I went into my mental file-cabinets to find a verse to offer her peace, but it was as if they were stuck closed. Nothing was coming to mind, and I mean nothing. Finally, realizing that I needed to say something quickly, I asked her if I could pray with her. “Please, yes!” came her quick response. As we went to the throne of God in prayer, I could hear her breathing slowing, as a calm came over her. Before we knew it, I was parking the car, my Dad pulling in beside us.

As we walked into the ER, I assured her that everything would be all right. After I gave the front desk a brief explanation, they were ready to take her in. I handed her the car keys, and with an expression of fear mingled with gratitude, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank you. Thank you!”

A mixture of emotions ran through my heart and mind as my dad and I drove home. While I was glad that I could help by praying with her, I knew something major was missing. Why hadn’t a single Bible verse come to my mind?

Arriving home,  I headed for my bedroom. Turning the corner toward my bed, my eyes fell upon the verse, written by my own hand that morning.   I picked it up and read these words: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Psalms 73:25, 26. There it was! This was the verse the Lord gave me in the morning to share with this woman! He knew that our path would cross with this woman in need. He knew her heart would be literally failing her. He knew she would need a reassuring word of promise. But how sad that I could not call it to mind, simply because I had not taken the time and made the effort to engrain it there—to hide His Word in my heart by memorization.

You can be sure that since then, I have memorized this text! And although a failure, that experience is a positive “beacon” that I look back on as a warning not only to always listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, but to memorize His Word! Listen to this powerful piece of advice from Grandma Ellen: “Remember this. If you have made mistakes, you certainly gain a victory if you see these mistakes and regard them as beacons of warning. Thus you turn defeat into victory, disappointing the enemy and honoring your Redeemer.”Christ’s Object Lessons," p. 332.

To God’s faithful followers down through time, hiding His Word in the heart and mind has always been a matter of importance.  God instructed the Israelites to fix the Ten Commandments (and the rest of God’s law) in their memories. Not only were the adults to do this, but the children as well. To make this as effective and enjoyable as possible, they put the words of Scripture to song! What better way to ingrain something in your mind than with a catchy tune, right? Even in spite of their times in apostasy, there were always a faithful few in Israel who held onto God’s word and the tradition of memorization. By the time Jesus was born, it was common that any good Hebrew boy of 14 years would have the entire Old Testament perfectly memorized! No wonder David could say with confidence, “I delight to do Thy will O God, yea, Thy law is within my heart.” Psalms 40:8.

We also have Jesus’ example. It was with the sure word of God stored in His holy memory that Jesus battled and conquered the enemy in the wilderness (Matthew 4). The words, “it is written,” were an evidence of His dependence on the Scriptures for strength and direction. As He saturated His mind with Scripture while growing up, He began to see the world and the plan of salvation through the eyes of God. And He wants the same for us! He desires our hearts to be so full of His word that it changes the way we see the world, the way we live.  While the sooner we start the better, it is never too late to begin memorizing Scripture, because your memory will grow stronger with exercise.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But I don’t have time!” Young people, spare moments are gold. “Keep your Bible with you. As you have opportunity, read it; fix the texts in your memory. Even while you are walking the streets you may read a passage… thus fixing it in the mind.”In Heavenly Places," p. 138.

Always remember that God does not only want us to hide His word in our hearts for ourselves but for others. Remember that woman on the verge of a heart attack? What a comfort those words that God had impressed me to memorize that morning would have been to her if I had taken a Bible with me to memorize in my spare moments! The wise man Solomon put it this way: “A man has joy in an apt [suitable]answer: and how delightful is a timely word!” Proverbs 15:23, NASB. And when the opportunity arises to be God’s mouthpiece to someone in need, He has promised to bring to your memory “whatsoever things I have said unto you.” John 14:26.  But if we have not heard, read, and by determined effort, memorized His word, there will be nothing in those mental file cabinets to retrieve when we need it most. There are many practical ways to memorize the Bible. Everyone is different, so you may need to experiment to find the way that works best for you. Here are some ideas:

  • Write the verses out on notecards and carry them in your pocket to review throughout the day.
  • Record audio of yourself reciting the verses and listen to it, speaking along with it until you’ve got the verse down.
  •  Set a memory verse as the background of your phone, going over it in your spare moments.
  •  Invest in some Scripture Song CD’s! I highly recommend Taylor Faaiu’s "Sing the Word" available at www.revelationofhopeministries.com. You can also find many on Amazon.com. 
  • Take advantage of Scripture memorizing tools like ScriptureTyper.com where you can join a fun and supportive community of other memorizers like you. They also have an excellent smartphone app for memorizing on-the-go.  Another valuable website is fast.st, where you can find many free resources. (Visit scripturetyper.com and fast.st) 

Memorizing the word of God is fun, rewarding, and powerful.  And it will pay dividends for both this life and the life to come as you equip yourself to impact your world. “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” Hebrews 4:12, NKJV.  You will also experience spiritual growth like never before. The Lord asks us today, “My child, will you pledge to hide My word in your heart?” My prayer is that your answer be, “Yes Lord! Help me set up a plan to memorize Your word… and to follow it in Your strength!” You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Justin Torrosian is the youth pastor at Fresno Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, Calif. He also is a great-great-grandson of Ellen G. White.