HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE and
REMEMBERING WHAT WE READ
A Brother in Christ recently wrote to me – “I have friends who can accurately reference specific footnotes from books they read 20 or more years ago! Those friends not only read a lot, they remember just about everything. I find THIS VERY DISCOURAGING. I recently finished a 676-page biography, and yet when I closed the book and communicated to others how much I enjoyed the book, there was really only one sentence I clearly remembered—which is one reason why I dog-ear and mark paragraphs and sentences in my books. I try to read a lot but unfortunately I forget a lot, too. Did I mention how discouraging this is”?
This is the lament of MANY of God’s children. The Lord laid on my heart a burden to write a few words on reading and how to remember what we have read.
Like every other faculty of our beings, the MEMORY has been affected by the Fall and bears on it the marks of depravity. This is seen from ITS POWER TO RETAIN WHAT IS WORTHLESS, AND THE DIFFICULTY ENCOUNTERED TO HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD. A foolish nursery-rhyme or song heard in youth, is carried with us to the grave; but a helpful sermon is forgotten within twenty-four hours! The first five times the word “remember” is used in Scripture, in each case it is connected with God. And God remembered Noah, and God remembered Abraham etc. But the first time it is used of MAN we read, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but FORGOT HIM” (Gen. 40:23)! [A.W. Pink]
How true this is. Though many of us have been blessed with a photographic mind, some of us have run out of film! Scripture constantly admonishes us to remember and chides us for having forgotten. “REMEMBER the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee” [Duet 32:7] ‘REMEMBER ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ’ [Jude 17] etc. And again – “Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not REMEMBER? [Mk 8:18]
Good memory is indeed the gift of God as all other good gifts [Jam 1:17] Arthur W. Pink was an exacting person. He was blessed (some say plagued) with a photographic memory. He never forgot what he had read, and upon occasion would prove it by stating the volume and page where he read a certain comment. Because of this, some found him hard to bear, since, if he were challenged, he could quote Scriptures by the hundreds to back up a statement of his.
Though all the saints are not SO blessed, yet God has in his divine power given all His saints all things that pertain unto life and godliness, and one of them is a good memory. But like all other natural faculties, it is one which must be improved upon.
Memorizing Scripture and Godly quotes from Godly men is hard work indeed. Scripture speaks of those who labour in the Word and doctrine. [1Tim 5:17]. Though this is a reference to the ‘Elders’ and ‘Preachers’ of God’s Word, yet EVERY child of God should be diligent and passionate to study God’s Word and memorize. ‘Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart. [Job 22:22]
The benefits of such a discipline are manifold.
First, it keeps us from that abominable thing that God hates – SIN! “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I MIGHT NOT SIN against Thee” (Psalm 119:11). ‘The only effective way of keeping a plot of ground from being overgrown by weeds is to sow good seed therein: “Overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). So the more Christ’s Word dwells in us “richly” (Colossians 3:16), the less room will there be for the exercise of sin in our hearts and lives. ‘By the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer’. [Psa 17:4; see also Psa 119:9]
Secondly, it will keep us from error and heresies. Scripture admonishes us to try the spirits whether they are of God [1Jn 4:1], for many false prophets have gone out into the world. But how shall we test them if we are ignorant of God’s Word? Let us be like the Bereans, who not only ‘received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. [Act 17:11]
Thirdly, it makes us better comforters and counselors. ‘Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? [Prov 22:20,21]. The Apostle admonished, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” [1Pet 4:11]. The trouble with most preachers in our day is that they do not speak according to God’s word! ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to THIS WORD, it is because there is no light in them. [Isa 8:20]
Finally it helps us to know our Lord more deeply, intimately and personally. “SEARCH the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me”. [Jn 5:39]
A FEW SIMPLE TIPS ON BIBLE STUDY –
FIRST, PRAY FOR GOD’S GUIDANCE AND REVELATION. All true knowledge concerning any spiritual subject, be it God, Man, Sin or the Devil, comes through revelation. So pray – “OPEN Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law”. [Psa 119:118]
SECOND, MAKE NOTES IN YOUR BIBLE. Many believe that the Bible is to be treated with reverence and should never be marked in. Only the message contained within should be revered, etc. The paper, ink, and leather that make up the physical Bible are not holy. Mr. Philpot aptly said – ‘If your religion is only in the Bible, and has no existence out of the Bible in your own soul, which is the case with thousands who are considered great Christians, the same fire that will at the last day burn up the Bible will burn up your religion with it”.
Making notations in your Bible helps AMPLIFY and REINFORCE God’s message, and is acceptable to Him. Marking the Bible helps us internalize the precious truth that so many have taken for granted. If you have neglected this, NOW is a good time to get back into it. Some who have been in the Church for awhile mistakenly assume that they have already heard it all. But, God‘s mercies are new EVERY MORNING!
MEDITATE ON WHAT YOU READ AND TRY TO RECOLLECT AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. “O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day”. [Psa 119:97]. Imitate the Godly man in ‘Psalm One’ whose delight was in the law of the LORD; and meditated on it day and night. Recollecting what you have read is a very sure way to improve and sharpen your memory.
FINALLY, SHARE WITH OTHERS WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNT. There is really something about sharing with others what God has revealed to you. ‘The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself’. [Prov 11:25].
The admonition of the Apostle to Timothy applies to all of us who love the Lord –
“Till I come, give attendance to READING, to EXHORTATION, to DOCTRINE’! [1Tim 4:13].