Estes Echo


My family recently began following a plan that divides the Sermon on the Mount into segments so the entire passage can be memorized over the course of the year. More than once I’ve been encouraged by speakers and writers of devotional books to memorize Scripture, but with the exception of a few random verses I’ve never systematically tried memorization until this year.

The spiritual advantages of knowing the Bible by heart are highlighted in the story of the temptation of Jesus. Satan, “the tempter,” presented three temptations to Jesus, and each time Jesus responded by quoting from Deuteronomy. In this moment of physical weakness and spiritual peril, Jesus drew on his memory of Scripture to counteract Satan’s snares. One point in this story has always fascinated me, and shook me a bit too. For the second temptation, Satan took Jesus to Jerusalem to the height of the temple and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:6). Here Satan demonstrated his memorization of Scripture, quoting from Psalm 91. He also gave us a timeless demonstration of what a dangerous adversary he is. He quoted Scripture accurately, from memory, but twisted its meaning to serve his purposes. In this passage, the psalmist was encouraging the faithful, showing God’s love and care for their safety. Satan used the passage to lure Christ into demonstrating his deity by a spectacular display of risk-taking. Had Jesus jumped from the pinnacle of the temple and not been harmed, he would have won a following of earthly admirers, awed by his display of power. But he also would have departed from his Father’s redemptive plan to save the world.

When I ponder this account, memorization becomes more than an intellectual exercise. It is vital to the spiritual safety of my family. Our adversary, Satan, knows Scripture, and knows how to twist its meaning and lure us into sins that separate us from God. We have power at our disposal to combat Satan’s wiles. One weapon in our spiritual arsenal is memorizing Scripture. If we carry the Word of God in our hearts, recalling and reciting Scripture in times of weakness and temptation, it can produce the same result for us that it did for Christ when he resisted temptation in the wilderness.

–Greg Massey