Updated: May 31, 2019
For forty long years the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness. Their record was anything but stellar. Why? Because they failed to remember. “How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy…” Psalm 78:40-42
Now, once again, they stood at the borders of the promised land, ready to claim what God had promised. But before they could conquer they needed to remember.
The book of Deuteronomy records Moses’ reminders to them at the borders of Canaan. Over and over again, Moses told the Israelites to “Remember! Do not forget…” Deuteronomy 9:7.
God gave them other memory triggers: a song of their history (Deuteronomy 32), yearly celebrations of deliverance (Exodus 12:14-20), the book of the law (Deuteronomy 31:24-26), a pile of 12 stones taken from the middle of the Jordan to remind them of their miraculous crossing (Joshua 4:7).
God longed for them to “remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.” Numbers 15:40. He yearned to bless them. “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all my commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever.” Deuteronomy 5:29.
Oh, to Remember!
You and I are just as prone to forgetting as the Israelites. We read our Bibles, then jump into our day and forget what we learned. Even if we recall some, we lose the blessing of abiding because we don’t apply ourselves to the task of remembering.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We can say with King David: “I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:10-11
As you do so, you’ll discover that remembering what you learn is an important key to enjoying Bible study. (Learn about the other keys to enjoying Bible study here.)
In the Bible, God gave His people tools to help them remember. They work! Science has been proving just how effective they are.
Seven Divine Memory Aids
1. Invite The Holy Spirit: God has promised us divine help in remembering. Ask for the Holy Spirit and God will gladly give Him to you. “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:2. “The Bible should never be studied without prayer. The Holy Spirit alone can cause us to feel the importance of those things easy to be understood, or prevent us from wresting truths difficult of comprehension.” Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 599
2. Meditate on the Bible: The great heroes of the Bible regularly practiced and taught meditation on God’s Word and works; Isaac (Genesis 24:53), David (Psalm 143:5), Joshua (Joshua 1:8-9), Jesus (Mark 4:20) and Paul (Philippians 4:8) to name a few.
Biblical meditation is not emptying the mind. It is filling the mind with God’s thoughts. It is “calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the present of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.” J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 18-19.
Meditating on God’s Word means focusing our minds what we are learning, visualizing the stories and concepts, and reviewing God’s truths in our mind. It is engaging mentally, emotionally and spiritually with God through His Word. This process engages more of the brain, thus fixing the truths more deeply in our memory.
“It would be well to spend a thoughtful hour each day reviewing the life of Christ from the manger to Calvary. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination vividly grasp each scene.” Ellen White, Gospel Workers, p. 246
“I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” Psalm 119:15-16
3. Journal: Writing is an extremely effective way to increase what we remember. God knew this and gave instructions that each king of Israel should write out for himself a copy of the book of the law. This would teach him to fear the Lord, do the commands of the Lord, stay humble, and would prolong the life and prosperity of him and his subjects. (Deut 17:18-20).
Writing as part of our Bible study helps us slow down and process what we are learning. “The main difference between merely reading the Bible and studying it comes down to one key act: writing. It’s difficult to study the Bible in our heads. Writing helps us slow down our thoughts, reflect on God’s word, and work through it at a pace where observation, interpretation, application, and commitment can occur… Writing allows us to savor the taste of God’s Word and allows it to linger in our lives throughout the day.” Nina Atcheson, As Light Lingers, p. 57-58.
Ideas for Effective Bible Journaling:
- Copy the full text of the Scripture you are studying. Journibles are designed specifically for this purpose.
- Paraphrase a Scripture passage in your own words.
- Write out your insights, any applications God shows you, and your prayer response.
- Note references, key points, comparison scriptures, and anything else you want to remember.
- Keep it simple, doable and enjoyable.
- Use a format that works for you. Hand written, typed, online, etc.
4. Use Repetition: God recognized the value of repetition for fixing truth in our minds when He told the Israelites “these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
Repeat what you learn to yourself and to others. Read it over and over (try 7 times). The more you repeat it, the more you will remember.
5. Use Memory Triggers: God used events, songs, books, memorials and more to remind His people of His work and ways. He even had them make blue tassels on the borders of their garments to remind them to walk in the borders of His law of love. (Numbers 15:37-41).
There are many memory triggers we can use effectively today: Learn Scripture songs. Post sticky notes with Bible verses written on them, pictures, or Scripture signs in key places in your daily routine. Keep a 3×5 card with scripture on it in your pocket or purse. Plan an event to celebrate an aspect of God’s character. Memorialize God’s intervention in your life by writing answers to prayer on smooth rocks and displaying them on a platter. Be creative and ask God for ideas.
“Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.” 1 Chronicles 16:12
6. Act On It: Putting into action the things we learn is one of the best ways to remember. Read about what it means to apply God’s Word in our daily lives in the Adventure of Transformation post. “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8
7. Share It: Teaching someone else is a powerful way to solidify your own learning. This topic deserves deeper study and will be the subject of next week’s post. “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us.” 1 John 1:3.
Blessings of Remembering
The blessings of remembering what we learn in the Bible are huge:
- Answered prayer: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7
- Protection against sin: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11
- Union with God: “Through [the great and precious promises] you may be partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4
- Sanctification (Holiness): “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.” John 17:17
- The Love of God: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in my love.” John 15:10
- Eternal Life: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” John 6:51
Won’t you join me making it a priority to remember what God shows you in His Word?
Psalm 77:10-13 Psalm 78:42; Isaiah 46:9; John 16:4 Psalm 119
Have you tried any of these memory aids? How have they blessed your devotional life?
Note: This devotional is part of a 10 part series on 5 Keys to Enjoying God’s Word. If you have not already, please take time to read the devotionals in the series. How to Turn on God’s Alarm Clock, Finding a Quiet Place Alone with God, Faith – Essential Preparation for Bible Study, A Willing Heart for Bible Study, How to Read the Bible, and Tools for Bible Study, Conversation with God, How to be Transformed by God’s Word, God’s Seven Tools for Remembering, Why God Wants You to Share What You Learn. Also, please see the related video devotionals with Pastor McKenzie.