Bible Memory Verses and Meditation – What’s the Difference?


Bible verses memorization is commonplace in the modern Church. It’s in Sunday School, on web services, in emails, flashcards, and probably any other place you can think to put a verse. The question is: Is it effective?

Maybe you are — or were — like me. I thought I was a bad Christian. I had lots of Bible stories floating around, even a few key verses, but I could never remember them exactly right.

I would say something like, “Present yourselves a living sacrifice, that you… eh… are acceptable to God… and… eh… prove Him worthy.” But, I’d work at it, read and study more, and I would get better at remembering the verses, but would have trouble remembering book, chapter, and verse.

Then I would say, “Oh, I know them well, I just don’t know where they live.”

At that time, I was a Christian for about 12 years. My friend, a veritable toddler in the faith (2 years,) was quoting scriptures until he was blue in the face. Honestly, I was jealous.

That’s where my heart was. I wanted to learn Bible Memory Verses just to prove I knew something, gain recognition, show I was a ‘man of God.’

Now, I haven’t arrived yet, but I have definitely left. I realized my attitude was wrong and began looking at this whole concept of memory verses. What does the Bible say? Well, it really doesn’t say much about memorizing verses. There are a few verses that can be interpreted into memorizing, but I would go a step further. We are not just to memorize verses, but to focus intently on them, think on them, rehearse them in our minds and hearts, and chew on it like a cow chewing its cud; getting every last bit of nourishment.

So, what’s the difference between memorizing and meditating? What might seem like a small matter will make a huge difference in your life.

God told the Israelites make scripture integral to their life:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” – Deut. 6:6-9 (NIV)

The first instruction on meditation occurs in Joshua 1:8. God tells Joshua that he is (we are) to meditate on the book of the law day and night. Why? “That you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (NIV) The word meditate is the Hebrew word ‘Hagah’ (Strong’s H1897) which means to mumble, mutter, utter or speak. God tells Joshua, “You want to fill Moses shoes, then think about and speak about what is written day and night. Yes, even the book of Numbers.”

Then again, David writes, “[The blessed man’s] delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2 NIV emphasis mine)

Let me digress. I do believe that memorizing Bible verses is better than not memorizing. It can only benefit you. BUT the Bible teaches going deeper than mere memorization. In fact, it teaches us not just to memorize but to hide the Word in our heart and make it a part of who we are. Memorization involves your mind while meditation involves your heart.

A simple story sums up this point. A man held a friends and family Christmas party. As they were gathered around the fire, they decided to, in the spirit of the season, quote their favorite verses. The host, an eloquent speaker, arose and recited the 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….) The guests were amazed at his flair for delivery and applauded. After a few others, it was Grandma’s turn. Now Grandma had been dozing for about a half hour and had missed what was going on. The host gently woke her and asked her to recite her favorite verse. The Grandmother sat up, cleared her throat, and recited the 23rd Psalm. When she was finished, there was not a dry eye in the room.

As his guests were leaving, one friend approached him and said, “I don’t get it, what was the difference between your recitation and your Grandmother’s? They were identical.” The host smiled and simply said, “I know the Psalm. She knows the Shepherd.”

So start today. Take a favorite memory verse, or look-up popular verse, and take the first step beyond memorization. Write it on the tablet of your heart. After a month, the results may surprise you.

Leave a Reply