Memorization in a literate culture…

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Colossians 4:Tychicus will tell you all the news about me; he is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts; he is coming with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here. 

As I read this passage this morning I’m reminded that the ancient world was primarily an oral culture. Not many people learned to read and write, mostly people like “scribes” who performed that function as a profession. It seems that Paul’s colleague Tychicus carried this letter with him as he visited the church in Colossae. I can imagine him reading Paul’s letter aloud to the people and then telling them all the news about Paul (v.7) and the work of the Lord in their ministry.

These days we don’t have to commit much to memory as the ancients did, mostly because most people are literate and books are widely and cheaply available. No need to remember when you can read. That said, there is something powerful about committing things to memory – things like scripture. I’m not big on memorization as a rule, but as I’ve read through the bible many times the repetition has served to help me remember the word of God. And in critical moments, when I need to hear from the Lord, the Lord will prompt scripture out of my memory – sort of like from a hard drive. And in those moments the word of God becomes the living word of God.

Lord ours is not an oral culture, but there is power in reading and hearing and speaking your word over and over. It drives you word deep into our hearts, our minds, our souls. Help us to invest time and energy into reading and studying and even memorizing scripture. For we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from your mouth. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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