Before anybody gets me wrong, a caveat: I am really pleased we have the written Word of God available to us daily!
Now to my point. Universal literacy is a relatively modern occurrence. Going further back to the period covered by the Old Testament, the stories, history, laws and commandments were carried by word of mouth from generation to generation.
In medieval times church attenders were often reminded of the stories through pictures on the wall or windows. I love the naive pictures on the walls and ceilings of village churches in Europe – particularly Scandinavia. Without books and literacy there is the need to know and remember the stories in order to pass them on. For that to happen, the stories need to be an integral part of the person so he or she can share them with children and others.
Is it possible that we have become lazy because we have the Bible in a book, on a shelf which can be readily accessed. We have concordances (even easier now with computers) which help us look up a word, text, passage or name in an instant.
How do we encourage each other to know the Word of God deeply and to eschew our C21st habit of using Scripture as we do a fast food outlet – quickly and superficially?
I have observed some good programs and apps that encourage memorising the Bible. I have also heard of friends who challenge each other to memorise a chapter or book of Scripture
One of my favourite memories is of an old lady dying of cancer and she was nearly blind. She only spoke Dutch. So, as a keen young pastor I would practise a Psalm in Dutch. When I read the Psalm to her in my halting Dutch she would continue from her memory and get to the end before I could. Over a number of months I tried to catch her out with a Psalm she didn’t remember. She never failed. She had learned all the Psalms as a small girl on a barge that plied the canals of Europe 100 years ago. She had very little schooling, but the Word of God was in her heart and mind.
Would we be able to call on our memory to recite God’s Words to ourselves in a time of need?