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Book Review: "Scripture By Heart"

Title: Scripture By Heart - devotional practices for memorizing God's Word
Author: Joshua ChoonMing KANG
Publisher: IVP Press, 2010 (150 pages)

This book is an easy read, but involves some effort in order to practice it. It invites the reader to begin an age old practice: Memorizing Scripture. The book was first written in Korean. Now translated in the form of 30 short chapters, the author gently guides the reader to begin the long journey of what he calls the 'memorization divina.' Just as the 'lectio divina' implies a slow and intentional reading, the memorization divina implies a perseverance that over time, in short sound bites.

The author provides 4 reasons for memorizing the Word.
1) For Knowing God;
2) For Imitating Christ;
3) For Worshiping God;
4) For Fulfilling the Will of God.

I will add that the reasons for memorizing God's word is basically for loving God. How I love thy Word, says the Psalmist. Ps 119 alone should motivate us to put the Word of God in our hearts. For this reason alone, you should read this book and learn some memorization skills. This book can also be used as a companion to Spiritual Formation.


The structure of the book is by itself a representation of the book's philosophy. The 30 chapters may seem long (like the Bible is with many books and chapters), the brevity of each chapter shows us the need to pace oneself in the memorization process. The author is deeply aware of the difficulties and pitfalls of such a massive effort to remember Scripture. Thus, he guides te reader with reminders of the 'sweetness' of the effort, and to encourage one toward persevering toward the very end. The practical ideas are distributed throughout the book.

  • We begin memorizing Scripture by taking small steps, then expanding gradually to larger steps. Be patient with yourself, especially whenever you’re tempted to memorize Leviticus in an hour and a half!” (23)

  • “A healthy spirituality sends deep roots into a cultivated mind; knowledge is essential to spiritual development. We feel and act upon knowledge because our thoughts affect our feelings. The mind also influences the will because our choices depend on our knowledge.” (32)

  • "A cultivated mind produces more insight, possesses a richer sense of the world and enjoys a more attractive experience of reality. Our minds are influenced by what comes from outside of us. We cannot create our own world, and yet we can create our own worldview. The abundance and vitality of the world we live in depends on how we see it. When our minds are cultivated by the Word of God through Scripture memorization, we can see the world that was created by God in the way that God sees it.” (33)

  • one of the most enjoyable spiritual pastimes is drawing a Scripture verse from memory and meditating on it. Often meditation is a joy of its own, but gaining wisdom while doing so leads to ecstasy.” (34)

    "Emotion follows motion." (24)

I am intrigued by Kang's description of how some people who attended his seminar on Memorizing Scripture have their interest fizzle out within the first few minutes of his talk. These are the people who perhaps thought that the seminar contains some quick-fix easy to use formula for Bible memorization. Unfortunately, even if such a formula exist, it may enter the head but hardly influence the heart. Kang makes a good observation saying that:

it must be remembered that digesting the word is more important than ingesting it; food itself is of no use until it’s converted into energy.” (18)

Right on. We need to make a distinction between 'ingesting' the word vs 'digesting' the Word. The former involves wholesale swallowing; the latter requires bite-size chewing. The former gobbles quickly; the latter nibbles intentionally. Ingesting focuses on the speed of the memorizing process while digesting requires a concerted effort of the whole person. In other words, ingesting is for spiritual formulation whereas digesting is for spiritual formation. Having done Bible memorization, I find myself agreeing with a lot of what Kang is saying. In fact, one of the rewards of Bible memory is to be able to meditate on it when the lights are turned off before I go to bed.

I recommend this book highly not only for meditation purposes, but for loving God more through intentional spiritual formation. You can purchase the book by clicking here.