There have been people who have memorized vast swathes of scripture. I wish I were one of them! I would love to be able to rehearse the entire Psalter from memory, as did some ancient monks. I would love to be able to answer yes, as did at least one well-known (among peers, not among the general public) New Testament scholar of the twentieth century, to his question: if all of our manuscripts of the Greek New Testament were all lost or destroyed, could you sit down and reconstruct it from memory?
I am not such a person. But I have read, meditated on, and studied scripture—and even made temporarily successful efforts to memorize numerous passages, some of them consisting of paragraphs rather than single sentences—that under various circumstances, if I sit and think or pray, all sorts of passages will come to mind, and then I can quickly find them, either by just opening to the right passage or these days simply by typing a short phrase into a web search which then immediately pops up the right passage at one of the online Bible sites. Even this weak form of having God’s word hidden in my heart (to borrow a phrase from Psalm 119, is an immeasurably enriching blessing. If this treasury—fragmentary and Swiss-cheesed though it is—were somehow to disappear from my memory banks, I feel I would become half the person I am, half my soul gone, half my reservoir of grace for getting through each day, half the reason for anyone else’s being able to profit from knowing me.
My mind and heart are a swirl these days, for reasons that you would largely know if you were to read all my public and friends-only posts to social media and to his blog, and that you could guess even if you knew only what is happening in US culture, including especially political and church culture, and that I am deeply invested in both the church and this nation. There is much that is alarming and ominous, and yet also much that supports hope, including things that many of us have watched and listened to intently over the last several evenings.
For this post this morning, I will not talk about any of the bad omens or any of the glimmers of grace and of hope. Rather, I will copy and paste a few passages of scripture that come to me as I lie here in the stillness of this morning.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Peter 5:8–11
And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
—1 Cor 10:12.
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
I called upon the LORD in distress:
the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear:
what can man do unto me?
The LORD taketh my part with them that help me:
therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.
It is better to trust in the LORD
than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the LORD
than to put confidence in princes.
All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them.
They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about:
but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
They compassed me about like bees;
they are quenched as the fire of thorns:
for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall:
but the LORD helped me.
The LORD is my strength and song,
and is become my salvation.
Thou art my portion, O LORD:
I have said that I would keep thy words.
I intreated thy favour with my whole heart:
be merciful unto me according to thy word.
I thought on my ways,
and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.
I made haste, and delayed not
to keep thy commandments.
The bands of the wicked have robbed me:
but I have not forgotten thy law.
At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee
because of thy righteous judgments.
I am a companion of all them that fear thee,
and of them that keep thy precepts.
The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy:
teach me thy statutes.
And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
On it goes. One passage evokes another. I will stop there.