Just before Jesus died on the cross, He directly quoted two different psalms. With everything He had endured in the previous 24 hours, how was He able to keep His mind focused enough to recall something David had written 1000 years previously?
When we think about the various settings around Jesus during His week before the cross, it becomes obvious that He wasn’t spending His time skimming the scrolls or trying to cram in a phrase or two during the Last Supper. For Jesus to clearly recall God’s Word on the cross, in the midst of such intense trial and pain, He must have spent time previously with the Scriptures available to Him…and not just a little time, either. To have Scripture at the tip of His tongue, to be able to recall God’s exact words while the whole world is crashing down…would require both preparation and repetition.
The Jewish education system at the time was founded upon the student’s ability to memorize large portions of the Old Testament, beginning with the first five books of our Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. If a student did well, he would move on to the prophets and wisdom literature.
Certainly Jesus did well, not only memorizing Scripture but also understanding it. This was evidenced when He was 12 and went to the temple:
Luke 2:46-47 After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers.
His ability to converse with the teachers of the Law would have come from the amount of time spent in the Scriptures. A fair assumption would be that a significant amount of time in the Old Testament Scriptures before His public ministry began at age 30. Doing so helps explain why Jesus was ready and able to quote Scripture when being tempted by Satan…because as a youth, He spent His time preparing for the days ahead when He would need to recall God’s Word.
The same principle is available to us as well. The more time we spend in God’s Word, the more ready we are when difficulties arise. When a crisis hits, how comforting would it be to be able to remind ourselves of what God has previously said? In fact, this coincides with one of Jesus’s last promises to His disciples:
John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.
However, it is more difficult for the Holy Spirit to remind us of what Jesus said, if we haven’t been looking in the first place…
Putting the same Scriptures in front of our eyes often and meditating on them helps commit them to memory. So let’s do the same with the psalm we’ve been looking at. Having the promises we’ve learned – that when our hearts are without strength, we can trust God to handle our current circumstances. We can trust God with our present struggles, as well as our future issues, because we remember how God has protected and strengthened us during previous crises.
Let’s take Jesus at His word and follow His example. Pay attention to these four verses this week. Read them often, say them out loud. Do your best to bury these words deep in your mind, so that when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will be able to bring them to the front of your mind and the tip of your tongue.
God, hear my cry; pay attention to my prayer.
I call to You from the ends of the earth
when my heart is without strength.
Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for You have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy.
I will live in Your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of Your wings.