Ok, let me explain…
Not too long ago. I overheard two of the pastors at our church (each who have EIGHT nearly grown kids of their own) discussing things they, upon looking back, would have done more of in the early years of raising children. Now, anyone who has successfully survived the upbringing of so many kids gets my FULL attention. So with ears perked, I made a mental note of what these two godly men agreed on: helping their little ones learn and memorize Scripture. A LOT of it. As much as possible, in fact. And by whatever means necessary.
It got me thinking about something I’d recently learned about childrearing back in Jesus’ day.
The education of children in that time was a top priority — especially as it related to the scriptures. History tells us that from six years old to ten years old, young Jewish boys and girls were inundated with Biblical truth. In fact, the old saying was that “children were stuffed like an ox with the Torah.” (“Torah” most commonly refers to the first five books of the Bible and could include further oral teachings as well.) The kids were often given clean slates covered in honey and encouraged to lick the honey as the rabbi teachers would declare over them, “May the words of God be like honey on your tongue.”
As these young pupils grew older, the boys would continue on with their education, memorizing huge portions of scripture and oral teachings as well as learning how to reason and think critically in their approach to the scriptures. Some were even chosen to go on, at age 15, and be discipled by a specific rabbi, whose ways the child would learn to imitate nearly exactly.
Incredible accomplishments for such young ages, right!? Amazingly, this wasn’t anything to brag about in that day. It was normal. Children just KNEW the scriptures. My boys have memorized a few verses at random, but I definitely wouldn’t consider them “stuffed.”
So, a few weeks ago, under fresh conviction and fully motivated, I decided to dedicate appropriate time to helping my two oldest (4 and 5 years old) to learn scripture.
Why? Because God’s word as revealed to us in the Bible is FULL OF POWER! Be reminded:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” Hebrews 4:12.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
I can trust its authority in my kids’ lives. I want to do everything I can to help them tuck it down deep in their hearts, so the Holy Spirit can bring it to their minds when they need it.
Our first endeavor this summer was Psalm 23, which initially felt like an intimidating mountain to climb, given their ages and attention spans. So, I did what any good parent would do…
YEP! I BRIBED THEM.
I told them if they worked hard to memorize part of the Bible verses, they could earn a piece of candy each day. Of course, they readily agreed! Little by little, we worked on a new line of the passage and reviewed the ones from the days before, each day building on the last. We found pictures to use as visual cues and made up hand motions for each verse. And each day, I happily gave them a lollipop and reminded them that “God’s word is sweeter than candy!”
Several weeks later, we successfully completed our first passage, and now they ASK me if it’s time to work on our verses. I’m fully aware that their motivation may be different than mine at this point, and some days may be harder than others. But any way you look at it, TRUTH is being cemented into their brains.
My hope is that the Bible will have a sweet connotation in their minds (Psalm 119:103) and that they would long for it like newborns crave milk (1Peter 2:2). Though they may not understand everything they are learning now, I’m praying they will one day discover the lifelong benefit of hiding God’s word in their hearts!
And…let’s just call it a REWARD, shall we? 🙂
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