Thoughts disentangle themselves when passing over the lips and through the finger tips.1
I’ve never been much of a writer, and by that I mean I’ve never enjoyed picking up a pencil and actually writing something down. I’m more of a typist. Maybe that’s a result of the age I was born into, or maybe it’s because my handwriting has always been terrible. Maybe it’s both. Lately, though, I’ve found myself picking up the pen a lot more.
Writing is a painstaking process. I’m old enough to remember the time before Microsoft Word. Typing happened on a typewriter, not a computer. When I was in middle school, even though most homes by that time (including mine) had a computer in it, my teachers still made us do things the “old” way. We hand wrote papers, and then hand wrote them again after editing. It was only after the third round of editing that we got to type them. The typing phase was always the fastest. I blew through it. The final hand written copy sat on a stand next to me but I had little need to reference it. Why? Because I had nearly memorized it, that’s why. Writing records thoughts to paper, but it also records back onto the writer.
In my men’s group, Reverend introduced us to a thin, black, hardcover book with Proverbs on the cover. The book was all but blank, except for some questions on the left hand pages. We were not just going read it, but going to write the Book of Proverbs, word by word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter—all thirty-one of them. The book also had the numbers “17:18” on them. This referenced Deuteronomy 17:18 about one of the specific duties of the King:
And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.2
But should we, as individual Christians, do this today? I’d like to suggest that yes, we should, or at least it’s a very good idea, and the Deuteronomy text gives me four reasons for thinking this way.
First, by writing out Scripture, you are ensuring that it will stay with you all your life. We remember what we write down. This applies everywhere. It’s why my desk is covered with Post-It notes. Dustin Wax wrote that,
It’s a kind of mental Catch-22: the only way not to have to write things down is to write them down so you remember them well enough not to have written them down.3
He’s right. I wouldn’t need post-it notes if I could remember what I was going to write on them. I wouldn’t need to write down Scripture if I’d only remember it. But I’m only going to remember if I retain it and I retain it by…writing it down. Since I started this journable project, I’ve found myself thinking more about, and applying, the verses that I’ve written down that day.
Second, by writing and retaining Scripture we will become wise. Deuteronomy 17:19 says that by writing out the book of the law for himself, the king will learn to fear God all his life. The Book of Proverbs calls this the beginning of wisdom. What does a wise person look like? He’s one that strives to abide by God’s word and lead others in that pursuit. To do this, we need to do more than just read the text. We need to absorb the text.
Third, writing Scripture humbles us. James White calls this generation the “microwave generation.” Everything is fast. Smartphones and computers make the dissemination of information quick and easy. We have it all at our finger tips. When we write Scripture, we slow down—way down. We forget that the Bible came to us by the heavy pens of godly men. When we write Scripture, we appreciate what these men went through to give us God’s word. It was tough. It was time consuming. By writing out the Bible, we are connected to our past in a tangible way. Everyone knows that we don’t have the original autographs—what we have are copies written by faithful brothers, who loved God’s word so much that they took the time to copy it for himself and others.
This brings me to my final point.
By copying Scripture, we leave a legacy to future generations of God’s people. My grandfather was a Christian and so was his father. But I don’t know anything about the personal faith other than the traditions they came from. Even my father, who is a Christian, has nothing to leave me or my children concerning his faith. One of the things that I love about the Reformed faith is that there is a strong emphasis on legacy. This became real for me when I became a father–what am I leaving for my little Junior Agents? What am I passing on to them? By writing Scripture, like our more ancient church brethren, I can give that hand written copy down to future generations—even our own children and grandchildren.
If you’re not in a regular pattern of reading God’s word, I would encourage you to start today. Make it a goal to sit down and read the Bible in its entirety this year, but I also want to encourage you to slow down and take the effort to write out God’s Word in this fast pace, instant, and effortless world.
You can find the 17:18 series here. They have Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Proverbs, and all of the New Testament.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Dt 17:18 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
Calvinist Coulson -Phil is a confessing member in the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA) and holds a Bachelor of Theology. He and his wife are quietly saving the world while shepherding their three children. Follow him on Twitter at @XpCoulson.