Summary: God’s Word has no equal. It is a transforming, life-changing, eternal Word.
The Unchangeable, Irreplaceable, Timeless Word of God
Introduction - Memorized scripture @ Hanoi Hilton
When Howard Rutledge’s plane was shot down over Vietnam, he parachuted into a little village and was immediately attacked, stripped naked, and imprisoned. For the next seven years he endured brutal treatment. His food was little more than a bowl of rotting soup with a glob of pig fat --- skin, hair, and all. Rats the size of cats and spiders as big as fists scurried around him. He was frequently cold, alone, and tortured. He was sometimes shackled in excruciating positions and left for days in his own waste with carniverous insects boring through his oozing sores. How did he keep his sanity?
In his book, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, Rutledge gives a powerful testimony as to the importance of scripture memory. Some excerpts follow:
“Now the sights and sounds and smells of death were all around me. My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak. Now I wanted to know about that part of me that will never die. Now I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. But in Heartbreak solitary confinement there was no pastor, no Sunday-school teacher, no Bible, no hymnbook, no community of believers to guide and sustain me. I had completely neglected the spiritual dimension of my life. It took prison to show me how empty life is without God, and so I had to go back in my memory to those Sunday-school days in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If I couldn’t have a Bible and hymnbook, I would try to rebuild them in my mind…
“How I struggled to recall those scriptures and hymns! I had spent my first eighteen years in a Southern Baptist Sunday school, and I was amazed at how much I could recall. Regrettably, I had not seen then the importance of memorizing verses from the Bible, or learning gospel songs. Now, when I needed them, it was too late. I never dreamed that I would spend almost seven years (five of them in solitary confinement) in a prison in North Vietnam or that thinking about one memorized verse could have made the whole day bearable.
“One portion of a verse I did remember was, ‘Thy Word have I hid in my heart.’ How often I wished I had really worked to hide God’s Word in my heart. I put my mind to work. Every day I planned to accomplish certain tasks. I woke early, did my physical exercises, cleaned up as best I could, then began a period of devotional prayer and meditation. I would pray, hum hymns silently, quote scripture, and think about what the verse meant to me.
“Remember, we weren’t playing games. The enemy knew the best way to break a man’s resistance was to crush his spirit in a lonely cell. In other words, some of our POWs after solitary confinement lay down in a fetal position and died. All this talk of scripture and hymns may seem boring to some, but it was the way we conquered our enemy and overcame the power of death around us.” (Excerpts from Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes, Robert J. Morgan, Pp. 57-59)