The Memory Power of Music


One of the things I find most powerful about music is its ability to help us remember things. Whether it’s the ABC’s, Do-Re-Mi, or the books of the Bible, if you want to remember something, put it in a song. Naturally, this is a great tool for worship, too. By taking verses or parts thereof, and setting them to music, we can easily memorize direct quotes from the Bible. Here are a couple songs that stand out to me as great examples of this.

The first is the hymn “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace” which features this brilliant refrain:

But “I know Whom I have believed,

And am persuaded that He is able

To keep that which I’ve committed

Unto Him against that day.”

Those words are taken verbatim from 2 Timothy 1:12b (KJV). Amongst certain circles (read: those who’ve sung extensively from traditional hymnals), this verse might be considered well-known. Even so, I suspect it is due mostly to this hymn. If not for this chorus, penned in 1883, very few of us would be able to rattle off this rather long sentence with hardly a thought. Yet, many of us can, and it happens to be a great one.

The full verse is thus (NIV): “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” Timothy is telling us that suffering is part of our lives as Christians, but everything commited to Jesus, our whole beings even, will be held safely for His glory in the final day. We don’t need to worry about what will happen or when; we need only to offer it all to God. Aside from leading us to think there are three syllables in believed, this song sets these words to music very effectively.

Another song that pairs a melody to a fantastic verse is “Behold, What Manner of Love” by Patricia Van Tine. This song uses the first sentence of 1 John 3:1 (NASB): “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” While it wasn’t the first song to use this verse, Van Tines’ version is outstanding in its simplicity, singability, and memorability. The lyrics in their entirety:

Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us, (repeat)

That we should be called the Sons of God. (repeat)

Again, this powerful, simple truth might be less widely known, were it not for this song. In all the depth and complexity of doctrine, here is something so familiar, so common, it probably wouldn’t make the standard list of memory verses. Nonetheless, if the original Scriptures had had text formatting, this line would be in bold, ALLCAPS! It is INCREDIBLE God loves us so much that He calls us His children! And thanks to this great song, we will never forget it.

These two songs are but two of my favorites in a list of great songs that do a wonderful job of cementing permanently in our minds a line from the Bible. I'd love to hear about some of your most-loved, Scripture-quoting songs. As you plan for worship, I encourage you to find songs that quote from the passage used in the sermon. Even when that doesn’t work out, try to mix in songs like these with regularity. Not everyone in the congregation will have heard them before (either the song or the verse), and regardless, they are an awesome tool for learning the source of wisdom and truth: God’s Word.

What passages do you like to sing?

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I have been listening to a lot of messianic music lately (look up chavah messianic radio if interested), and a lot of it is straight scripture, especially Paul Wilbur's songs...    here's just a taste  =)


in this song, the Shema by Paul Wilbur (Deut 6:4), you can even learn the Shema in Hebrew =)  but most of the song is in English... ;


Medley: Let God Arise (Psalm 68:1-3)/ It is Good (Psalm 92:1-5,12-13; / Roni Roni (Zeph 3:14);  again performed by Paul Wilbur