Mark Twain On Scripture

Not really. But we’ll help him make the leap.

Right now I’m reading Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi (via DailyLit), and it’s a witty and engaging read- I like him much better than I liked Ben Franklin. In Chapter 13, Twain describes the memory of a steamboat pilot- if he is to be believed, it was a monumentally difficult job. Pilots had to know the 1200-mile stretch of the frequently travelled Mississippi in impossible detail, forwards and backwards, in all of its conditions- day and night, high-tide, low-tide, fog, rain- a thousand thousand things to remember, all while the river changed its banks constantly.

Yet, according to Twain, despite the difficulty of the task, pilots managed to do it, and do it well. Twain marvels again and again at the sheer depth of knowledge that the average steamboat pilot had at his command. He remarks further that these men weren’t particularly gifted with a good memory- ask that selfsame pilot who can trace out the entire length of the river in his mind what he had for breakfast this morning and he more than likely won’t be able to tell you. The memory is trained for a specific task through daily use.

Now, the reason for this, of course, was because they were pilots- they needed to be able to traverse the Mississippi safely through all conditions at any given time of the year. Therefore, in addition to the intimate knowledge of the river, there had to have been the skill to use that knowledge to safely guide the boat up and down the river. This wasn’t trivia- it was life and death.

I want to be that way with my Bible. I want every line to be indelibly etched into my memory from constant use. I want to know my Bible forwards and backwards, book by book, chapter by chapter. And further, I want to have the skill to apply my knowledge of God’s Word to every season of my life, throughout all of life’s changing conditions. Because this isn’t trivia-  this too, is life and death.


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