In Israel God held kings to a higher standard than everyone else. In order for them to rule justly in the fear of the Lord, God commanded the king to do something quite unusual by today’s standards. His assignment was hand copying Scripture and reading from it every day!
“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.” —Deuteronomy 17:18-20 (NKJV)
God required the king to:
This was to be done so that the king might prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children also. Hand copying Scripture benefited him with a long reign, punctuated by wisdom and obedience. The blessing extended to his children also.
Not all kings obeyed God. In the recorded history of the kings of Judah, there were good kings who obeyed God and bad kings who disobeyed. Hand copying Scripture was so beneficial to King Hezekiah, one of the good kings who led a great revival in Israel (see 2 Chronicles 29-32), that he ordered his men to hand copy Solomon’s proverbs.
These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied:
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. —Proverbs 25:1-2ff
Why would God subject busy kings to this painstaking task? Why not let them buy a scroll and read it? Or just get it on Kindle? God knew there was a huge, rarely discovered benefit to be gained in the personal handwriting of Scripture.
It was humbling. It required learning to read and write. Some people are gifted with beautiful handwriting, but many write with difficulty and are embarrassed by their scribbles. Further, if the king didn’t understand the Scripture he was hand copying, he would have to humble himself to ask one of the priests to explain it.
It required sacrifice. Hand copying Scripture, especially the first five books of the Bible, would take many days, not just a couple. The king would have to be committed. He would have to reschedule his normal fast-paced life to make time for Scripture handwriting. As a result, he would develop a slower paced lifestyle that gave him time to pray, meditate and reflect before he acted.
While hand copying Scripture, the Word of God, the king would come under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The king would read of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth in six days, of the inspiring faith of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. He would learn of the crushing slavery of Israel in Egypt and the miraculous deliverance God worked in the Exodus. He would learn the Ten Commandments and the righteous statutes God gave Israel, as well as the value of the priesthood and tabernacle service to keep men in right relationship with God.
Hand copying Scripture engaged more of the brain than reading alone. Think about how it works in your own life. In simple reading, you use the vision and verbal areas of your brain primarily. (And often we don’t read, we skim, and don’t absorb what we read.) When you handcopy Scripture, you put more of your brain to work than in reading only. That’s desirable, for we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
In hand copying Scripture, you are using the parts of your brain that control vision, memory, motor skills, and speech. Your eyes read a phrase of the verse. Your memory stores it. Then your hand writes it down. You are likely to mutter the verse under your breath as you copy it. Muttering is one of the meanings of the Hebrew word for meditating. Some people actually memorize entire verses, without even trying, simply by writing them out.
While this simple but complex process of hand copying Scripture is going on, your spirit is meditating in God’s Word. In the slowness of the hand copying, you are giving your heart valuable time to listen to the Holy Spirit—far more time than when reading only—and you are better able to extract truth from Scripture. Sometimes the best part is what you hear God whispering “between the lines.”
More can be gained through hand copying Scriptures than memorization and meditation. Copying the Word provides healing. Years ago I suffered a serious concussion in an industrial accident on an oil rig. (See The Accident That Transformed My Life.)
Due to the head blow and concussion (it really “rang my bell”), I experienced headaches, sensitivity to noises, shooting pains, nightmares, and an impairment in my ability to think clearly and make decisions. A good friend suggested I tart hand copying Scripture four hours a day while I was off work, as part of my pathway to healing. I believed the Holy Spirit was behind that suggestion, so I began.
It took a while for the healing to be accomplished, but I thank God that He showed me how to draw life, strength, and health from Him while I meditated in His Word through hand copying Scripture. In fact, I kept on copying after my brain had returned to normal.
My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh. —Proverbs 4:20-22
Another major benefit of hand copying Scripture is improving your mind. Hand copying helps train your mind to be quiet and focus on the subject at hand. All of us need to acquire the skill of tuning out distracting thoughts. Handcopying Scripture is a powerful tool toward this end. The more you discipline your mind to stay focused on God, the more you enter into His peace.
With a quiet mind before the Lord, it is easier to discern His still, small voice, be guided by His wisdom, and be refreshed in His presence. Scripture handwriting greatly increases your ability to pray without distracting thoughts, because it is a powerful method of bringing every thought into captivity (which is at the heart of true spiritual warfare, 2 Corinthians 10:5).
Improving your ability to concentrate pays great dividends in every area of life, not just prayer. It enhances your ability to think clearly and learn new skills, making you effective and efficient on your job and in life. It trains you to be more receptive to Holy Spirit’s inspiration, which results in greater creativity. Everybody needs the inspiration of God.
A fresh, new idea can be worth millions of dollars in the corporate world. It could result in favor with your boss, a promotion on your job, and a better income. It could make a big difference in your family by making you a better parent, a better spouse, a better worker in your church.
No wonder God says that meditating in His Word morning and evening will cause us to prosper and have good success. (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3)
As we get to know the Word, we are moving closer to the divine Author. His presence draws near in tangible ways, and that’s, above all, what we want. We desire the Spirit of the Lord “with” us, abiding in and over our lives. His presence alone is the key to fulfilling our destiny, His plan for our lives.
Hand copying Scripture was a commandment for kings, but it’s voluntary for the rest of us until we realize we depend on the benefits. If Scripture handwriting was good enough for kings, shouldn’t it be good enough for us? We must recognize the responsibility we have to reign as kings in life (Romans 5:17, 21), first over ourselves and then over those whose care is entrusted to us. We, too, need the wisdom of God.
Out of love for God, shouldn’t we be willing to humble ourselves, to carve out time for the Word, to come under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and to engage all our brain in the things of God? There is no greater joy than sitting in the presence of the Lord and receiving His instruction.
You can practice hand copying Scripture either by writing out a book of the Bible or copying all the verses containing a key word. The handwriting I did focused on the New Testament. I first copied every instance of the word love, but a person could copy a whole book, for example, the Gospel of John. Click for a list of all the verses translated from the word agape in the New King James Version of the Bible. Agape Verse List.
Begin every session with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you through His Word. As you hear God speaking through Scripture, it becomes easier to hear Him whispering and impressing us in daily life. We all have a responsibility to reign as a king, whether it’s over our flesh, a household, a business, a corporation, or a nation. We need the ongoing wisdom of God. Seize the time to meditate like a king. It will enrich your life and that of your children.