One December evening in 2008 I attended my Brother’s December graduation ceremony at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Bannockburn, Illinois. D.A. Carson delivered the graduation message that evening. He spoke from Deuteronomy 17:14-21. As he explained God’s admonition in Deuteronomy 17:18, Dr. Carson briefly commented that God had commanded the King of Israel to “handwrite the Book of Deuteronomy in his own hand in Hebrew longhand.”
“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” (Deut 17:18).
Immediately as Dr. Carson said the words “in his own hand,” I felt the Holy Spirit speak within my heart, “I want you to do that!” The words “in his own hand” lodged in my mind. But, as I travelled back to Kansas City, and I was not sure how to handwrite Scripture in my own hand—I had never done it before, nor had I ever heard of anyone doing it.
As New Year’s Day approached, I considered if there were any concrete actions that I could do to improve my spiritual walk. It was then that the idea of handwriting the Book of Deuteronomy returned to my mind. I determined to handwrite the Book of Deuteronomy in January 2009, one chapter per day.
Since I do not make New Year’s Resolutions as promises to the Lord, I was not about to promise a length of Scripture that I would write every day. But as I considered the task before me, one chapter a day for the month of January seemed doable.
So, on January 2, 2009, as the house was quieting down from all the festivities of the day before, I took out a 3-ring binder with paper and a pen, and began to handwrite Deuteronomy. I copied word-for-word from the New American Standard Bible onto the loose-leaf paper in the binder. I soon found that it took me between 30-60 minutes to write one chapter, depending on the length of the chapter.
I instantly became captivated as I began writing the first several verses in chapter one. Then I became more and more motivated the father I went in the book. While chapters 2 and 3 have some repetition, once I got to Chapter 4 I was hooked. The first time I wrote the Ten Commandments in Chapter 5 my hands were shaking. I kept making mistakes with my ballpoint pen, because I was assuming words and word order that were not in the text. It was both frustrating and exciting at the same time. It was at this point that the exact words and word order became very important to me.
Within a week I would find myself waking up in the middle of the night and asking myself, “I wonder what will come next.” On several nights, when I could not sleep, I went downstairs to the kitchen table to handwrite Scripture at 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning. I handwrote 2 or 3 verses, clearly heard the voice of the Lord speaking to me through the words of His Word, and return to bed and slept like a baby.
Every word became captivating to me. The topics were wide-ranging, and yet there was a regular repetition of themes. By the time I got to Deuteronomy 28, I was so captivated with every word that I even began writing down variant readings in the margin of my 3-ring paper. I began to fall in love with the words of the Word of God—really for the first time.
Although I had memorized Psalm 119:97, it was not until January 2009 that I began to understand the words that I had previously committed to memory:
“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97)
It was a truly amazing time for me spiritually. I felt like my soul was being cleansed and plowed by the Word of God.
Prior to that time my devotional life had consisted primarily of reading different portions of Scripture and memorizing gospel verses and whole Psalms. My devotional life had been pretty regular since my college days in 1981. But after January 2009 handwriting Scripture become a serious passion for me.
There has been a wide variety of approaches that I have taken to handwriting. I am in my third time through Deuteronomy, currently handwriting Deut 30. I have handwritten in English, French, German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac. Sometimes I have written in one language only, at other times I have written all six languages at the same time. When I wrote each verse in six languages, I found my devotions to be very slow and tedious. So I eliminated languages. My most common methodology is to handwrite in two languages: French and Greek. I have also handwritten in modern Bibles and in Reformation-era Bibles.
After completing Deuteronomy for the first time, I handwrote from Galatians to Hebrews in the New Testament. Then in January 2010, I went through Deuteronomy in a modern French translation. It was during my second time through Deuteronomy that I began to alternate days, handwriting in the Old Testament one day and the New Testament on the next.
I currently write one verse at a time, in French and then Greek, pondering the meaning of each word, and studying the words and related passages and themes that cross my mind as I handwrite. Sometimes I may only write one verse, at other times I may write three or four verses. Early on I learned the need for freedom in handwriting, being willing to change up how I have my devotions as I am led by the Lord.
In 2012 one of my former students gave me for Christmas the Journibles version of Deuteronomy. Journibles is a series of hardcover devotional books that are printed so as to facilitate Scripture handwriting. They are published by Reformation Heritage Press. I was so excited to learn that someone else had discovered the power of handwriting Scripture, and provided a tool to encourage that spiritual discipline.
In an age of cut and paste from digital Bible software, it is refreshing to see a new movement of handwriting Scripture. A special thanks to Rob Wynalda for his Journibles series, and for authoring the “17:18 Series” (see: www.fullquiver5.com).*
Handwriting Scripture has literally revolutionized my devotional life! I commend it to you, dear reader. Get a notebook and a pen and begin handwriting Scripture. It may very well transform your devotional life. Consider beginning with the Book of Deuteronomy, specifically written for the devotional life of the Kings of Israel. Perhaps order the Journibles version if that sounds interesting to you.
“My son, keep my words, And treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, And my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart” (Prov 7:1-3).
*I have received no financial remuneration for this endorsement. I just happen to be appreciative of the product.