My previous two posts on enjoying the Bible can be summed up with these words, “You will never ‘enjoy’ the Bible if you read it as a discipline (‘a verse a day keeps the devil away’); you will get excited when you simply read the words that are written because they taste good for your spirit.” Remember Jeremiah, who wrote, “Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV). Let’s explore the ways in which you can read your Bible.
In the mid-1950s, before I went to Bible College, I purchased a 90-page paperback book titled “Enjoy Your Bible” by G.R. Harding-Wood of England. It cost me all of five shillings Australian (50 cents) and though it lost its front cover decades ago, I still refer to the book. I went through four editions (printings) in five years, so it was well received by those searching for help in enjoying their Bibles. In the second chapter the author makes four suggestions on turning your Bible reading from a duty to a joy. I am going to use his points as the framework for this discussion and add my own comments.
First, “How does a bride read a love letter? She read every word of it, that is, completely.” “God is love” (I John 4:8 ESV) and “God’s love has been poured into our hearts” (Romans 5:5), so the analogy is authentic. Yet “completely” is not how most people read their Bibles, our Father’s love-letter to us.
I’ve made the point for many years that we should remember that each book of the Bible was written to be read from start to finish. It was not written with the concept of taking a sentence out of the middle and one near the end. When Paul wrote his letters to the young churches, I can see a gathering of believers sitting there listening carefully to every word, even though “there are some things in them that are hard to understand” (II Peter 3:16).
Often when I went overseas on my own to teach, my wife Vivien would sneak a letter into my case, to remind me of our love for each other. I still have some of those letters. Every word in them was important to me. I’d read them several times and smile. I would also receive a mailed letter from her at my second or third speaking appointment, also written before I left home. So the point is, your love for the Author of the Bible determines your attitude towards the words you are reading. How important are they to you? We are to live by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4; Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3). We will discover later that it is the little one-syllable words we all know that are the most important.
Second, “How does a traveller consult a road map? The answer is constantly.” We are pilgrims, travellers on a journey to a place prepared for us on the right hand of the Father. We have a passport that gains us entry into heaven. We sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…” In past days we would have a map that would tell us everything we wanted to know (except how to fold it up again!). If we weren’t sure which road to take while travelling, we would get the map out and check it before proceeding. Now new cars have a GPS unit that talks to us constantly, unless you have wisely found out how to mute it.
I encourage you to go straight to the source constantly. Check up on what people tell you. Be like the Bereans who heard Paul and “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Even watching Christian TV, when a speaker comes out with a debatable statement, Vivien and I say, “Book, chapter, and verse, please!” So “read the Bible completely; consult it constantly.”
Third, “How does a scholar study a lesson book? The answer is carefully.” “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15 NKJV). The word translated “study” in the KJV is “to be earnest” or “to be diligent,” and that takes effort. I shared in our last session how Paul was careful to point out a particular word was singular and not plural (“Seed” not “seeds,” Galatians 3:16), and in the session before that on “The Lord is My Shepherd” I demonstrated how carefully noting the personal pronouns “he” and “me” puts the emphasis on the relationship between God and me and clarifies how it works out in everyday life. I will revisit this area again in our quest to enjoy the Bible.
Fourth, “How does a good soldier obey Army orders? The answer is conscientiously.” Of course, we’re talking about God’s orders to us here, not denominational directions or the pastor’s insistence. The distinction is not always clear. The psalmist wrote, “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:98-99 ESV). The whole of Psalm 119 is about God’s Word. Jesus revealed that “the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49). On the night before he died, he told his disciples, “as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do” (John 14:31b).
Let’s give the final word to G.R. Harding-Wood: “Practise, then,
Reading the Bible completely like a love-letter,
Consulting it constantly like a road-map,
Studying it carefully like a lesson book, and
Obeying it conscientiously like Army Orders.”
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