Many people read the Bible regularly. Many others have at least some familiarity it. But the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments, only makes sense when seen from its central figure, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus only make sense when understood from who He is, the Son of God in human flesh. And God becoming incarnate in Jesus can only be understood by seeing the reason for which He came. We were separated from God by our sin, by our rebellion from His will. He had created us to be in fellowship with Him, but we had separated ourselves and there was nothing we could do to restore that fellowship. God had to do it by taking the just punishment we deserve into Himself, making atonement for our sins. That is what the cross is all about. So when we read the Bible the cross of Jesus Christ casts a long shadow over every page bringing it together as one book showing the depth of love God has for mankind to bring us back into fellowship with Himself.
I have been reading the Bible for many years. I must admit in its 1500 or so pages there are still parts I don’t understand. The Bible is not like other books that one can read, get the flow of the story line, and move on. Oh, the Bible has a story line, a very important one. It is the story of mankind from creation through the conclusion of earth’s history. One who reads the Bible should have an overall understanding of this “story line”. But there is so much more in these pages. It is a book written by God’s Spirit through human authors. It is “God breathed” (II Timothy 3:16) and therefore is given to help us understand who we are, who God is, God’s purpose for our creation, how we have put up all the stumbling blocks (sins) so evident in our world, and what God has done to redeem His creation. It is God’s hand in the midst of all life, and I really don’t understand how it all works. But then I don’t have to. I have His assurance that He loves all mankind deeply, and that He will not leave us until His good purpose is complete. I keep reading His Word. By His grace I do get to see a few new insight into our life together. And that is a great joy.
I am currently reading a novel set in the time of Israel’s return from captivity in Babylon after many years of living among the pagan religions. The central figure is a rabbi who has been leading them for a number of years. His biggest challenge is keeping them centered in God Word. He studies it constantly himself, teaches it to the young men, and shares it regularly in their worship gatherings. He knows that obedience to God is the only way to have God’s blessing and care upon the people. We, too, emphasize the necessity of reading and rereading the Scriptures, God’s holy word. It is not an ancient and meaningless book that has been superseded by our sciences and better understandings of life today. We cannot understand life apart from seeing it as God intended it to be in His Word. Like the Jewish rabbi it is to be our daily guide and strength.
I have always said that when you read the Bible don’t rush through it. Think about the action that is happening, the people involved, and what might be their motivations. In Mark chapter ten is an account of a young man who ran up to Jesus and knelt before Him. The man ran and knelt. Why? He asked a question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Later in the chapter a blind bagger couldn’t be silenced when he heard that Jesus was coming by. He cried out urgently for the Lord to have mercy on him. There is much more in both of these accounts, but the observation here is the urgency with which both men approached the Lord. Jesus was their hope. Jesus was the source of something deeper in life than they had ever found anywhere else. Our Lord is always extending that something deeper to us. It is a gift that He freely gives. You see, these little phrases in scripture can mean a great deal, inviting us to find true life in our Lord.
Picture sitting with a laptop computer in the lap, a two and a half year old grandchild on one side, and a year and a half old on the other side. I’m trying to find something while little hands want to push buttons on either side. Any attempt find something that might be fun for them to see becomes rather impossible with the constant “me do” on either side. It seems to me a good parable for our times. We have a Father who has give us the good will for our lives. That will leads to what is good for each of us. Yet in our self will we want to punch our own buttons. “We do”! We know better than God does. We choose whatever seems to make us happy for the time. But somehow the screen of life isn’t all that much fun in the long run. It really only leads to confusion. It’s past time that we let our Father show us the right buttons in His Holy Word.
Yesterday I remarked that the judges ruling in the court reminded me of Jesus’ words from the cross, “It is finished”. Jesus taught by using many parables, real life stories that pointed to greater truths of the Lord. Life really should not be about trying to grab a few useful fact and moving on. Sometimes those facts are needed, but even more we need to look around thoughtfully at the world we live in. God, the Holy Spirit, is constantly active in life revealing the good and the bad, what honors God and what does not, where people can share joy and where they hurt and are in need. That insight is not gained from a computer screen, but from meditating upon God’s Word, and observing the life surrounding us. God speaks in many ways constantly seeking to draw people closer to Himself.
Some people have felt that if you read the Bible through once you really don’t have to read it again. But the Bible is not like any other book. When one reads a novel, even a good novel, they know the story. They may read it a second time at a later date, but that is pretty much it. The Bible can’t be set aside that easily, even when one knows the basic story. We call it the Word of God, and for good reason. It is. God is speaking to us in many and varied ways. Further, it is a book that God, Himself, uses to speak to our hearts. The Holy Spirit uses various passages to speak to us at different time and in different needs. A passage that is read ten time will have a new and deeper meaning on the eleventh reading. The Bible is our food for life, and one can never exhaust is nourishment.
What do you think of your Bible? A strange question perhaps, but think about it. We say the Bible is God’s holy word. Does that mean it is to be worshiped, put in a special place and honored? By no means. On the one hand your Bible is a material object like any other book. It is a possession you have to be used. And I encourage you to use it. Write in it. Underline places you find meaningful. Write notes in the margins. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”(4:12) The Bible is not like a novel to be read once and put on the shelf. It is, in fact, God speaking to you. It is a conversation between you and the good Lord who made you. It is a “living and active word” that speaks to your “soul and spirit”. So the material book itself is only an object like many others we have for daily use. It is the truth that is in it that keep us opening it day by day as the food that sustains our life.
We have a repairman coming today to fix one of our appliances. He is sent by a company who has trained him and verifies his skill to do the job. When you take your car for repairs there is usually a sign somewhere on the shop wall saying the repairman is a certified technician. This is to give us confidence that the one working on our equipment knows what they are doing, and will do a competent job. This should be no less true with our faith. Paul writing to Timothy says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”(2T2:15) Reading and sharing God’s Word, our holy Scriptures, is a task for all of us. It is not just pastors who need training in God’s Word. All of us who read the Scriptures need to continually study and search out God’s truth. This is more important, and necessary than any repairman’s task.
My wife and I enjoy looking at lighthouses. There were quite a few built along the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1800s to aid navigation. Many were manned by a lighthouse keeper, often with his family, up until the 1960s when most were automated. The history of these men, their families, and some of the trials they faced is quite interesting. Their efforts guided and protected the lives of many sailing these waters. Churches are to be like those lighthouses. Many, in fact, have that in their name or take it as a symbol for their ministry. In John 9:5 Jesus refers to Himself as the light of the world, and, in turn, He speaks of His followers as lights in the world.(Matthew 5:14) We live in a time when that light is desperately needed. The Prophet Hosea said that his people were stumbling both day and night. They were being destroyed for lack of knowledge.(4:5-6) God has given us His revealed Word. It is our food, our knowledge, our light for life. We need to receive light from that Word daily so we can be a light for others.