“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Without daily focussing on God’s written word our lives would be without order and stability. Too many Christians rely solely upon what they hear preached or taught in church meetings, but that is hardly sufficient to sustain a healthy spiritual life. Others seek to receive knowledge of God through religious TV programmes or popular Christian books, forgetting that the only source of sound spiritual truth that He has anointed is the Bible. It takes a daily look into the Scriptures to give us the strength and wisdom to walk righteously along the narrow path. Unless we do so, we are unable to resist the many temptations that come our way and will find ourselves wandering away from the Lord.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
At best we only have a limited understanding of Christ if preachers and books are our only source of truth. At worst, and is often the case, those who take this path have a warped concept of God. It is only by readying, studying and meditating on His word that we can have a more complete knowledge of who He is, His nature, His attributes and the way He interacts with us.
We have modernised and paraphrased the Bible to make it easier for people to understand. We have cross-referenced the Bible to make searching it faster. We have added notes and even put symbols in the margin for better Bible study. We can turn on a CD or MP3 to hear the Scriptures read to us. We have giant print Bibles for the visually impaired and small print versions to carry in our coat pocket. There are Bibles for mobile phone, handheld computers and iPods. Only one more thing remains to fulfil the dreams of those who produce all this stuff, we must read it!
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
When we think about doing some serious Bible study, why do we turn to books or programs to assist us with gaining a deeper knowledge of God? It was only relatively recent that study aides were introduced to the church. Up until the early nineteenth century most believers accepted that God could speak for Himself through the word He gave us. While commentaries, lexicons and study guides are of some benefit to us, it is the Bible alone that is the method God has ordained to reach our hearts. This is what the apostle John meant when he wrote, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” (1 John 2:27). Maybe the church has fallen into the same spiritual snare that the Jews of Jesus’ day found themselves in. “Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
Most Bible study programs require you to jump from text to text, concept to concept and doctrine to doctrine, but unless the student is very careful, it is easy to lose sight of what the Scriptures are all about and whatever study is engaged in become futile and disappointing. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39) … “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). Reading, studying, and meditating on God’s word never has to be boring.
Meditate upon it
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2) … “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (Psalm 119:16).
The Bible is meant to be read rather than left to gather dust on a bookshelf. We will never come into a close relationship with the Lord unless we take time to prayerfully read it and apply what we learn to our lives. It is vital that we approach the Scriptures with a right attitude. In fact, the most important of all is the desire that our spiritual hunger is satisfied. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6) … “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
In light of this need to be hungry and to learn from God, we wonder what is going to be said to us when we pass from this life and come face to face with the Author of the Bible? How many wasted years ignoring His word will we remember? How many wrong beliefs had we held to because we did not bother to spend time reading it? We must approach the Bible with a spirit of humility. Whenever we learn that we have been wrong on a teaching, adopt without question what the word actually says. Instead of reading the Bible to support a pet doctrine, we ought to come to it willing to receive fresh insight. Reading and studying Scripture, apart from obeying God, is first and foremost for our own spiritual edification. It is through His word that we draw closer to the Lord. We must never read it to fulfil a daily assignment, for if that is our objective, we will aim to do it as speedily as possible. Understanding Scripture cannot be rushed for it takes time. Speed-readers and those who only use devotional booklets, rarely find any lasting benefit from God’s word. When we open its pages we must expect to hear from God, for He has promised to speak to us through it by His Holy Spirit. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
None of this anyway implies that there are no difficult passages in the Bible; in fact we simply have to admit that we do not understand some things and move on. In some way or another God will reveal what a text means in His own time. Theologians have argued about various texts for centuries, so we do not have to become embroiled in the battle. In reality it is not the places we find hard to understand which troubles us, but more likely those that we clearly understand. The hardest part of reading the Bible is putting it into action in our lives. Let us open it, read it, delight in it and apply it. That is the only way we are ever going receive the blessings from our daily devotions.