I obviously have very little skill in predicting how many words it will take me to say what I want to say; thus “six parts in a four part essay”! In my final post on this subject (for now) I’m compelled to remind us about the main reason to love and study the Bible.
Read it to get to know God
A friend of mine, Tim Otto, whose book, Oriented to Faith, I’m going to review and recommend in my next post wrote:
“(For some of us) the Bible is a textbook for life with an index at the back. When confronted by a life problem or issue, we simply turn to the back, look up the relevant verses, and “Voilà!” divine wisdom is secured. In this way, the Bible becomes a kind of “owner’s manual ” for life, which can be consulted if we want to be a good leader, run a business, enhance our sex life, or lose weight. . . . In short, we get it wrong when the Bible is understood as a bundle of factoids dropped from heaven to make life work out. But we might get it right when we read Scripture as a story pointing to Christ.”
The Bible makes me nostalgic for God. It’s like I said earlier that it’s similar to a love letter. When you get a love letter no one has to force you to pour over it again and again. You read it because you want to, and write back, not out of compulsion, but out of reciprocal affection. When you read it you think of its author. You picture them in your mind saying these things to you in person.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we should only read the Bible when we feel like it. There’s nothing unspiritual about doing a spiritual exercise when we don’t feel like doing it, any more than it’s bad for you to jog or go to the gym when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes we have to do what we don’t want to do because we know doing it is going to be good for us.
As with any of the spiritual exercises – praying, worshipping, fasting, giving, meditating – reading the Bible is not an end in itself. We’re not trying to get God off our back by reading our compulsory chapter. The goal is not in the reading. It’s merely a means to the goal. As with all of the “disciplines,” it’s a vehicle that connects us with God. If, after a long absence, the person you love most in the world drives up to your house, you don’t go out and fawn over the car in which they came. The car is just a vehicle (duh, right?), a mode of transportation that brought your loved one to you. The vehicles that bring God to us and us to God are always less important than God himself. We read the Word in order to be pressed closer to the Word, Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, we can read the Bible with the heart of a Pharisee and never really get to know the God of the Bible. Those first century religionists were avid Bible students, but they certainly didn’t do very well in recognizing God when he came in the Person of Jesus, who said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39). The Pharisees are pretty much the same yesterday, and today, and forever!
Imagine that you’ve taken your first trip to the Swiss Alps and gotten a room with a spectacular view of the mountains. You decide to write home about your trip so far, and your letter goes something like this:
“I have a beautiful room with a picture window giving me a sweeping view of the Alps. This great window is twelve feet two inches long and four feet eight inches high. It is divided into three sections. The glass is set in steel frames that are painted jet black. We have studied the steel and paint; you can read the analysis in our study affixed to this letter. We have discovered that the panes of glass are kept in the frames by a putty composition, a sample of which we’ve analyzed and are providing you with an addendum of its chemical composition. Finally, we have inquired and learned from the hotel management their method of keeping these windows clean. You will be delighted to learn from the subjoined study the whole process of window washing and the formulas of the special detergents needed to cope with the climate here. In closing, I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed my study of the Swiss Alps.”
Silly, huh? Let’s not spend our whole lives looking at the Bible. It’s more like a window that we look through to get a better idea of God and his ways, so that we can know, love him, and be like him.
What are your favorite parts of Scripture and why?