Christianity 201

February 25, 2016

Delighting in God’s Message to Us

NLT Ps. 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12 I praise you, O Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 I have recited aloud
    all the regulations you have given us.
14 I have rejoiced in your laws
    as much as in riches.
15 I will study your commandments
    and reflect on your ways.
16 I will delight in your decrees
    and not forget your word.

35 Make me walk along the path of your commands,
    for that is where my happiness is found.
36 Give me an eagerness for your laws
    rather than a love for money!
37 Turn my eyes from worthless things,
    and give me life through your word.

130 The teaching of your word gives light,
    so even the simple can understand.
131 I pant with expectation,
    longing for your commands.

Today we’re paying a return visit to author J. D. Greear’s blog where he writes about seeing past reading God’s word as duty or requirement, but being passionate and excited about God’s revelation to us. What follows is the introduction to a series of articles which appeared on February 22, 2016. Clicking the title below will take you to the original source from where you can navigate to other items, which I will also try to link at the end of the article here.

Why Do We View the Bible with Drudgery Instead of Delight?

he longest chapter in Scripture is an enraptured poem, and its theme is not romance or sex or adventure or nature…it’s the Bible itself. The writer of Psalm 119 understood something we often miss—that the greatest beauty in the world is God’s Word. That’s why, in this four-part series, we’re going to reflect on the immense value of the Bible. The Bible is the astounding story of God’s love for us—a story so precious that no other book even compares.

Let me start with a candid admission: the Bible can be intimidating. For Christians, we don’t shy away from the Bible because we’re opposed to it; it’s just that, if we’re completely honest, we have a hard time getting excited about it. We often feel about the Bible like we do the “terms and conditions” page that comes up when Apple wants to put new software on our computers. We stare at page after page of tedious mumbo-jumbo, and just want to know, “Where’s the ‘accept all’ button?”

We’re not anti-Bible. We like the parts about Jesus. And some of the fun Old Testament stories. And most of the psalms. We just have a tough time seeing the forest for the trees.

And rightly so. There’s a lot going on. The Bible has over 1,600 commands. Forty different authors. Over 3,000 characters (31 of whom are named Zechariah!). And then there are the genealogies, where Abima-shazam begets Mel-shizzle, the son of a Banana—or, at least, that’s how it sounds to us.

So when we come across a poem like Psalm 119, in which the author repeatedly talks about his “delight” in God’s Word, we legitimately have no idea what he means. “Delight” is one of the last words we would use for our experience with Scripture. What is it about the Bible that he knew that we don’t? Why was his experience with the Bible “delight” while ours is drudgery?

There are several reasons (and we’ll get into the rest of them later this week). Today, I want to focus on just one: the Bible is revelation from God, not enlightened thoughts about God.

Nowhere in Psalm 119—or in the entire Bible—do we find Scripture referred to as our thoughts about God. It’s always God’s miraculous unveiling to us. You might not see that distinction as all that meaningful, but it makes all the difference in the world.

Our culture, you see, relegates the Bible to one collection of thoughts about God—good ones, perhaps, but not unique. Every religion, we think, has got something to offer, and we’re all just trying to figure this thing out together. So when we look at the Bible, we assume that it’s an honest attempt by mistaken individuals to grasp at the unknowable.

Jesus never believed that. He used the Scriptures all the time, and every time Jesus used the Bible, he did so authoritatively. Jesus believed that when the Bible spoke, God spoke. Even as the very Son of God, he saw himself as the explainer and fulfiller of Scripture, never its corrector. He even said that heaven and earth would pass away before one dot of the Bible would become untrue (Matt 5:18).

I know that’s hard for 21st-century minds to accept. How could something written by fallible humans be the word of God? I’m not saying it’s an easy or obvious doctrine—any more than Jesus being 100% God and 100% man is easy or obvious. The Christians doctrine about the Bible is patently miraculous. But it’s also the way Jesus (and the author of Psalm 119, and every other author of Scripture) saw things.

And here’s why that matters: if you see the Bible as a collection of enlightened thoughts, a consensus of wise people “doing the best they can,” that’s not going to inspire a lot of delight. Sure, there may be parts that are interesting, even inspiring. But as C. S. Lewis once pointed out, we’ve always had wise writings, and we usually don’t follow them; why would we listen to this one if we don’t listen to all the others?

Seeing the Bible as enlightened thoughts might inspire us. More often than not, though, it’ll just confuse us, because we’re still responsible to figure out which parts are worth keeping and which parts aren’t. At first, keeping ourselves in the driver’s seat might seem appealing. But it’s actually a huge problem. There isn’t much use in getting a map if you know that 20% of it isn’t right, but you don’t know which 20%. You might as well not have the map at all.

And that’s precisely the beauty of the Bible. If we’re lost in darkness, stumbling along in life—as Christianity says we all are—then we don’t need enlightened thoughts from the best stumblers. We need, as Psalm 119:89 says, “a word established in the heavens.” We need someone from above to show us what we can’t see down here. We need God himself to pull back the veil.

 

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