Tuesday, May 20, 2014
How to Read the Bible
When I was in my first childhood, I looked forward to singing favorite songs when I went to Sunday school: “Jesus Loves Me,” “Fishers of Men,” This Little Light,” “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and, let’s not forget “The B-I-B-L-E.” (“Yes, that’s the book for me!”)
And, what is the B-I-B-L-E? Of course, we all know that it is the Word of God, for indeed, the words in this great book are “God-breathed”; and how amazing is the first verse of the Gospel of John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (KJV) The Word is God!! How awesome to think about that sentence!! The Word is God!!
A couple of weeks ago one of the writers of my Sunday School materials challenged the way I read my Bible. First of all, he referred to the Bible as God’s symphony.(And what music could ever be sweeter than that which the Creator of the Universe has composed?). Secondly, he said that the Bible is “God’s painting of His indelible love and lament.” (And what artist’s work could be more effective and impressive than the original works our God, who planned the natural beauty of our world, has designed?) Thirdly, the writer called the Bible God’s literary epic “expressing such yearning compassion for humanity that He invites us to join Him in His ongoing story.” (And what literature could be more beautifully written than that story which God Himself has plotted?)
Since Sunday I have been questioning the spirit and attitude with which I read my Bible. As a retired high school English teacher, I always watch the writer’s craft as I read, highlighting or copying phrases or sentences I want to remember so, yes, I do agree and will argue that the Bible is a literary epic. I have no problem with the writing I find there. But I am concerned about listening for God’s symphony when I read. Do I hear the music, the various sections of the orchestra led by a masterful Conductor? Do I recognize and enjoy the crescendos, the violins, the harmony? At the same time, I am also concerned about seeing and absorbing the beautiful images God paints to illustrate what I am reading. Do I take time to see the brilliant colors and spectacular scenes that only God can create? Or do I just read my verses as quickly as I can so I can hurry on to check my email, watch television, or do something else? Do I miss the joy and pleasure that reading the Bible with my ears and eyes as well as my mind will provide? What do I put into my Bible reading? Before I begin reading, do I ask God to open my heart to the message, to enable me to read with all of my senses, to experience all the feelings He has provided for me in His Word?
There is certainly no doubt that I need to slow my daily life-pace down and truly appreciate God as a master composer, artist, writer; I need to appreciate the Bible as a work of creation about creation. Music, painting, and literature, three mediums that give beauty and inspiration to a life, and in the Bible there are examples of them all if I will just pay attention. I pray that as I read the Bible now, I will savor the music, the paintings, and the literature I find there. And, when I do, reading the B-I-B-L-E, which is still the book for me, will be a richer experience.