Now let us read again what the psalmist in Psalm 19 says about his experience of the scriptures:
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. 11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
From reading this we get the idea that the psalmist did not consider this Book we call the Bible to be a dry old dusty book of ancient history. For him it was a powerful Word that God uses to transform lives, including ours if we will let him.
Having used 6 charactistic names for God ‘s word, he says that it has some incredible ATTRIBUTES:
- Pure, enduring forever
- Firm, and altogether righteous
And then goes off into further enthusiastic description as he says that the Word of God is:
- more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
- sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
Now that’s a man who loved the Word of God and had found deep satisfaction in his experience of reading the Word and applying it to his life. Honey has to be tasted to really know how sweet and satisfying and nourishing it is, and the Word of God has to be engaged with deeply to know the wonders of this Book to transform our minds and hearts as the Spirit of God applies it to our lives.
So, in what ways does the psalmist suggest that God’s word deeply touches our lives?
He says, because:
- It is perfect, it refreshes our souls
- It is trustworthy, it makes us wise
- It is right, it brings joy to our hearts
- It is radiant, it gives us spiritual insights
And all this because it endures forever and is altogether righteous.
But then he also adds that by reading and taking note of what he reads “your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
So, not only refreshment, wisdom, joy, spiritual insights but the opportunity to be warned of danger, particularly related to our sinful tendencies. But then on top of this, the psalmist believes that in reading and obeying the truth we read, the result will be rich blessings or “great reward”.
So, what has been your experience of reading the Bible lately? Is your experience like that of the psalmist? Can you say that as you read the Word of God, your heart burns within you, that your heart is not only informed but inflamed? Is it more precious than gold [to you], than much pure gold? And is it sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb?
If not, then maybe it is time to consider how this might be possible. Maybe time to ask God to speak to you through his word again in a life changing way.
Let me give you some suggestions from the Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care that I mentioned earlier concerning formative Bible reading.
On the role of meditating on the Scriptures there is a quote from George Swinnock, a Puritan born in the early 1600s. He uses the term ‘conversing with scripture’, meaning to meditate or spend time allowing the Spirit of God to speak through the Word. He speaks of the ‘purposeful reading of scripture’ whereby the truth of God’s Word grips the three main faculties of our souls: our understanding (so that God is esteemed to be ‘above all’), our emotions and desires (so that we desire Him ‘more than all’ others), and the will (which chooses Him ‘before all’ others). He suggests that scripture meditation is the means by what is known in our head moves down into our heart, breaks out into our lives, and then like a channel of grace, flows out to others to the glory of God. ‘Above all’, writes Swinnock, ‘meditate on the infinite majesty, purity, and mercy’ of God as revealed in the Bible.
Then concerning the role of prayer in our reading of the scriptures, George Marsden suggests that reading and prayer are inseparable. He says, “Prayer is the language we use to begin our Bible reading. Prayer is the spirit in which Bible reading is conducted – and prayer is what flows from the reading itself”. As we come to the Word of God we need to remind ourselves who’s Book this is. Remind ourselves who the author is. And then humbly seek Him asking Him to speak into our lives through his Word. John Wesley wrote that “serious and earnest prayer should be constantly used before [and as] we consult the oracles of God”.
Then having spent time with God reading and praying, the next step is application or action. G Campbell Morgan said that “Bible study must always provoke action; hearing and doing are vital elements of a Bible-centred obedience” Bible reading must ultimately bear fruit in our lives, or we are wasting our time! The fruit being not only information but transformation. The reading of the Bible should be expected to bring instruction and through the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about a Godward change in our lives. Jesus in John 15 said “This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (v8).
So, to summarize, some words that should be associated with our reading of the scriptures are:
- Pray – ask God to reveal his truth to your heart and mind and then pray in response to what you read.
- Read – not just using your mind but with an open heart to respond to the reading and what the Spirit of God wants to teach you.
- Hear – listening to what God has to say to you
- Mark – note things that make an impression, journal what God may be saying to you so you don’t forget and can later reflect on what God has said and done.
- Learn – allow the passage to impact your life by asking relevant questions like, what would my life look like if I obeyed this truth?
- Taste – make the Word personal, actually apply it today.