It seems that every small appliance I buy has an instruction booklet that I take out of the box, drop into a file drawer, and only pull it out when I need it. For example, this past year Eva and I purchased a new drip coffee maker and the only time I used the instructions was when I was trying to figure out how to program it to start brewing before I woke up. Similarly, when we bought a new air conditioning unit, we ignored the instruction booklet, plugged it in and hit the on button. But then, a few months later, an annoying little red light came on, telling us to clean the filter. So I cleaned the filter but couldn’t get the red light to turn off. I then had to spend about a half hour looking for the instruction booklet, five minutes or so looking for the answer, and then about 10 seconds following the instruction in the booklet to turn off the warning light.
As the year is ending, I’m thinking about how we ought to view the Bible in the upcoming year. As it is, too often, we treat the Bible as if it were God’s instruction booklet and too often we use it as I use the instructions for small appliances. We keep it around (someplace) and pull it out to be read only if and when we need to address some issue in our lives. That’s not how God intended us to use His Word.
Psalm 119:97 says, “Oh how I love your Law (Torah), it is my meditation all day long.” This verse emphasizes what our attitude and action should be towards God’s Word. First, we should love the Bible. The first words of the verse surprise us because we think of the word “Law” as a harsh, cold set of rules. How do we love that? But the word “Torah” actually means “instruction” or “teaching.” In fact, the HCSB translates this verse as “How I love your instruction.” It captures how we’re to consider the Bible—as God’s instruction for life. It reveals wisdom, gives warnings, commands obedience, offers hope, shows godly examples, provides promises to claim, and teaches truths about God. God’s instruction book contains all this and more. No wonder the Psalmist declares his love for it. And if we recognize the Bible as all that, we will also love it.
And if we love God’s instructions, the Psalmist reveals what action we should take. He says it is his daily meditation. The Hebrew word used for “meditation” (shiakh) refers to deep thought or long contemplation. The psalmist is saying that because he loves God’s instructions He spends time pondering it every day and all day. It’s not enough to make grand declarations of love for the Bible—we need to also take concrete action to input the Bible into our minds, hearts and lives. So how do we do that? Here’s some suggestions for 2019.
First, if we love the Bible, we’ll read it daily. This seems so obvious but we too often, we neglect this principle. I was asking my friend Larry, who has read the Bible every day for the last 46 years (without missing a single day), what was the key to his faithfulness. His answer was straightforward. He said, “Since the God of the universe chose to reveal Himself in His Word, it makes sense for me to listen to what He says every day.” (I’ve linked a copy of the Navigator’s Bible in a Year reading plan that I find so helpful.)
Second, if we love the Bible, we’ll study it regularly. This is in addition to our regular reading of the Word. It might be, like Tricia, Open Line’s producer, to be part of a small group Bible Study that requires weekly preparation to participate. Or for me, in order to teach the Bible, I need to put the time in to study it in greater depth. Another example is my wife Eva, who regularly chooses a Bible book and then studies it, using commentaries, dictionaries, and lexicons, She doesn’t do this only so she can teach—she studies to develop a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. For some it might be carefully studying the message that we hear at our weekly worship services. Whatever approach we choose, it’s not enough only to read the Bible—we need to study it as well.
Third, if we love the Bible, it will occupy our thoughts even when we’re not reading and studying. That’s what meditation means. Having read and studied the Word, we need to contemplate where it fits in our lives and what steps we need to take to adjust our behavior to its teaching. No matter how much we may read the Bible, it’s insufficient if we fail to let it speak into our lives. It’s dangerous to traffic in unlived truth. And to apply God’s Word, we need to spend time pondering it.
The Bible isn’t an instruction booklet that we pull out when something breaks down or when a warning light goes off in our lives. Instead, we need to view the Scriptures as God’s instruction book that guides us in every area of life. It needs to fill our thoughts every day and all day. If that’s our view, then we’ll agree with the Psalmist, “Oh how I love your instruction, it is my meditation all day long.”