READ: Psalm 64, Ezekiel 25-27, Mark 8, Romans 15
UNDERSTANDING THE WORD
“Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
George Herbert considered the Bible to be the storehouse and magazine of life and comfort. Herbert said of the Scriptures that there the Christian “sucks and lives” and that it is from the Word we find precepts for life, doctrine for knowledge, examples for illustration, and promises for comfort. These understandings are commonly known, but where Herbert serves us best is in his explanation of the means for understanding the Scripture.
A Holy Life. There are many who read the Bible but are unchanged by it for they do not read with a view to obedience. The Word is only transformative if we strictly obey it (Psalm 119:9). While it is true that the hidden Word keeps us from sin, it is just as true that a holy life positions us to understand the Word. When we approach the Word free from habitual sin, we understand it better. Sin clouds our understanding and blinds us to what we read. A pure, humble spirit that approaches the Word is rewarded with illumination. Holiness sharpens our mind; sin dulls our spiritual perception.
Prayer. In the West we tend to dichotomize prayer and Bible reading as if they were unconnected. “Worship Reading” was a term used at the beginning of the twentieth century to express the union of prayer and reading. As we read the Scriptures we should frequently pause and pray what the Scripture exhorts, praise God for the way Scripture reveals Him, and repent in the ways Scripture demands. Prayer (as we read) opens the hidden Word to us.
Diligent Collation of Scripture with Scripture. In our hunger to receive guidance we often contort the Scripture to suit our preference. Our protection is in allowing Scripture to comment on Scripture. This is why scope of reading is so helpful. When we daily read from the Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels, and Epistles, the Word explains and balances itself.
Commenters and Fathers. We have been given an incredible legacy in what one colleague calls the wisdom of “Old Dead Guys.” Every Christian should glean from the thinking and wisdom of the historic and global church. We understand the Lord better when we hear Him described by other nationalities and other generations. It is our loss when we neglect to learn from those who have gone before us.