I am blogging my notes on a talk I gave at the UEA a few days ago entitled “How to read the bible”.
It’s possible to miss the point of the whole bible. When I was looking for a version for my children it took me a while to find one that communicated it clearly. Let me read you the introduction to “The Jesus Story Book”:
Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing….Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean. No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes.
So what is then? Listen to what Jesus says to the Pharisees:
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you posses eternal life. These and the scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me and have life. John 5:39-40
The bible is not about you or me it’s about Jesus. It’s not about Abraham or Othniel , its about Jesus, the Alpha and Omega. In a great video on youtube Tim Keller hammers home this key point:
- Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden (his garden, a much tougher garden) and whose obedience is imputed to us.
- Jesus is the true and better Abel, who though innocently slain, has blood that cries out not for our condemnation but for our equital
- Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar, to go into the void not knowing wither he went.
- Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just sacrificed by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us all. God said to Abraham now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from me. Now, we at the foot of the cross can say to God, now I know that you love me because you did not with hold your son, your only son whom you love from me.
- Jesus is the true and better Joseph who is at the right hand of the king and forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his power to save them.
- Jesus is the true and better Ester who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace but lost the ultimate heavenly one. Who didn’t just risk his life but gave his life. Who didn’t just say “if I perish, I’ll perish” but “when I perish I’ll perish, to save my people”
- Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out in the storm so that we could be brought in.
- He’s the real Passover lamb, he’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light the true bread.
- The bibles not about you!
The bible is about Jesus. What John says of his gospel is true of the whole bible. It’s written to reveal Jesus as the son of God so that we would know him and have life in him (John 20:31).
So how do you read your bible? To find out how to live? To see examples to copy? These are very, very secondary reasons and they can turn sour and make you miserable unless they are submitted to this primary one. I read my bible to see and savour Jesus. To know him. To encounter him. To delight in him.
To the Psalmist God’s word revealed and made knowable God himself. He says:
“Blessed are they who keep all his statues and seek him with all their heart.” v2
and again in verse 10:
“I will seek you with all my heart” v10
I love the way he starts of talking about God in the third person “his laws” and by verse 4 he is talking in the second person saying “your ways“. He is not interested in impersonal facts, through God’s word he is seeking a relationship with God. To him God’s word provides landing lights and a safe touchdown into a loving relationship with his saviour.
One commentator wrote that:
The composer of Psalm 119 poured over the Torah, the law of God, and understood its various divisions as few others do. He knew that God’s law represented His Name, His character and His will; that it was a transcript of the Almighty’s own soul and an everlasting fountain of blessing.
The reason he finds God’s word as sweet as honey (verse 103) is that he loves God. I love my wife’s voice, the way she looks, the way she moves, because I love her. I am besotted with her. For the Psalmist, as for me, reading the bible is a matter of the heart. As we read it we are enjoying and deepening our relationship with our wonderful saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Having looked at the Psalmists heart, in the next blog I will consider what is going on in his head.