Thursday, March 24, 2022

Reflections about Studying, Reading, and Meditating on God's Word

Sometimes I really dive into the text in my study.  I am reminded, though, of something I heard from a very wise and spiritual tuned person.  He said that one of the challenges for someone that has training in the biblical languages, exegesis, and theology, is engaging in what could be called "simply reading" the text.  

When I am trained to be able to study, analyze, and dissect the text, it is not unusual for me to be the one "in control" of the process.  The scriptures can easily become an object of study.  I believe it was Søren Kierkegaard that observed how scholars used the tools of scholarship to keep the scriptures at bay.  In other words, scholars used scholarship to avoid doing what the scriptures instructed.  The scriptures became an academic exercise, an artifact to be studied.  On the other hand, what can be called "simply reading," takes all of this and turns it on its head.  Rather than me approaching the text with my scalpel in order to dissect it, I get out of the driver's seat and let the scriptures take its scalpel to me.  Rather than me analyzing and dissecting the scriptures, the scriptures analyze and dissect me.  After all, the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword.  It dissects the thoughts and intentions of my heart.  This can be a challenge to someone with theological and scholarly training.  My first inclination is to grab my Greek or Hebrew text, my lexicons, word studies, historical studies, etc. 
It occurs to me that this is not a temptation just for those with scholarly training, but for anyone who engages in Bible "Study."  I look back on my own history and remember that even before I had theological training, I often did the same thing.  It can happen in Bible Classes, study groups, or in individual study.  This is a pitfall for everyone who approaches the Bible.  It seems that the only way to avoid this pitfall is to recognize the word of God as living and active.  It is not like other words because it is the word of God.  It is breathed out by the breath of God, which gives life.  When I read the words of scripture, I am reading something in a completely unique category.  This means that whether I am just "reading" or "studying," I need to begin with prayer.  I need to ask questions such as, "What is God communicating to me?"  or  "What does this teach me about God?"  I need to conclude with prayer and respond to the scriptures, which includes thanksgiving, praise, or repentance.  I need to recognize that God's word is the major tool that God uses on me, whether I think of it as the pure milk of the word that makes me grow, or the sword of the Spirit that helps me to overcome the schemes of the evil one, or something sharper than a two-edged sword, like a spiritual scalpel for my heart, mind, and soul.  

Thank you Lord for the incalculable blessing of your word!  My I meditate on it day and night and be as a tree that has been transplanted by living water, bearing fruit for your glory!

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