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20
Nov
2017

Something to Chew On

November 20th, 2017 | in Education |    0   

Nourished by the Word of God

Note: This article first appeared on page 13 in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Alliance Connection magazine.

Have you ever seen the delight of a dog given a bone? After his excited prancing, the dog will drag it off to a quiet spot and go to work on it. He turns the bone over, licks it, sometimes letting out a low growl. He savours every bite. Later, he will likely bury the bone, returning to it the next day.

In Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson uses this scene to illustrate the term growl as used in Isaiah 31:4, “As a lion growls, a great lion over its prey— …” The Hebrew word hagah, translated as growl, he notes, is translated as meditate in Psalm 1:2, where the blessed person is described as one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” on which “he meditates day and night.” Hagah means that a person “is lost in his religion,” which is exactly what a dog does with his bone.

Eating Piecemeal

Some of us tend to “eat” the Bible piecemeal, a verse here and a verse there, perhaps a promise that gets us through the day, a quick devotional before scrambling out the door. We may be surviving spiritually, but not living the full life God intended.

Well-known pollster George Barna observed that most Christians are biblically illiterate. He suggested several reasons for this deficiency:

• People think they know all they need to know.
• Families are too busy to make Bible study a priority.
• Teachers are often poorly prepared to provide effective, reliable instruction.
• There is much confusion and rejection of biblical values in our world today.

Trying to live on a piecemeal diet that nibbles on a verse here or a passage there means we are often taking them out of context, missing out on the meaning they were originally meant to convey.

Meat or Milk

Babies need milk, but as they grow, they are able to chew and digest more and more types of food. God has used this same illustration in describing His children. At first, we can only take in certain key verses and promises, but as we mature in the faith, we are able to handle more and more from God’s Word. As mature Christians, God expects us to be getting into the meat of the Word; there should be no Bible vegetarians.

Gnawing requires work. When it comes to the Word of God, it involves digging into the verses to draw out all the “nutrients” God has put there. It means asking questions like, What do I learn about God from these verses? What is God telling me about unbelievers? How is God telling me I should live? What do I need to change in my life? What else does God have to say on that particular subject?

The important question isn’t “What does this say to me?”, but rather, “What did God mean by that?”

Gnawing means studying to show ourselves approved, correctly handling the Word of God (see 2 Timothy 2:15).

Gnawing means digging out maps to find out where events took place. Google World is an awesome way to visit many of these places. With the Internet today, we can check out reliable websites that will show us the various locations in pictures and videos.

We can learn the history of the times, what the culture was like, who was ruling at the time, and how people lived.
I knew very little about my paternal grandmother. A few years ago, I dug into my family history and traced much of her life’s experiences through the Internet. I visited the places in Sri Lanka and Scotland where she grew up and checked out what life was like there at the time she was a child. I found pictures of her church and school, as well as her name in a copy of the school register.

I saw a picture and learned about the ship that brought her to Canada as a teenager. I visited the farm area in southwestern Manitoba where she settled, married, had her family, and died, when my dad was 11. By visiting the local museum, I learned much about what life must have been like for her when she lived there. Although I never met her in person, I felt like I got to know her by digging for information.

God has so much more to tell us than what we see on the surface...Can we not do the same with people and events we read about in the Bible? God has so much more to tell us than what we see on the surface. He expects us to get our “teeth” into the “meat” of His Word (see Hebrews 5:11-14).

Gnawing requires time. It may mean spending weeks or months studying a small portion of Scripture. There are excellent commentaries and study guides available to help. See how God uses hyperbole, simile, metaphors, and other figures of speech. Check out keywords and cross-references.

Reading the Bible isn’t a matter of our own interpretation, but rather a discovery of what God wants us to know. For that reason, we should pray as we read, asking the Lord to speak to us through His words, asking Him to help us understand and obey them. We need to allow the message time to sink deeply into our hearts and minds. In the whole armour of God, His Word is the only weapon we have to fight against evil, so we should know how to use it properly (see Ephesians 6:10-18).

Sweet and Sour

I love sweets! While others may enjoy potato chips, cheezies, popcorn, or fries, chocolate is my favourite comfort food. When it comes to the Bible, we often also go to our favourite comfort passages, such as the Twenty-third Psalm. We love to spend time with them, meditating and enjoying the uplifting feeling they bring. Many of us have memorized psalms and other verses to bring us comfort in dark times.

Bible Colouring

A popular hobby these days is adult colouring. For those who enjoy it, it brings them closer to the heart of the Creator. It’s not so much about the finished product as it is about the process of developing the picture. It involves beginning with prayer and then meditating on the Scripture portion, allowing God to speak to you while colouring the page.

Bible journalling is another way of learning Scripture; it entails reading a portion of the Word and then writing it out by hand and/or writing out what you sense God is saying to you through that portion. Some people turn the verses into prayers for themselves or others.

Whatever our personal taste in meditating on Scripture, we have come to enjoy the promises and blessings, the sweet counsel and direction we receive.

Revelation 10:9-10 says, So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

The book he ate was the Word of God.

Many of us can relate to the Word being as sweet as honey, but the sour might be a little harder to swallow. The Bible says some things we may not want to hear or obey; things that may be hard to digest.

The Devil still likes to use the oldest trick in the Book: “Did God really say...?” Did God really say to love my enemies? Did God really say that a husband should love his wife just like Christ loves the Church? Did God really say to tell my neighbours about Him?

Many view the Bible as being irrelevant to life in the 21st century, so they toss it out of their homes, schools, and politics. The attitude seems to be, “If it makes you uncomfortable, get rid of it! If it feels good, do it!”

Many books of the Bible show how God’s people maintained their faith in a world enticing them to blend in. Daniel and his Jewish friends faced pressure under the Babylonians, who tried to turn them against God. The Apostle Paul wrote letters to churches that were often swayed by the culture around them.

When entering the land of Canaan, Moses exhorted the Israelites to keep the Word of God, to recite it to their children and talk about it at home and when out and about, when they were ready to begin their day and when they were ready to go to bed. It was to become an integral part of their daily lives. Their antidote to Canaan’s influence was to rehearse again and again the story of God’s deliverance. They were to intentionally remind themselves each day how God intervened to rescue, preserve, and protect His people.

In the State of the Bible 2017, Barna observed that “More than half of all adults wish they read the Bible more often (58%).” 

Christians are to feed on Scripture, to take it into the very fiber of our being, so that it becomes a part of who we are...

Christians are to feed on Scripture, to take it into the very fibre of our being, so that it becomes a part of who we are, just as digesting good food becomes part of our physical lives.

How we take in the Word of God – piecemeal, milk or meat, sweet or sour – it’s something we all need to chew on!

Links:

• Why So Many Bible Versions
• Test Your Bible Knowledge
• The Teeter Totter – What is the cause of a lack of biblical knowledge
• Biblical Illiteracy and the Technological Tsunami – Biblical illiteracy is the result of personal choices, not technological advances or lack thereof
• Preaching and Biblical Literacy - Strategies to help nurture a desire to know the Scriptures
• Think It’s in the Bible? Think Again! - Popular quotes that are not from the Bible


Gladys Thompson, Communications Coordinator at The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada’s National Ministry Centre, is Editor of Alliance Connection.

more stories by Gladys Thompson
Tags: magazine-fall-2017, Bible

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