On Scripture as Food

On Scripture as Food

On Scripture as Food

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (St. Jerome).

“Nobody’s fault but mine, nobody’s fault but mine. When I die and my soul be lost, ain’t nobody’s fault but mine. I got a Bible in my home, I got a Bible in my home. If I don’t read and my soul be lost, ain’t nobody’s fault but mine.”  (Blind Willie Johnson, legendary Delta blues musician from the 1930’s).

Choose the Food, then Chew the Food

CHOOSING THE FOOD

“The words I have spoken to you are Spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63).

Scripture is soul food, which is an enduring metaphor found throughout the Bible. Reading the Bible allows us to read God’s mind… What a profound privilege and gift. The words of Moses come to mind, that “you cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Scripture is our daily nutrient, nourishing our mind and soul and inmost parts. So we need to consider the Word like Job did, who said “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.” (Job 23:12). Let us seek to sample the flavors of the Word like the psalmist, who said “How sweet are your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103). Let us swallow the Scripture joyfully like Jeremiah, who said, “When your words came to me, I ate them, for they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” (Jeremiah 15:16). Let us digest God’s Word like Ezekiel, to whom God said, “‘Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you, and fill your stomach with it.’ So Ezekiel obeyed, and ate the scroll,, and it was sweeter than honey.” (Ezekiel 3:3). Finally, let us feed on Scripture like St. John, who took a little scroll from the hand of an angel and ate it hungrily. (Revelations 10:10).

While we are feasting on Scripture, we need to maintain a balanced diet… Since we are children of Abraham (Galatians 3:29), we need to study the Hebrew Bible (the O.T.) seriously and regularly with its Torah and writings and prophets; and we need to delve deeply into the New Testament as well, remembering that the Gospels are our bread and butter. The Gospel story is the greatest story ever told. As Andrew Klavan once said, the Gospel is when myth meets history, when mankind’s most earnest and persistent hope becomes reality. The Gospels are our grid when considering theology. If a particular theology seems inconsistent with the Jesus we find in the Gospels, go with the Gospels. The Gospel Jesus trumps a theological Jesus, because the Gospel is God’s Word, and theology is man’s word. God’s Word is our reference point whenever discerning man’s word.

May our mind and heart be like an open mouth, ready to close on the solid food of holy Scripture. Let us pray that we will enjoy fresh bread daily, baked in the mouth of the Lord. But our spiritual growth isn’t dependent merely on choosing the right food, it also involves chewing this food so it is digested and its spiritual nutrients reach to our mind and heart and spirit.

CHEWING THE FOOD

“Meditation is a divinely appointed means of acquiring the mind of Christ.” (Peter Toon, Meditating As A Christian).

Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Jesus reserved his most scathing critiques for those who knew the details of Scripture but not the meaning. The religious of His day might have known their stuff, but they didn’t know their God. Instead of holding a little seminar with the Lord, meditation allows us to merely sit at His feet and choose “the one thing needful.” Facts and bare knowledge are earthbound if seen as the end, but are heaven sent when viewed as a means to wisdom and understanding. The true end, of course, is God Himself.

Hunger for soul food not sermon material. How easy it is to gather insights for someone else’s benefit… “He really needs to hear this.” Meditation is not for purposes of spiritual one-upsmanship or seeing who is more profound. It is for strengthening the inner person, and for deepening one’s union with the Person of Jesus. It is God’s business how divine insights might be fleshed out. Leave it to Him.

The self must empty before God can fill. Our spiritual journey is simply a movement from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. Meditation moves in that same direction, and it is truly creative… Walking from the spiritual emptiness of self to the fullness and richness and power of the Holy Spirit. Meditation fills the time with God and His thoughts, it transforms the self, and proceeds to “renew the right spirit” within us.

Learn to progress from adult to child. It takes a child to meditate, someone who is open, teachable and adventuresome. The tendency is to try to be God’s equal, approaching Him with a briefcase full of pet doctrines and human agendas. The child-like meditator, though, is unafraid to admit ignorance, humbly tapping the mind of the Eternal Teacher in a spirit of discovery and innocent doggedness. Meditation is buttoning our adult lips and opening our child-like ears.

Become a sacred cow. To ruminate means to literally chew your cud. So take a small mouthful of Scripture, pray over and through it, chew on it, let it slowly digest, keep it in your heart, beneath the surface, for ongoing pondering and spiritual nutrition. Take small, rich morsels in a quiet corner of your soul. Meditation is not using the drive-thru for MacBible fast food. Slow down and ruminate.

The heart needs to keep its reason. Even though Bible meditation is heart-to-heart conversation with our Creator God, our mind needs to remain engaged in key ways: in the imagination as we picture the scene and context; in the reason as we test insights later against other portions of the Word; in the conscience as we strengthen our resolve to overcome evil and ignorance. Heartfelt meditation is not a mindless exercise, but in fact allows us to love God with all our mind.

Worship first and ask questions later. Nothing opens our spirit like a rush of worship and praise. Thank God for who He is, for what He has done through history, and not for whatever wisdom or insights or other goodies He might provide. We don’t talk to God like He is some divine Santa Claus to see what we can get out of Him. Instead, we approach the heavenly King in adoration, thankful that He has graciously extended the unmerited invitation to enjoy His presence and favor and grandeur. What else is there that compare to that?

VARIOUS THOUGHTS ON BIBLE MEDITATION

a. “I hold the Bible in my hand in order to let my Master penetrate the depths of my being with His Word and facilitate inner moral and spiritual transformation.”  (Peter Toon).

b. “Blessed Lord, who has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1662).

c. “It is by hearing, reading and particularly meditating upon the Word of God that the Spirit becomes active in the renewing of the mind and heart.”  (Peter Toon).

d. “To meditate is to read a text and to learn it ‘by heart’ in the fullest sense of this expression, that is with one’s whole being: with the body since the mouth pronounced it; with the memory which fixes it; with the intelligence which understands its meaning; and with the will which desires to put it into practice.” (Jean Leclerq).

e. “Biblical meditation is part of a total commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and is a necessary part of waiting upon God, becoming more like Jesus, and putting first the kingdom of heaven.” (Peter Toon).

f. “Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, while meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, searching as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word; not for the sake of preaching what I have meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.” (George Muller).

g. “To meditate Christianly is to wait upon the Lord Jesus Christ, to feel His presence and the warmth of His love, to listen for His word, and to be ready to do His bidding.” (Peter Toon).

h. (a prayer before reading the Word) “Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height, for my understanding is in no way equal to that, but I do desire to understand a little of your truth which my heart already believes and loves. I do not seek to understand so that I may believe, but I believe so that I may understand; and what is more, I believe that unless I do believe I shall not understand.” (St. Anselm, Proslogion).

I. “Meditation is the prayerful consideration of God’s self-revelation with a view to worshipping, loving and serving Him.” (Peter Toon).

j. “Just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

k. “Whatever method we choose we must come to sacred Scripture ready to be placed at God’s disposal and therefore keen to hear His Word. This keenness to hear may be compared with that of a mother for her baby. Before giving birth to her child she may have slept soundly through the loudest noise; but after the birth, the child has only to rustle in the crib and the mother will awake. Her keenness grows and matures in loving care and attention; and her care affects her senses so that she hears with new ears. In love of God and keenness to hear from Him we too will develop new, inner ears to pick up His quiet voice, speaking to us words of grace both in our reading of the sacred text and in our times of prayer.” (Peter Toon).

l. (a prayer before reading the Word) “God of truth, I ask that I may receive, so that my joy may be full. Meanwhile let my mind meditate on it, let my tongue speak of it, let my heart love it, let my mouth preach it, let my soul hunger for it, my flesh thirst for it, and my whole being desire it, until I enter into the joy of my Lord, who is God, one and triune, blessed forever. Amen.” (St. Anselm).