The Bible is really an incredible book. Written over 1500 years by 40 different authors on 3 continents in 3 different languages (a little Aramaic never hurt anybody), all presenting one unified story about Christ and His Church (check out this visual representation of all the cross references in this unified word). The Bible has shaped Western civilization, giving us our legal and judicial systems, inspiring the greatest works of art and literature, and shaping all the great men and women who made our world what it is today. The Bible has been the New York Times best-seller since before the New York Times even existed, selling over 100 million copies annually. It is something worth reading over and over and over again.
But not all methods of reading the Bible are created equal. It’s not enough simply to read through the Bible (though that would certainly be better than the majority of nominal Christians today). Jesus Himself said that Bible reading alone isn’t enough:
You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that testify concerning Me. Yet you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.John 5:39-40
Before trying to break down this verse and its implications, I’d like to discuss this topic of “enjoying” as the first word in the title of this post.
Hebrew: עֵדֶן —transliteration: Eden —meaning: delight or pleasure
It’s interesting to consider God’s choice for the name of man’s original home pre-fall – Eden. This word implies a place of pleasure, a paradise. We can infer from this that God desired man to live a life full of pleasure, happiness, and joy. While the curse may have brought in suffering and even some distortions of pleasure, the New Testament makes it clear that God’s intent with man is still to give Him pleasure, to make him joyful:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.Philippians 4:4
Always rejoice,1 Thessalonians 5:16
God still intends man to be happy, joyful, and even full of pleasure. We are pleasure-seeking beings. This is simply a fact. And it’s foolish to blame this on the Fall as if it were some sort of mutation of mankind’s telos. We were made with tastebuds, hormones, and a craving for delight. The only question is, where do we satiate this craving.
God as the True Enjoyment
God is the true source of enjoyment. All other sources are mere shadows, counterfeits seeking to imitate the true Fountain of Joy. God causes us to “drink of the rivers of His pleasures” (36:8). He is the true fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13). One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22)! The kingdom of God is even considered “joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). When we seek to please our pleasure-seeking impulses in lesser things than the Fountain of Life, we are left disappointed and remain thirsty (John 4:13). There’s only one life that is “really life” (1 Timothy 6:19).
But where do we find this pleasurable God? Where can we access the rivers of His pleasure and enjoy all that sits at His right hand? There’s really only one answer: the Bible.
Embodied in the Word
The Bible isn’t merely a book written by a bunch of men over the last 1500 years that has impacted western civilization. There’s a Spirit behind the Word of God:
For no prophecy was ever borne by the will of man, but men spoke from God while being borne by the Holy Spirit.2 Peter 1:21
The Bible isn’t merely “basic instructions before leaving earth.” It’s a living and abiding Person, the embodiment of the Word of God, Jesus Himself (Rev. 19:13). The Bible contains and even embodies the the Lord Jesus Himself, and by coming to the Bible, there is the possibility of coming in contact with and enjoyment of the pleasurable God of the universe. The Bible is the very breath of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and the words of the Lord are spirit and life (John 6:63). So how do we, as Mary Lathbury put it1, get “beyond the sacred page” and find the Lord in the Scriptures as contrasted with the Pharisees in John 5?
Enjoying the Word of God
Have you ever tried to swallow a piece of food whole without chewing it? Sure, it’s standard for those of us taking a daily multivitamin, but even with that, most still opt for a gummy-form for the added pleasure. Point being, enjoyment with food is in the chewing, the tasting. In the same way, the Word of God is our food (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4; Jeremiah 15:16). And the Lord has no desire to merely inject it directly into our veins for nourishment. Sure, the Bible is our source of nourishment and even issues in our spiritual growth and maturity (1 Pet. 2:2), but if we don’t actually chew upon the Word of God as we do our physical food, all our reading may be in vain…Consider this verse:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to God.Colossians 3:16
How richly does the word of Christ dwell in you? You might know a lot of the Bible, but does the word have a rich dwelling in your being, full of enjoyment (as the remainder of this verse implies)? Consider the experience of one of the greatest Christians of the nineteenth century, George Mueller, as articulated in his autobiography:
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, whilst meditating, my heart might be brought into experiential communion with the Lord …The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God; searching, as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of public ministry of the Word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul…I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow-believers to ponder this matter.
The process of spiritual digestion of God’s Word begins in the chewing, implying the rumination and musing upon verses in the Scriptures. The only way we can really get beyond the sacred page to the pleasurable Lord Himself is by our “milking” the verses themselves, taking time to extract the spirit behind the black and white.
The Bible is an incredible book, shaping western culture, inspiring the great artists, poets, and writers of the last two millennia, and consistently crushing all other competitors for the top spot on the best-seller lists, but the Book speaks of itself as much more than a religious text. When prophets were handed God’s word in days of old, the command was not to read or study. They were commanded to eat:
And He said to me, Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your inward parts with this scroll that I am giving you. And I ate it, and it was like honey in my mouth in its sweetness.Ezekiel 3:3
And I went to the Angel and told Him to give me the little scroll. And He said to me, Take it and devour it, and it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.Revelation 10:9
As we approach God’s Word today, we should view it in the same way. We aren’t going to a textbook to read and study (though there is a time and place for that). First and foremost, we are going to feed. We should meditate upon the words of the Scriptures, musing upon the verses, mingling the text with prayer, confession, praise, and repentance. God’s Word is our inner man’s food. May we learn to feed it!
When I saw Robert earlier this week, he asked when I could have my grandson, Reese, speak to our group. Robert has always taken an interest in Reese and I just got a copy of a blog from Reese that I thought I would send in tribute to Robert.
Robert was a special friend to each of us and an inspiration also.