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Communion with God in Scripture is one of the great distinguishing marks of a Christian, an acid test of true spiritual life. Whatever else we are as believers, we are people who meet God in the Bible.
To be sure, we see shadows of God in other places: His glory glows in His creation (Ps. 19:1), confronting us everywhere, from the golden immensity of a galaxy to the wondrous intricacy of a cell. His moral perfection unhinges us with the thunderous whisper of an offended conscience. But these shadowy pictures are just that—all picture and no sound. “There is no speech,” the psalmist says, “nor are there words, whose voice is not heard” (Ps. 19:3). There is enough in nature to leave us without excuse (Rom. 1:18ff), but there is not enough to renew us deep within. This peculiar glory belongs to Scripture alone (Ps. 19:7). We may see His glory elsewhere, but only in Scripture do we hear His voice. How should we then approach the Bible?
1. Come fearfully. God is in this book. Scripture is the breath of His mouth (2 Tim. 3:16), the Word of His Son, the light of His presence (Ps. 109:105), the unveiling of His mind (1 Cor. 2:16), the bread of His baking (Deut. 8:3), the mirror of His glory (2 Cor. 3:8), the energy of His creation (Gen. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:6), the repairman of His image (John 17:17), the irrigating water of His life in the soul (Ps. 1:2–3), and the sword of His Spirit (Heb. 4:12). We should read “rejoicing with trembling” (Ps. 2:11).
2. Come prayerfully. There is no better fodder for prayer than to speak God’s Word back to Him. Talk to God before you read, and talk to Him as you read, about what you read. Plead for strength to obey every precept, claim every promise, follow every example, and to feel every truth. “I will not close this book until You bless me!”
3. Come thoughtfully. Scripture does its best work in us when we linger and hide its truth deep within. “Thy word I have hidden in mine heart [not scattered carelessly across its surface] that I might not sin against thee” (Ps. 119:11, KJV). Skimming Scripture will not lead you down into the depths of the deep things of God. Memorizing portions of the Bible will be of tremendous help here. Try to stretch your capacity beyond a verse or two, consigning paragraphs and even whole chapters to your heart. Then you will enter into the psalmist’s experience, “As I mused, the fire burned” (39:3).
4. Come realistically. No matter how much we know, there will always be an endless abyss forever beyond us. We should feel like a little child paddling above the Mariana Trench. As we look down into the darkness surrounding His glory, we cry out with Augustine, “I see the depths, but I cannot see the bottom.” Reading the Bible with realism also means that we will often read the Word and feel very little of God at all. The book itself preps us to expect such dry times (see Pss. 13; 88). The sacred songbook is full of such sentiments. When we feel abandoned, these songs remind us that we are not alone; others have passed this way before. God gave them these songs in the midst of their dereliction. Evidently, He was much nearer than they sensed Him to be.
5. Come systematically. Wasn’t it Spurgeon who said that it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian? We must resolve, therefore, to mine its depths all day, every day (Ps. 1:2). Only then will it become our constant reference point, the lens through which we view all of life. Only then will we develop the faith-habit of looking through the appearance of things to see reality.
6. Come submissively. Determine to hear God’s mind, not your own; to pursue His will, not your own; to be done with the Adamic habit of measuring God “by the yardstick of your own carnal stupidity” (as John Calvin says), and to take Him as He reveals Himself, on His terms, not your own. Let there be no “not yet” in your prayer for submission. “Give me spiritual chastity now” must be the cry of every reader determined to find God in this book.
7. Come expectantly. The closest possible connection exists between God and His Word. Why do you think He made the universe with words, when a mere thought would have done it all? Was it not to teach us the glory of His voice? When He speaks, nothing remains the same; everything changes. And when His Son came into the world, how does He introduce Him to us? As His Word, His voice of self-revelation, through whom He made all things (John 1:1–3). So, when we come to the Bible, we should come expecting to meet the Lord Christ. It is His book. It is all about Him. He is the righteousness of the Law, the wisdom of the Proverbs, the singer of the Psalms, the king on the throne, the voice of the Prophets, the sacrifice on the altar, the judge in the end, and the glory of it all. He is all of this in union with us, His people.
This book is alive with the life of Christ. It comes to us as a spiritual virus. Most viruses, of course, take life from us; this one has quite the opposite effect. It infects us with a restorative glory. Reading it, our vision returns, and we see things as they really are. What is more, don’t you have the uncanny feeling you aren’t the only one doing the reading? Someone is peering into your soul. Open the Bible, and you come to a book that reads you.