The purpose of Scripture is no less than our salvation. Louis Berkhof notes that Scripture “serves the purpose of securing the end for which man was created in spite of the disturbance wrought by sin.” Therefore, we ought to approach the Bible with a desire to “know, believe, and obey the will of God.” Our primary desire shouldn’t be to study the Bible as literature or history or to collect knowledge but to know and obey God. We study the Bible first and foremost as God’s address to sinners concerning salvation.
Further, the Larger Catechism notes that the Word is to be read with great diligence. Luke commends the noble Bereans for their diligence in searching out the Scriptures. That attending the Word with great diligence is required is apparent by its medium. Surely if it has pleased God to disclose Himself to His people through the medium of the written word, He expects His people to read it—to search Him out with great fervor and attentiveness. When a deployed soldier receives a letter from his beloved wife, does he not read it over again, meditating on its meaning, savoring every word, searching its contents, paying attention to its matter and scope? Every Christian should strive to confess with Job, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23:12).
In addition, the Word of God is to be read with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer. Certain cultural and lifestyle factors interfere with our best efforts in approaching God’s Word meditatively. Bibles are nearly ubiquitous. Our pockets beep or vibrate, immediately bringing to mind something other than the words of life that just had our attention. Modern life makes meditation complex. But certainly Joshua also encountered distractions, yet the Lord commanded him, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it” (Josh. 1:8). Similarly, the busy new mother “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
As we read meditatively, we will see that God’s message to us is not merely theoretical but personal and practical. It applies to all of life. Sometimes its message might interfere with our own preferences and desires. But we are to accept not only the parts of Scripture that accord with our own preferences but even those that disrupt and bring discomfort. This requires self-denial, a surrender of our own desires and standards to God’s Word. Admittedly, this can be painful. But as A.A. Hodge reminds us, “When God speaks, and we understand his meaning, there is nothing left for us but to bow and adore.”
Last, we read with prayer. We must earnestly and continually beseech God to impress the truths we read and hear deep into our hearts.
Our holy God has written to us. Tolle lege—take up and read accordingly.