Daily Reading: Psalms 1:1-6
Theme: The importance of God’s Word
How often we are urged to read our Bibles. From childhood the church encourages even our youngest to place God’s timeless truths in their memory. We have contests, memorization drills, and awards given to those who are most proficient. There, God’s Word remains, often our entire life. As adults we seek daily Bible reading programs and memorization cards to put God’s Word in our memories. We do this because we know we should and the Bible clearly commands it. It is our duty.
But, if we’re honest—truly honest—we can’t help at times questioning the value of the exercise, or worse, we tire of it. When we’re not sure we can make the rent payment, or we just lost our job, or a precious dream has gone up in smoke, memorizing another Bible verse seems pointless, almost trivial. The task gives off the faint hint of spiritual busy work. We are people of immediacy, people of instant gratification, constantly in search of the pay off. Any activity that does not produce a reward in some tangible way is suspect, eventually abandoned, or, at the very least, severely neglected.
How appropriate then that this study begins with David contrasting the ultimate conditions on this earth of those who learn to love God’s Word, as well as those who don’t. Ironically, David sees the greatest blessing in what love of God’s Word prevents in life; they are truly blessed who don’t accept the world’s counsel (v.1), who don’t take the path most traveled, nor ultimately become contemptuous, scoffing the ways of God.
Please note that David is speaking of the value delight in the law of the Lord (v.2) has in this life, on this earth, in your home, job, school, marriage, family, and church. It doesn’t matter how enticing or sumptuous a feast is spread before us, nor how many courses there are, if the only thing we are permitted is to look at it and smell it. If its only purpose is to activate our salivary glands it is more a curse than a blessing. Food is meant to be eaten and truth is meant to provide instruction for living, not merely lofty ideals for ivory tower academics.
Perhaps our greatest struggle in approaching God’s Word, however, is our tendency to see it more as a manual of life, a divine textbook we refer to in times of doubt or confusion. Our obligation to study our Bible is referred to as a “spiritual duty” which sounds suspiciously like homework.
Textbooks, even the best of them, are instructional, not delightful. We feel no great desire to curl up in a quiet corner with an English grammar book or Webster’s Dictionary. Yet we love stories; stories inspire, move, touch, and affect us deeply. David didn’t just read God’s Word; he delighted in it, pondering it, thinking about it, in short, meditating on it. It filled his mind day and night (v.2). David understood that God’s Word is a story, the greatest love story ever written. It was written by a loving Father to very beloved children, who tragically, were easily led astray from home, vulnerable to getting into trouble, easily distracted and in no time at all found themselves walking with the wrong crowd, standing in the wrong places and getting comfortable in the process (v.1).
But the Father had far different plans for them, He wanted them to know that He could fill their lives with stability in an unstable world, with hope and joy in their future on earth, and success in the things they became involved with. Like a well-watered tree in a drought-ridden land, like a fruit tree that bears fruit when all the trees around them wither up (v.3), His plan was to make their lives full, pleasant, meaningful, and a stark contrast to those who nevertheless wanted no part of Him.
We receive a great deal of correspondence in the mail, bills, advertisements, promotions, junk mail, and these we file away. But quickly perusing that pile of mail we find a letter from our beloved. We can’t wait to open the letter and read the words, because we love them, and know they love us. We read and re-read the letter. We remember parts of the letter, not because it is our duty, but because the words they wrote reminded us that we are loved by the one we care about most in the world.
The heart of all meaningful Bible study and memorization is delight. We must be delighted not only with the words, but the One who sends them to us. His words communicate His heart to us, His love for us, His concern for us, and His genuine desire for us to enjoy the life He has given us here on this earth.
Textbook or love story. A bill that needs to be paid, or a letter from our lover. Our approach determines whether our study of scripture is a duty or a delight.
“A man who loves his wife will love her letters and her photographs because they speak to him of her. So if we love the Lord Jesus, we shall love the Bible, because it speaks to us of Him. (John R. Stott)
A new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is...a book that is now speaking. (A.W.Tozer)
■ Joshua 1:8, 2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16