Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

16 April 2014


There is a great post on the Desiring God site about how to read the Bible when it's hard.   It's written by Jon Knight and it starts like this:

Years ago Noel Piper recommended a way to read the Bible that helped her, and, as I eventually discovered, helped me as well. She introduced a strategy that turned Bible reading from duty to delight:
I became a hunter, and my blue highlighter was my weapon. The prey was God’s attributes. I set out to underline everything the Bible says about God (didn’t want to set my sights too narrow!). . .
This “hunt for God” was irresistible to me. It drew me like a magnet. And once I was inside the pages, it kept my mind moving — no more drowsing and waking up two chapters later.
I was awakening to the power of God in disability, disease, and suffering, so I chose that as a theme to keep on the lookout.

In short, read the Bible searching out a theme.  Or apply that idea to a single book.

A couple of days ago I was doing some catch up Bible reading and in so doing, read the second half of Deuteronomy in a single sitting.  It's such a beautiful book.  I was swept away by God's tender loving kindness for his people. 

On first spec it looks like a lot of rules and instructions.  But it's not a series of barked out commands.  In addition to the oft mentioned encouraging refrain of "do this and you will live long and well in the land I am giving to you" - the promise of blessing - there's a softness of tone as well.

I got it first when I read one particular verse describing a bad situation that might arise between people (two individuals or two groups) and how not to respond in that circumstance.  As I read it I was convicted because given that situation, I know in my sinfulness I would respond badly.  Yet I didn't feel condemned.  The words were gentle and kind.  "Don't respond in such and such a way.  Instead you should do this."  I felt encouraged to think rightly and to respond in a godly way, should that situation arise.

And then I saw it.  God, not barking out harsh commands, but lovingly and kindly teaching His people how to be kind and loving towards one another - teaching them tenderly and carefully, knowing our every inclination toward sin.  God dealt with His people with such tenderness. 

It reminded me of Jesus' tenderness in his despair as he looked down upon Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
Matthew 23:37

It's true.  God is love.


Wendy said...

Great strategy! When I have an extended period to study (like not the daily before-breakfast time, but at a conference or retreat or something), I like to use a concordance to hunt down themes in the Bible. Kind of the even bigger than what you're suggesting here. I can wile away a lot of time doing that.

Meredith said...

Agreed. And there are lots of themes to explore, in individual books and across the whole Bible, which keeps it fresh and alive reading after reading.