Reading the Bible in TECHNOCOLOR
Pretend a new candy bar has come out and it’s setting in front of you. If we treat it the way we treat a Bible passage, we’ll first cut it up into little pieces. You look at the individual parts: nuts, caramel and so on. Are these your favorites? Are you allergic to any ingredients? A problem with braces? Try cross-referencing it: Is it like other candy bars you know about? Finally, look at the wrapper and notice all the stats: calories, sugar content, fat content. Let’s say you decide this new candy bar is a winner, but instead of eating it you toss it aside.
That’s what people do when they only study a passage of Scripture and do not meditate on it. Scripture study is like examining the candy bar closely—a good idea! Scripture meditation is like taking a bite of the candy bar, chewing it slowly and swallowing with delight. Scripture meditation is what delivers the content to your innermost being. It’s a time to talk to Jesus about what the Spirit has said to you through the passage.
So study is Step 1 and meditation is Step 2. They go together. When studying, you read analytically for information and with meditation you listen to what God has to say to you. My students tell me that only studying the Bible is like watching a black and white movie; meditating on it turns on the technicolor!
You may have seen what happens when only one of the steps is taken. If people only study, they know facts about God and Bible history but may be experimentally unaware of God’s presence and how God is speaking to them. They may like having learned something new or having checked off that day’s Bible reading, but that is not what usually feeds our life with God or changes us from the inside.
When people only meditate, they may misinterpret the straightforward ideas of Scripture and incorrectly sense what God might be saying to them. What is learned in Scripture study opens up a rich historical context and meaning of words, both of which enhance Scripture meditation.
So try this from Mark 10: 17-22
A wealthy young official has approached Jesus, asking what he must do to find eternal life. After urging him to address only God as “good,” Jesus refers him to obeying the commandments, which leads to a life well lived. Our youthful leader knows them and has worked to obey them. So far, so good.
At this point, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” What facial expression might Jesus have had? Did Jesus eye him warmly, perhaps even smile at him? Did he nudge him on the shoulder? How would the smart and powerful young man feel at being focused on by his hero? As this great love sinks in, Jesus both challenges him and invites him to be his disciple: “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
The wealthy young “have-it-all” was being asked to surrender the thing that possibly made him who he was in the world: possessions. Yet Jesus doesn’t challenge him with harshness and contempt, but with great love. And best of all, Jesus is inviting the young man to join his band of followers.
This scene has been replaying in my life for decades now. Jesus looks at me and loves me. Then he challenges me to give up something. Like the young man, I walk away from the challenge. I wait. But Jesus keeps looking at me and loving me, challenging me and inviting me. How can I not give in to him? I usually give in only in small degrees at a time, but I do it. Why? Because I am so well loved. Giving whatever it is then leads to an enriching, abundant eternal kind of life.
If I had only studied the passage all those years ago, my life would be very different today.
Would you like to have experiences like this? If so, I invite you to join our online course Meeting God in Scripture. The course begins Monday, February 27 (in time for lent). I lead you though 8 passages of Scripture like that above and show you have to do this on your own! Visit MeetingGodInScripture.com to join the VIP waitlist and we will notify you when the course opens for enrollment.
Grace and peace,
© Jan Johnson – For permission to reprint, Click Here