001 As the Deer pants for the water…
April 1, 2017 | Permalink
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1
When those sons of Korah wrote the beautiful passage of Psalm 42 for a choir director, they touched on something key to our life with God. There were people who really wanted God! Likewise, we should want God too! That sense of a deer panting for water rightly should be set to music. Can you imagine what it must have been like to have heard that Psalm played by that choir director? Stirring, thrilling, magnificent, I am sure. When our soul pants for God in such a fashion, both our heart and our mind are greatly aroused.
Welcome to “All Things Theological”!
My first article here is to talk of issues that relate to what it means to read the Bible… to truly read the Bible.
We have a heart and we have a mind and when it comes to Bible reading, I believe both are needed. The reality of experience is that, alas; I know it’s possible to read the Bible without a heart affection for God. It happens to me! How about you? Most people would tend to agree that if you ask them about, say, the book of Numbers; there just doesn’t appear to be much in the way of us having our affections stirred. Nevertheless, I believe it is vital that we always cast our eyes toward the person of God and see His love, no matter what part of Scripture one reads. Why? Because God loves us and every one of His words comes from His heart of love – no matter if it is the Book of Numbers.
Now that said, I also understand that we need to be knowledgeable about the Bible and, well, some parts are easier to understand than others. When we find ourselves in a passage that is difficult, yes, I believe we should do our best to understand it, for example, by using a Bible dictionary, or commentary etc. Yet some caution is worth addressing. Let’s go deeper.
I’m very much aware that reading the Bible can be difficult, especially when one of the following two things happen (there could be more, but let’s just focus on these two):
First, we just get distracted. And, if we’re honest, we are distracted because, well, what we read isn’t appealing enough for us. To read through the passages that list person after person after person after person… well, it’s easy to start thinking about what to have for dinner! Our affections get easily distracted. I’m aware of that; I think that you are too. We should love the Lord our God with all our heart, but as fallen creatures, well, what is on TV is of more interest than 15 chapters of reading the instructions God gave Moses to build the Tabernacle! We get sidelined by our sometimes faulty affections. Right?
Second, we read the Bible and suddenly a word or phrase we don’t understand makes us so curious that we end up studying so much technical information, we forget what we were reading in the first place. We get sidelined by chasing information. Right?
But notice this about both scenarios above. We get sidelined by what “we” love. We want dinner more than what we are reading; we want to be knowledgeable and smart, even more than relating to God. We start thinking of dinner, or about a person, and while there is nothing wrong with that, well, we suddenly aren’t reading the Bible with intent. More so, we aren’t reading the Bible with love of God central. Considering that God is communicating to us through His Word, we might ask ourselves: how would a friend react if, while listening to them, we started to get sidelined by thinking about dinner, or about someone else not there? Kind of rude, right?
The same is true of chasing information. Again, I think we should get clarity about certain words and phrases, but can we side-line God in the process? Sometimes? Yes! If you are speaking with a friend and they introduce a word you’ve never heard of before, in that situation, you might politely ask them what it means, and in normal conversation, you’d quickly carry on the main idea of the discussion. Imagine what would happen though, if you were speaking to someone and mentioned a phrase that, clearly was new to them, but they then decided to break open 5 or 6 dictionaries, a thesaurus, lexicons, and a book of etymology? Your discussion would be lost and you might feel confused to say the least.
My hope when you read the Bible is that you allow God to cultivate a relationship of love no matter what passage you read. Yes, you will get distracted, but read His Word knowing that He Himself is there communicating to you through His Word. For myself, I’ve been with friends and gotten distracted. How do you get back on track? Refocus on them! Pay attention to them! Remember you love them! Remember… they love you.
By all means have a Bible dictionary at hand, yes, open up a concordance, but be careful that you don’t lose sight of the One who loves you.
I’d encourage you to have a heart-to-heart talk with the Lord if you often find yourself “missing” Him. Tell Him that you get distracted, tell Him that you sometimes lose focus of Him as you study difficult passages. He loves you so much, He’ll welcome your candor and heart to change. He will help you find Him. And when that happens, when you see more of Him; you’ll see more of His love and how much He loves you. It’ll be hard to be distracted; it’ll be hard to lose sight of Him.
From such a love, I am confident that your Bible reading won’t be distracted, it won’t be dry, and more importantly, God won’t get side-lined! With love in view, with a better reading and hearing of God, what happens is that great trust begins to develop between you and the Lord. The love of the Lord will stir great and greater faith. And, when that happens, when love and faith exist as you read… then great learning will occur. Why? Because you will begin to realize how much the Lord loves you, you will begin to realize how much wisdom He has, and you will desire Him and His Word like the deer that pants after water.
I hope you enjoyed this first effort in “All Things Theological”. If you don’t already know, the word theology comes from two words. First, “theo”, which is the Greek word for God; and “logos”, which is the Greek for “word”. Theology, then means God-Word, or words about God.
Feel free to contact me to understand more of what I’m describing here. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the next “All Things Theological”, I’ll unpack much more of what this all means in the article “Affections and Apparatus: The Connection of Faith and Learning.” It will build on what you’ve read here and add some further ideas. Enjoy Him! Keep following Him!