I Marvel at God’s Word

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I’ve read the verse many times. I think I’ve even studied it. Last week, though, preparing to preach, it hit me with fresh force: “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ,” writes Paul (2 Corinthians 11:2).

“Like a father presenting his daughter to an intended husband, Paul is jealous for the Corinthians’ doctrinal purity,” writes George Guthrie. What a picture of Christian ministry. I sat back and thought of what this means for ordinary pastors like me, what’s at stake in the churches we serve. I was reminded again of the importance of pastoral ministry and of the church’s doctrine.

The more I study God’s Word, the more I marvel. The more I realize how much I have to learn.

Spelunkers

I studied Isaiah with a scholar and a group of pastors a couple of weeks ago. Almost every text contained illusions to earlier Scriptures. The more layers we peeled back, the more layers we discovered.

At breakfast one day I talked about how much I have to learn about the Bible. “I read it, and I read it again,” I explained. “And yet I keep finding passages that smack me in the face. Even though I’ve read them dozens of times, I feel like I’m discovering them for the first time.”

A friend related what Alec Motyer wrote in his commentary on Isaiah. “As I look back now, and particularly over the intensive activity of the last three years, there rises unbidden the picture of a very small mouse nibbling heroically at a very large cheese,” said Motyer. “And I feel like the mouse nibbling on the crumbs of the cheese that the other mouse left behind,” said my friend.

“I prefer another image,” the scholar said. “I like to compare reading the Bible to exploring a cave. We get to know a cave pretty well, only to discover there’s an entrance to a deeper cave that we can begin to explore. When we’re done exploring that cave, we discover the entrance to another one. And so on.”

We’re not meant to read Scripture once, the scholar explained. We’re meant to read it, discovering themes we’d never noticed before, and then begin reading it again, incorporating these themes as we deepen our understanding. The more we read, the more we incorporate these new themes; the more we learn; the deeper we go; the more we discover that we still have to learn.

The newest Christian can find enough in Scripture to be satisfying. The most believer, the most accomplished biblical scholar, will still find more to learn.

The newest Christian can find enough in Scripture to be satisfying. The most believer, the most accomplished biblical scholar, will still find more to learn.

“Suggestion,” tweets Ray Ortlund. “Since the Bible is probably too big a book for us to master it all in one lifetime, in addition to many annual read-throughs, choose one OT book and one NT and spend the rest of your life drilling down really deep there. Mine: Isaiah, Romans. Both are addictive.”

A lifetime to drill down into two biblical books. Maybe in eternity we’ll have time for the rest.

Living and Active

I shouldn’t be surprised by the depth of God’s Word. After all, it’s the only book that lives. It’s “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

It lives. It cuts. It judges. It has power. “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29).

And so we keep reading. We keep preaching. We hold in our hands something bigger than us, something more powerful than anything humanity has produced, something that can’t be changed, something that will outlast us all.

We’ll keep reading it, delighting in it, and discovering new truths. We’ll wrestle with it, but it will pin us to the ground. As we read it, the Word of God will do its work. There’s nothing else like it.

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