My Journey with the Bible

My journey with the BibleI never heard Handel’s Messiah until I was in high school.

I had not grown up listening to either classical or religious music. (I grew up hearing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and other such lovely little ditties). So while I was impressed with the beauty and grandeur of Handel’s oratorio, I can’t say I got much out of it. It was like drinking from the proverbial fire hydrant.

But my college performed selections from the Messiah frequently. And the church we attended the first fourteen years we were married did the same. I even got to be in the choir at church some of those years, so I learned the songs in more detail. Plus, I had become a Christian in later high school, so I could understand more of the spiritual significance and message of the piece.

When I learned that The Messiah had been composed during the Baroque era, with its “excessive ornamentation or complexity,” I understood why it was written the way it was.

As a result of hearing The Messiah over and over, becoming more familiar with it, learning more about it, and growing in the Lord, I came to love this piece of music. I anticipated each section just like I would rereading a favorite book or rewatching a favorite movie.

And then, just from growing familiarity with the music, I began to notice details. For instance, I had always thoughts of Isaiah 53:6 as somber and sad: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him   the iniquity of us all.” But the tune Handel put to this verse seemed almost jaunty to me at first. Then one day I noticed the notes on the word “astray” were going astray.

Further into that piece, on “We have turned,” the notes are turning over and over.

Isaiah 40:4 says, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” In the song based on this passage, the notes on the word “crooked” go up and down—they would look crooked on the sheet music. And the melody on “straight” and “plain” is mostly straight. The notes on “exalted” go up.

The melodies illustrate the words! And I had listened to and sung this I don’t know how many times before that clicked. In fact, I just caught “exalted” going up watching this video.

In many ways, my journey with the Bible parallels my journey with this piece of music.

I had attended church occasionally growing up. I knew some basic Bible truths and narratives. But I didn’t start reading the Bible myself until high school. The church I started attending when I was sixteen strongly encouraged its people to read the Bible through in a year. So I did.

And it was like trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

But I am so thankful for that emphasis at the outset of my Christian life. That grounded me more than anything else and set me off with good habits.

I didn’t understand everything I read. Similarly, in church, I couldn’t have told you the main points of the sermon afterward. But I got enough to chew on and to nourish me. The Bible speaks of those young in the faith as taking in milk from the Word. So I took in and digested what I could, and my life was changed.

When I got to something I didn’t understand, I’d just keep going.For instance, Psalm 60:4-5 says:

Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah. That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.

And I would think, “Wow, that’s good!” Then the next few verses listed a bunch of names I didn’t know. And then I came to verse 8: “Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me.”

And I thought, “Huh?”

And then I’d keep going to verses 11 and 12: “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.” And I’d think, “Wow, so good!”

I don’t know if that’s the best way for a new Christian to go about Bible reading. But no one had told me what to do about the parts I didn’t understand. I had never heard of study Bibles in those days. Still, the Lord met me in those times with His Word.

And as I kept reading in the 40+ years since (though not through the whole Bible in a year any more), I understood more and more. I saw how individual verses and books fit within the whole. I know what Moab and Edom and Philistia are now. There are parts that are as familiar as any favorite, much-read book. There are parts holding dear memories of God giving me just the right words in an hour of need. I anticipate what’s coming next in a passage. But I am still learning new things even from old, familiar stories and chapters.

So, why am I telling you this today?

I want to encourage you to get into a habit of reading your Bible, if you’re not already doing so.

And I want to encourage you to read all of it. Maybe not in a year. There are two-year plans and five-year plans and almost any kind of plan you could think of. But if we just keep turning to our old favorite passages, we’ll miss so much.

And if you’re discouraged because there is so much you don’t understand, I want to encourage you to keep reading. You’ll “get” more and more of it the more you read it. Someone has said that the Bible is shallow enough for a child to wade in, but deep enough for an elephant to swim in. God can speak to you and minister to you even if you don’t understand every little thing in the passage. In fact, we’ll never exhaust the Bible in this lifetime.

The Bible says to “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2-3), and then to go on to solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1-2) as we “ mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrew 5:11-13).

But even more than spiritual food, the Bible provides spiritual fellowship. We don’t read the Bible as an end in itself, but to get to know God better. The Bible is the primary way God speaks to us. From the time God’s words were first written all the way through until the end of time, God expected His people to read and follow it.

God’s thoughts are precious to us. The Bible bears witness about Christ, increases our faith, guides us, teaches, improves, corrects, trains us in righteousness, equips us, builds us up, gives us hope and comfort, helps us avoid sin, makes us stable and fruitful, gives us life, understanding, joy, hope, wisdom and discretion.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3-4).

What a treasure trove we have in the Bible! May we partake of it every day.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16).

Taking in and rejoicing in God's WordSee also:

Finding Time to Read the Bible

Ways to Both Read and Study the Bible

Real Life Devotions

Studying the Parts to Understand the Whole

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Home, Global Blogging, Senior Salon,
Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth,
Blogger Voices Network. Links do not imply 100% agreement.)

Laudable Linkage

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Are you enjoying the last few days of visiting with family, as we are? Or chasing end-of-year sales or gearing up to go back to work on Monday? If you have some leisure, these recent online finds have much good to share. Maybe one or two will pique your interest.

A few related to Christmas:

Handel’s—and Jennens’s—“Messiah“, HT to Challies. I didn’t know that Handel only wrote the music, not the words to his famous oratorio, “The Messiah.” Here’s a look at the man who wrote the libretto and why he did.

An Idaho boy married the girl he sent an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox to, HT to Laura. Sweet story!

Competing with Christmas? I like this idea of leveraging the “fun” aspects of the season rather than seeing them as a competition for the spiritual side.

Wise Men: Gentiles Who Sought the Savior. I enjoyed this look at the Magi, the reminder that salvation has always been available to Gentiles, and the contrast between the reaction of Jews and Gentiles at Christ’s birth. I was particularly intrigued by the “bookends” Chris pointed out in the gospels. For instance, myrrh was a gift brought to Jesus at His birth and ointment was poured on Him not long before His death; He was called the King of the Jews by the wise men but not called that again until the crucifixion. I had known those as separate facts but never thought of them as bookends.

When Love Is Hard to Give, and Harder to Receive.

A Weary Mom Rejoices. When the world seems too much, it’s good to rest in the only One who can do anything about it.

That Might Preach, But…it might be not accurate, or the main message of the text. HT to Challies. “In our desire to make Scripture ‘preachable’ we import uncertain meanings into the text, while ignoring glorious truths that are actually there.”

A Fragrant Offering, HT to Challies. “It is through our willingness to bear the sufferings of others that people will see Christ. As we do, we become a pleasing aroma to God and the ones we love. The prevailing aroma of Christ pours forth in and through us.”

Still Looking for That Better Country, HT to Challies. Really interesting perspective from a missionary living in a country she’s not a citizen of, comparing that to our living in the world yet being a citizen of heaven, warning herself against the settling-down that can take place as she comes to her own country.

To Serve God in Heaven Will Be a Great Reward, HT to Challies. I’ve often wondered about that phrase concerning serving God in heaven. “Service is a reward, not a punishment. This idea is foreign to people who dislike their work and only put up with it until retirement. We think that faithful work should be rewarded by a vacation for the rest of our lives. But God offers us something very different…”

‘Advertising breaks your spirit’: the French cities trying to ban public adverts, HT once again to Challies. Yes! I can’t condone public vandalism in the name of stopping advertisements, but I agree with pushing back against being assaulted by advertising in every nook and cranny.

And finally, interesting footage of a seagull who stole someone’s GoPro. I’m amazed the owner got it back!

Happy Saturday!