Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Plea To Delight In Scripture

Over the next few months we will be looking together at a series on the overview of the Scriptures supremacy in the life of the Christian. And I want to begin our series with a plea: treasure and delight in God’s word! Before we even get to any understanding of the overview of the Christian Scriptures, I want to plead with you to delight in them. I want to begin by first aiming primarily at your heart and then later at your mind, building a greater foundation for our understanding of Scripture. For when something occupies our heart it inevitably occupies our mind; the same cannot be said in reverse.

But first we must give reason for why “treasuring” and “delighting” is the desired response from God for our reading of Scripture. The Psalmists lead us to see God’s word in its proper context, as a word from the Lord to be both treasured and delighted in:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7a,10)

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:14-16)

The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalm 119:72)

The image of the Bible the Psalmists paint is a grand mural of human affections. The words chosen to display the proper understanding of how we view God’s word are not weak; they do not use words here that connote a lukewarm affection. Instead the words chosen convey the utmost affection. God’s word is to be more desired than any wealth, or any sweetness to the tongue. It is to be not obligingly read but delighted in, to come bounding toward with a sense of joy over the privilege to read the very words of God to us. Jonathan Edwards, the great New England preacher, exhorts us to be like-minded with the Psalmists:

But that treasure of divine knowledge, which is contained in the Scriptures, and is provided for everyone to gather himself as much of it as he can, is a far more rich treasure than any one of gold and pearls.”[1]

Edwards and the Psalmists knew the reason we are to hold Scripture in such high regard for our lives is because the word of God is the only thing that can transform our lives from what they are to what they were created to be! We have a created purpose to live in relationship with God almighty. To delight and treasure Scripture then is to simply delight and treasure God Himself. To delight and treasure Scripture is to prefer God and His word over anything else the world paints as desirable for the purpose of your life; it is to reclaim from the outset that God has created you with a greater purpose than that which the world purports your purpose to be.

Chances are we don’t wax eloquently about our love for the Scriptures. We probably don’t refer to our Bible as our delight and treasure in conversation. Maybe we should. What if Scripture was truly a delight to take up and read instead of something we come to as an obligation, as something we are supposed to read as Christians (Pharisaic legalism)? What if instead we took up God’s word out of delight, how would our reading of God’s word change our relationship with God? Here’s what would happen: If we delighted in God’s word we would therefore delight in God Himself because the words contained within are God-breathed, they are the words of the Lord Himself. Take a love-letter for example. When the recipient reads the letter they are delighting in the words on the page, but the delight is not in the words only, the delight that transpires is directed towards the author of the letter, showing their affection for the recipient. So too a delight for Scripture dashes a lukewarm love of God and inspires a person to treasure Him.

You were created to treasure God with your life. As I have been aiming at the affections of your heart, to delight in God’s word and therefore to delight in God, Jesus also has much to say about your heart. In Matthew 6:21 He says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What we treasure aligns the center of our being, our aim in life. I want you to treasure the Lord and so does Jesus! He states His greatest desire for your life in Matthew 22:37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” In order to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” he must be your treasure because what you treasure aligns your whole heart. Heart and treasure and inextricably linked and the aim of delighting in Scripture is that it would lead you to treasure God.

As we look forward to how the rest of this series might awaken an affection for God’s word and God Himself within you, I leave you with the story of Augustine of Hippo’s conversion in AD 386. Augustine had struggled with the search of truth for years. It brought him eventually one day in a garden in Milan, Italy to break down into tears where he was in the midst of wrestling with the truths of the Christian Scripture. While on a bench in the garden God brought him to see the capital T truth of the Gospel:

“I wept, my heart crushed with very bitterness. And behold, suddenly I heard a voice from the house next door; the sound, as it might be, of a boy or a girl, repeating in a sing song voice a refrain unknown to me: ‘Pick it up and read it, pick it up and read it.’ Immediately my countenance was changed…taking this to be nothing other than a God-sent command that I should open the Bible and read the first chapter I found…I seized it, opened it, and read in silence the first heading I cast my eyes upon: Not in riotousness and drunkenness, not in lewdness and wantonness, not in strife and rivalry; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh and its lusts (Rom. 13:13-14). I neither wished nor needed to read more. No sooner had I finished the sentence than it was as if the light of steadfast trust poured into my heart, and all the shadows of hesitation fled away.”[2]

It was a delight to pick up the Bible, not a begrudging duty, that led Augustine to become a giant in Christian history with respect to delighting in God. Augustine fell in love with the Lord and with His Scripture. Through the Scripture, God became Augustine’s highest delight.

Do you love God? Do you want to know Him? Do you want to earnestly say He is your treasure? Then heed the call of the Psalmists crying out to you to delight in God’s word, heed the call of the neighboring children in Milan to “pick it up and read it.” I pray that God would awaken a delight in your hearts for His revealed word. I pray that he would incline you to wear out the pages of your Bible. Wipe off the film of dust possibly covering your Bible and embark on a journey of delight, a delight in God’s word and therefore a delight in God.

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JT Holderman is Assistant Pastor of Bellevue Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Gap, PA.

[1] Jonathan Edwards, The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1999), 36.

[2] Augustine, Confessions (New York: Knopf, 2001), 182-183.

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