The Bible on Trial

April 8, 2013 at 10:07 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 7 Comments
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In the previous lesson on Psalm 119 I stated that the purpose of Bible study is to know God better. Martin Luther had a helpful teaching on the use of Scripture in this area. He started off with oratio: speaking to God (prayer).

Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.

Psalm 119:36 (emphasis added)

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Psalm 119:18 (emphasis added)

Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.

Psalm 119:27 (emphasis added)

When preparing to read the Bible, ask God to incline your heart toward Him. Apart from His grace and power our hearts are not naturally inclined to the things of God. Our fallen and sinful flesh has a bent or perverted inclination. It is at worst bent toward rebellion and defiance, and at best toward idolatry of self and the feeding of our lusts.

Luther would then move from oratio to meditatio: meditation (deep-thinking) upon the Scripture.

And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.

Psalm 119:47-48 (emphasis added)

Meditation must not be based on drudgery. It is tied to delight. Approach Bible study with a sense of wonder and fascination, expecting the Holy Spirit to show you something thrilling, practical, useful, and transcendent.

Luther then moved from oratio (prayer) and meditatio (meditation), and, when I studied this, I was surprised at what came next. After praying over the Word and mediating upon the Word, I expected Luther to advocate doing the Word. But that’s not what came next. What came next was tentatio: trials and/or temptation.

Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.

Psalm 119:67-68 (emphasis added)

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

Psalm 119:71 (emphasis added)

God’s Word becomes sweet and valuable and magnificent when it is all you have to stand on. This is supernatural. In our finite human thinking we might imagine that it would be depressing to have nothing more than a book to guide us through our suffering and trials, but God has infused power into this Book. My old Sunday School teacher used to have this advice for anyone who told him they were having trouble understanding their Bible: “Keep reading.” That may have been the best piece of Bible-study advice I ever received.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11

This is the “right thing” (God’s Word) in the “right place” (my heart) for the “right reason” (that I might not sin against God).

These words were written by a Christian who was going through severe tentatio for his faithfulness to the Lord:

I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the Word of God as now in prison. Those scriptures that I saw nothing in before were made in this place and state to shine upon me. Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now. Here I have seen Him and felt Him indeed. . . I have had sweet sights of the forgiveness of my sins in this place, and of my being with Jesus in another world. . . I have seen that here that I am persuaded I shall never, while in this world, be able to express.

John Bunyan

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  3. […] Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law. […]

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