Studying the Bible can be the most frustrating and the most rewarding thing you will ever do. Even if you don’t enjoy studying, per se, taking the time to read the word of God on a regular basis will reap benefits. Not only my own experience, but the Bible itself supports this thesis.
Timothy tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In other words, the Bible comes from God and contains within it every thing we might need to do the good work that God would have us do.
Christ underscored the importance of the Word when He answered the devil’s temptation with the conclusion that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Paul adds hope to the promises of what we can expect to gain from studying the Bible: “for whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
But, the New Testament is not the only source of proof that the words of God are worth our undivided attention. Joshua promises prosperity and good success if we are careful to do “according to all that is written in it” by “meditat[ing] on it day and night” (Joshua 1:8). The Psalmist proclaims that God’s “word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (119:105), that He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (46:1). Isaiah explains that God’s full intention is to have His word used to accomplish His will, using the metaphor of the natural relationship between the seed and the sower: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (55:10-11).
Sometimes, we want to avoid the parts of the Bible that are challenging to us, and lots of times those difficult parts are in the Old Testament (OT). But, as Philip Yancey reminds us, the OT is actually the Bible that Jesus read.
I was vividly reminded of the bonuses available in regular study of the Bible this week as I was making my way through the book of the prophet Jeremiah, who is warning Jerusalem about the coming tide of the Babylonian invasion. In chapter 6, Jeremiah writes, “This is what The Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls….” (16).
Remember how the OT is the Bible Jesus read? Are you struck like I was by the echoes of His words in this verse? Christ tells us the path is narrow to the Kingdom (Matthew 7:13-14), but promises that His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). And one of my favorite treasures from the word is when Christ promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
So, the same promise that God was making for His people in the time of Jeremiah, He continued to offer to all of us, including Gentiles, through the words and actions of Christ.
I’ve left off the saddest part of the verse from Jeremiah, however, for at the end of verse 16, The Lord concludes, “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it‘” [emphasis added]. The Israelites who had refused to walk in the ways of God were facing destruction of their worldly kingdom. For those who refuse to follow the way of Christ . . . .
What we fill our minds with is what will come out of us. The more we know about the things that matter to us, the less likely we will be persuaded to do something that is actually contrary to what we profess to believe.
When I was in Sunday school as a child, we were told the “story” of the woman who saved up her whole life to afford a cruise. Because she had spent all her money on the cruise ticket, she spent the week of the cruise living off of saltines she had brought along, watching others indulge in the abundant food available as her stomach grumbled. Only at the end of the cruise did someone finally explain to her that her food had been included in the ticket!
Let’s not live a life nibbling saltines when our acceptance of Christ’s salvation has opened up to us an entire banquet of wisdom and love and peace–all just waiting to be discovered in His true, sometimes challenging, but always rewarding Word.