Ever since I was a little kid, I have known that it was important to read the Bible. Really, ever since I can remember, our family made the Bible a central part of our life. If Dad wasn’t reading it himself, he was reading it to us, or telling us to read it, or he was studying it for a message. At school we had to memorize verses, and mom would constantly write melodies to accompany the words of the verses to make it easier to memorize. This millennia-old book affected every single part of our lives.
However, it wasn’t until late in life that I came to an odd realization. At no point in the Bible are we told to “read the Bible.” Yes, I know it is implied in other ways. We are told to study, meditate, hide it in our heart and a couple of others. But, in all of the ways that we are commanded to interact with God’s Word, we are never told to read it.
Here’s my point: We have elevated the implication of reading found within these commands above the actual commands. The reading of the Bible has often taken the place of meditation, study, and memorization. Again, to meditate, study, or memorize, you have to read. But, reading can be cold and action-less. We can read something without ever interacting with the implications it has on our life. In the age of twitter and Facebook, our eyes gloss over hundreds, if not thousands of words a day; often, the God-breathed words of the Bible get lost in the noise.
You would think that the God-breathed weight of the words of scripture would cause us to treat them differently. Most of the time we just wash them down our throat like a luke-warm cup of coffee rather than savoring the entire profile on our palate. We sprint through books of the Bible rather than raking the coals of scripture over our soul. We urgently practice our reading of scripture, consuming lots and lots of information, rarely interacting with the words and their implication on our life.
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
The Psalmist describes the “blessed one’s” interaction with God’s law as delight. It is a kind of romantic enjoyment for the words of the law. It is an infatuation, a cant-get-enough-of-it appreciation for God’s words. Because of this love and delight, the action that follows is meditation. He swirls the words of the law back and forth in his mouth, delighting in it’s fullness, richness, and depth of flavor. This kind of patient, melodic appreciation leads to depth of character, stability, and prosperity. The resulting image the Psalmist portrays is a tree that is constantly nourished.
Practically speaking, meditation is more than just letting your eyes bounce across the words of the page, but carefully observing the nuances. It probably includes taking notes, or slowly examining certain phrases and words that jump out at you or speak to your weaknesses. It can include writing passages on 3×5 cards to remind you of their truths throughout the day. The beauty of it is that you are free to develop your own system.
But, more than anything, meditation includes slowing down. Despite what a lot of Christian popular culture tells you, you DO NOT have to read the Bible through in a year. It is a great goal to have, and certainly a good accomplishment. But, it is better to savor and meditate than to inhale large amounts with no interaction and no application.
Maybe you’ve already decided that in 2014 you are going to “read the Bible more.” I’d encourage you to not just decide to read the Bible more, rather, decide to “increase your interaction with God’s Word.” Meditate on God’s Word this year. Study it, savor it, memorize it, appreciate it, and delight in it.
If you do, you’ll be like a tree. And we all know that everyone wants to be like a tree.