Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Power of Reading the Scriptures

The goal of reading the Scriptures is to hear the word of God and be shaped by its message. It is an opportunity to enter into the world imagined by the biblical writers and experience personal transformation so that we as modern readers may then serve as witnesses to its good news for humanity and all creation. 

History testifies to the power of the Scriptures to shape profoundly individuals and communities of faith who devote themselves to its study. This witness begins within the pages of the Bible and continues to the present day. 

 The book of Psalms opens with this description of the happy person in contrast to the ways of wicked: “Instead of doing those things, these persons love the LORD’s Instruction, and they recite God’s Instruction day and night!” (Psalm 1:2). The psalmist reminds us of the power of intentional and consistent reading of the Scripture for living the good life. 

In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus opened his public ministry by reading from the prophet Isaiah and he lived out his life and mission in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. After his resurrection, Jesus taught his disciples from the Scriptures. To be precise, Luke 24:45 says that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Scripture shaped the narrative of Jesus’ life. We read the Scriptures to find the grand story of God so that we may align our lives with it as Jesus did. 

The apostle Paul reminded his co-worker Timothy of the crucial role played by the Scriptures in the life of the early church: “Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.” (2 Timothy 3:15-16) 

Augustine, the prominent early church Bishop and theologian, famously recounted his own conversion in which he interpreted the sound of children saying, “Tolle lege (Take and read)” as a sign to pick up the Bible. He opened to a passage from Romans and began to experience transformation in his life with the Gospel. 

Early Rabbinic literature instructs diligence in study for the fruit that may be gained from it: “Turn it and turn it over again and again, for everything is in it, and contemplate it, and wax gray and grow old over it, and stir not from it, for you cannot have any better rule than this.” [Mishnah Avot 5.22] 

John Wesley, 18th century evangelist and reformer, wrote this about the Bible: “I am a creature of a day. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God. I want to know one thing: the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book.” 

As we study the Bile, we open ourselves up to the same profound and life-giving influence. Perhaps we may too add our voice as a result of our study of Scripture to this chorus of witnesses.

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