Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Hope you enjoy a refreshing cool morning. I was packed with meetings and a lot of implementation to catch up, when my boss returned from vacation yesterday. But I was glad that many over-due issues were being taken care of. Thank God for another day of enjoying His presence at work and in my study – writing my dissertation. While I was driving to work this morning, I cracked up in laughter over the “stress” I gave myself. Nobody forced me to study and finish my dissertation before this year. It was all the “pressure” I gave myself. I laughed at my own “foolishness” and gladly surrender this writing project back to God…knowing that He holds me accountable to be a faithful steward of the time and resource He bestowed upon me. But He also expects me to enjoy this journey of stewardship.
I appreciated Eugene Peterson’s reminder about our wrong attitude toward God’s Word. To him, exegesis is the farthest thing from pedantry; exegesis is an act of love. It is loving the one enough who speaks the words to want to get the words right. It is respecting the words enough to use every means we have to get the words right. Exegesis is loving God enough to stop and listen carefully to what he says. God has pro- vided us with these scriptures that present us with his Word. Loving God means loving both what God speaks to us and the way God speaks to us. It follows that we bring the leisure and attentiveness of lovers to this text—cherishing every comma and semicolon, relishing the oddness of this preposition, delighting in the surprising placement of this noun. Lovers don’t take a quick look, get a “message” or a “meaning” and then run off and gossip with their friends about how they feel. Lovers savor the words, relishing every nuance of what is said and written.
Face it, reality as God reveals it to us by his Word in J Jesus, is strange and unexpected and disappointing. This is not the kind of world we would have created if we had been given the assignment; this is not the kind of salvation we would have arranged if we had been on the committee; this is not the system of rewards and punishments we would have legislated if we had had the vote. I love the audacious quip of Teresa of Avila when she was energetically engaged in reforming the Carmelite monasteries, traveling all over? Spain by oxcart on bad roads, and one day was thrown from the oxcart into a muddy stream. She shook her fist at God, “God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many.’
No, the Reality that God reveals to us in his Word is very different, quite other—Other!—than anything we could ever have dreamed or thought up. And thank goodness. For if we keep at this long enough, prayer by prayer, we find ourselves living in a reality that is far, far larger, far lovelier, far better. But it takes considerable getting used to. Prayer is the process of getting used to it—going from the small to the large, from control to mystery, from self to soul—to God. And God doesn’t only reveal it to us by his Word so that we can know about it; he wants us engaged in it, participating in It.
So let the reader beware. Don’t just understand it; don’t just admire it; don’t just think it’s a wonderful thing; pray what you read, work yourself into active participation in what God reveals in the Word. God invites, yes, commands us to bring our words to this Word. He doesn’t expect us to take this new reality lying down. We better not take it lying down, for this word of God intends to get us on our feet, walking, running, singing...just as the psalmist said, “I hold fast to your statutes (Word), O LORD; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:31-32).
Indeed, how often I read the Bible for just leisure or inspiration. I forgot the Bible is the Word from the Lover of my soul. The God who cares so much about me more than I care for my own. Every word counts because it was spoken from a Lover. Yes, we may have difficulty to understand the meaning of it at time. That’s why Jesus prepared a special tutor for us – the Holy Spirit. He is not an agent from God like an angel but God Himself. He is the one who revealed His own will to us through the Bible. He knows what the Bible means because He is the author of the Word. A lot of time, we failed to wait, ask and listen to what the Holy Spirit had to say to us. We were too haste in reading and assuming we understood. Moreover, the Word is meant for us to live with but not to play with. We spent time arguing over which exegesis is more correct than obeying the Word in our lives – it may be our way to justify our failure in applying God’s Word, because we are not sure which interpretation is correct! Have mercy on us O Lord. Help us to treasure your word, spend time to study your word, seek your intervention to teach us your word, and most important of all, obey your word – the Bible is truly the precious gift from our heavenly Lover.
Abide with you in His love,