“Your words were found, and I ate them and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”
This text from the prophet Jeremiah conveys a great insight into how we approach God’s Word. For him, the fact that he “ate them” (commentators say it means he assimilated them) that a close union existed between himself and God’s Word. How does that happen— where intaking the Scriptures is akin “eating them?”
This statement is best unpacked when we first consider that taking in the Word of God is clearly the most important of all the Spiritual Disciplines. According to Donald Whitney, in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, “Regardless of how busy we become with all things Christian, we must remember that the most transforming practice available to us is the disciplined intake of Scripture.”
That said, there are several ways that Christians can take in the Word – I believe these ways build on one another. (This material also comes from Whitney.)The first is hearing God’s Word. This is one of the easiest ways to intake Scripture – simply by hearing it. This is best accomplished by regularly attending church, as the Word is read and taught. Even accessing Scripture on mobile devices works for some. This is especially useful for those who like to listen to the Word while driving or on the go. There are several passages that emphasize the importance of “hearing” God’s Word (Luke 11:28; Rom 10:17; 1 Tim 4:13).
Next is actually reading the Bible. If you think that is an obvious statement for Christians, think again. According to a 2013 survey taken by Religious News Service, only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis. Clearly, if we approach God’s Word as food, as Jeremiah 15:16 indicates (also 1 Peter 2:2; Heb 5:12), we will need to eat everyday. Just as there is a designated time for eating a meal, so it should be with Scriptural intake. Set aside regular time each day!
Following along the building process, as I mentioned earlier, reading the Word leads to studying the Word. Author Jerry Bridges puts it this way, “Reading gives us breath, studying gives us depth.” There are a couple of examples in Scripture as to the necessity and benefit in studying the Word of God.
Ezra 7:10 | “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” According to Whitney, note the sequence in the verse: 1) Ezra “set his heart,” 2) “to study the Law of the Lord,” 3) “and to do it,” 4) “and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” This shows that Ezra had a heart to study, and with that study came knowing the Word and taking action on it.
The next example is in Acts 17:11 | “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” They not only received the Word with eagerness, but delved into it themselves, being affirmed as to what they heard. The result (v.12), was that “many of them believed.” The willingness to examine Scripture not only produces believing faith, but those who do are commended here as noble in character.
Next time, we’ll go further in the Scriptural Intake process, discussing meditation and memorization. Stay tuned. – Pastor Joe Garofalo