The accessibility of scripture is something people before us have given their lives for.
William Tyndale (1494-1536) laid down his life so that, “… the boy who drives the plow,” could know the scriptures even better than the Pope of his time. The stories of how the translation of the Bible, at the blood, sweat and tears of many, was preserved and made readily available to us should humble us. It is a treasure we have on our phones and bound in board, paper and leather. But for many of us, it’s a relic or a good luck charm or a reminder that we “should” read it, but we don’t. Our Bibles and the broken and beautiful people of God are the way the Holy Spirit feeds us, comes alongside us, leads us, teaches us, helps us see, and gives us faith.
I’m not a boy who drives a plow. I am a low-energy, struggles-with-depression, mom and wife who drives a Ford Edge with a dent scratched right through the Ford symbol on the back because I closed the garage door while the back hatch was open. Mr. Tyndale’s life was not spent in vain. His work to translate the scriptures into English has reached me. I don’t claim to know my Bible better than the Pope or a Bible scholar, but I have reaped the benefits of growing in my faith as I’ve wrestled with, prayed through, chewed on and shared what the Spirit teaches me as I read my Bible and hear its message proclaimed.
The Bible can be and has been misused. Like a sharp knife, it can be used to heal or kill. Throughout time, the word of God has been wielded to serve the self-exalting interest of the person or people holding it as a weapon of power or self-defense. It can also be ignorantly misused, like a child playing with his daddy’s hunting knife. I think when we pick up our Bibles we should do so with a kind of trembling. We should be aware that when we, prone-to-wander sinners by nature, redeemed though we are, read our Bibles we will tend to see it applying to everyone else, and turn every story into a moral lesson for making our lives more successful. But you don’t have to be skilled in Bible memory sword drills or have a degree in theology to be changed by God’s message in the Bible.
Here I offer these modern-day plow boy (or girl as it were) practices that will help you pick up your Bible with a holy fear and childlike faith that will serve to transform you, keeping you humble and growing in grace.
Look For Jesus
Look and listen for sights and sounds of Jesus. In one of my favorite stories in the Bible, the risen Jesus walks alongside some men who, dejected and disillusioned walked a road processing what had just happened at the crucifixion of the one they thought would be their king. When Jesus, hearing how lost and confused they were spoke to help them, the story says, “…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27). The Bible is meant to lead you to one person- Jesus! Looking for him in long genealogies, or poetry, or details about dimensions of a temple is challenging. One practice that helps (some good pastor taught me this), is when reading about kings, priests and prophets, let them speak to you of Jesus both in comparison and contrast. Jesus is the greater of all the kings, priests and prophets. In much of your reading it will take time, like following a long road home, to begin to see how these stories are leading to Jesus. But as you begin, ask yourself, “What does this tell me about God? How did this lead to a need for Jesus to come? What does this tell me about humanity?” Over time, like the men on the road to Emmaus in Luke, you’ll begin to see the things concerning Jesus. And when you do it’s beautiful! It’s so worth it.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)
Study to Teach a Child
Tell your kids, or grand-kids or neighbor kids and kids at your church’s children’s ministry what you see of Jesus in a story or text. One of the most important things the Bible says we’re supposed to do with his message is tell it to the next generation. I have been an attender at many Bible studies over the years. They are good. Don’t get me wrong here. But the best kind of Bible study is not the one done among people just like you- all women, all men, all of a certain affinity- (and study books written by Christian authors does not constitute a Bible study). The best kind of Bible study is the one done in an effort to pass the message of the Bible on to someone else. Taking the rich feast of scripture and making it palatable and digestible for a child is a Christlike posture of humility that is sure to produce gospel fruit.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
Insert Your Name for the Bad Guy
Every time you read about the “bad guy” or cringe at some evil or bad choice someone makes, put your name there. Your first tendency will be think of your spouse, parent, neighbor, president, child… anyone but yourself. When you catch yourself thinking, “I wish so and so would read this, or believe this…” Or, “That’s just like such and such…” stop! Stop in your tracks right there. Put your name in the place of Sarah telling her husband to take another woman and impregnate her, then turning on the same woman abusively. Put your name in place of drunken Noah and his shady son. Put your name in the place of runaway Jonah, and mocking Peter, and money-hungry Judas. And then remember that Jesus died because in your heart and mine dwells the same sin that brought these to such shameful places. Then thank God. Sing. Praise him for saving a wretch like me and you and Noah.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:7-12)
Insert Your Name for the Righteous
Every time you read the word “saint” or “righteous” or “redeemed”, put your name there and get on your knees. In you and I dwells the fallen tendency to feed the sinful, deadly instinct of our flesh. But thanks be to God, Jesus has put the shame and guilt and condemnation of that nature to death and given us a heart tender to his beauty and love. Let what you read about the saint and the righteous and the redeemed inform your identity as a child of God by expensive grace. The work of Jesus has made you and me saints. We are holy ones because Jesus died for us. We are righteous because Jesus has given us his righteousness. We are redeemed because the blood of Jesus paid the price for your life.
“…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:29-31)
Take up your Bible today, even now. Start at the beginning, or start where your church is currently at in the Bible. Use a Bible reading plan. However and wherever you start, start. Let the lives of those before you who suffered so you could have the Bible in your language be honored. Let the life of Jesus who embodied every truth, won every victory, fought every battle, presides as the righteous judge over every judgement and became for us every bit of our sinfulness, bearing the curse of death in our place, making us children of God- let his life be feasted upon and resurrected in you.