Today I’m sharing an article by Bible scholar Ron Smith (Th.D.). Ron and his wife Judy have started Bible schools all over the world and I had the privilege to attend one in Malaysia almost 10 years ago! You can find all of the posts in this series here.
Reformer Martin Luther wrote that the true goal of all Bible study is Bible meditation. The goal of meditation is always application in a life. Of course, neither meditation nor study occur without a primary reading of the text.
Less than 10% of the church worldwide have read the entire Bible. This is a sad statement given the high price tag of shed blood and spent lives that brought us the good book. Nevertheless facts are facts and we find the church in a very ignorant state.
The value of Bible reading is to get a broad overall perspective on the entire revelation of God. Usually, when Christians are queried about their relation to God’s Word their response will entail what they are reading. This broad overall perspective can be obtained as well by listening to the Word on audio or watching it on Bible videos. The important thing is that the whole Word is ingested. The entire Bible can be read aloud in less than 100 hours.
The marvelous value of reading is its utility and accessibility. We can access God’s Word to read virtually anytime night or day in 90% of the world right now. The problem is that we don’t. This is far from history when in the early days of the reformation Scottish citizens would save up a whole months wage to purchase just one page of the newly translated English Bible. Martin Luther set it as his goal to read through the Bible 5 times a year— apart from his heavy preparation for his teaching and translating.
Bible study involves more in-depth analysis of the Bible than broad and diverse reading. Study of scripture is slower and more tedious than reading. This makes it also more frustrating at times. In the Jewish Tradition, the faithful were taught that one should never say that he or she was “reading the torah.” The reason for that is the rabbis always felt that the proper attitude to address the Scriptures was always one of careful reflection and not merely a look at the Scriptures as literature— to be read like Homer or Shakespeare. This Jewish tradition differs significantly from Christian tradition where the great teachers of the church have always encouraged both broad cursory reading and in-depth study. Again, this emphasizes how far away from the rest of Church history we are currently— when we consider that less than 10% even read it.
Meditation is a thoroughly Jewish/Christian practice rooted all the way back 3,500 years in our tradition. Unfortunately, even fewer Christians meditate on God’s Word than study it. One teacher estimated that less than 1 in 10,000 Christians deliberately meditate on God’s Word as a part of their daily spiritual discipline. Again, this is far from the tradition of the reformers, and the great early fathers of the church. Living a life apart from meditation is a practice without historical roots in either the Catholic or the Protestant traditions. In fact, when Christians today hear about meditation they usually think about new-age practitioners doing weird things. A great way to stay spiritually fresh is to practice 15 minutes a day of Bible meditation. People fry in the ministry because they are spiritually burned out. Meditation is a great way to help one avoid such burn out.
Blessed is the man…
whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:1 & 3