There are times when I read the Bible with specifically academic intentions. Sometimes I’m trying to find out why I think St.Augustine has serious problems interpreting the Old Testament. Other times I like to investigate and be reminded of things that point to the nature of how/when the text was written (like in Mark’s gospel when Simon of Syrene is mentioned as “the father of Rufus” as though we ought to know who Rufus is.) These are enjoyable things for me, however I don’t know that they’re necessarily the point of reading scripture.
That said, there’s a lot to be gained for people in the academic discourse around the Bible in the church, the academy, and thick books of theology. I don’t think these are bad things, but I do think that these are all things that lead us to the point of trying to hear from God through scripture. Inevitably, the bible isn’t meant to be a history book or a science book. It’s a place where God speaks to the church. There are things we can do to help us hear Him speak more clearly. Whatever the case may be, these are all interrelated. We need academics and prayer. You don’t win more understanding of God simply by reading the right books or knowing the right biblical languages. The God I believe in either is or is not a being who can be interacted with. Assuming that He is a being who desires more from us than our acceptance of various statements, we have more to do than just use our minds. We have to stretch our minds as far as they can go, we’re not being told to be intellectually lazy. Ever.
That said, when Jesus says that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul, heart and strength” He is not making a hierarchy of importance among the factors that constitute a human being. He’s saying something to the effect of “risk it all.” Or at least that is what I hear. The act of loving God is so often something that mostly entails allowing ourselves to be truly loved by God. I mean, really. There were moments when I was leading high school youth group where I realized that I didn’t know if the guys I was working with really knew what they were getting themselves into. The God these guys and I were trying to engage with is a God who really loves people. I mean love in the most terrifying way ever. He’s after you in the Holy Spirit, it hurts as it heals, you’re never the same again, and surprisingly this extremely difficult habit of opening spaces in your life to be loved by God is where life is. There is no other place to live. Vulnerability before God is that scary space where who you are and who Jesus is meet.
In other words, I submit we need to cultivate a practice recognizing our constant dependence on God.
I was just reading this Psalm and this thought hit me in the face: God has something to say. This statement might be the core of the Christian message. Obviously there is a specific content to what God has to say, but that might be the thrust of it all. God has something to say. We need to hear it. To do so we need to be vulnerable. To do so we need to practice with our whole beings to orient ourselves to hear it.
What is He saying? I think that it’s probably what we need to hear most: we’re welcomed as we are into His life. We’re loved.
Here’s the Psalm.
How good it is to sing praises to our God!*
how pleasant it is to honour him with praise!
|The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem;*
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
|He heals the brokenhearted*
and binds up their wounds.
|He counts the number of the stars*
and calls them all by their names.
|Great is our Lord and mighty in power;*
there is no limit to his wisdom.
|The Lord lifts up the lowly,*
but casts the wicked to the ground.
|Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;*
make music to our God upon the harp.
|He covers the heavens with clouds*
and prepares rain for the earth;
|He makes grass to grow upon the mountains*
and green plants to serve us all.
|He provides food for flocks and herds*
and for the young ravens when they cry.
|He is not impressed by the might of a horse,*
he has no pleasure in human strength;
|But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear him,*
in those who await his gracious favour.
|Worship the Lord, O Jerusalem;*
praise your God, O Zion;
|For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;*
he has blessed your children within you.
|He has established peace on your borders;*
he satisfies you with the finest wheat.
|He sends out his command to the earth,*
and his word runs very swiftly.
|He gives snow like wool;*
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
|He scatters his hail like bread crumbs;*
who can stand against his cold?
|He sends forth his word and melts them;*
he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
|He declares his word to Jacob,*
his statutes and his judgements to Israel.
|He has not done so to any other nation;*
to them he has not revealed his judgements.
PS: I have no idea what hoarfrost is. Any pointers would be appreciated.