Thursday, October 10, 2013

The crown of scripture

                    Turn it this way, turn it that way,
                    everything is in it,
                    keep your eye upon it
                       and from it do not stir.
                    Turn it this way, turn it that way,
                    grow old and aged over it,
                    for you have no better portion,
                       better portion than the Word.

(Folk song based on Pirke Avot, 5:24)

To ‘study’ the bible as one studies a specimen under the microscope, except perhaps for bible scholars (if there really is such a thing), is the wrong way to study it. It's equally wrong to pretend to give people ‘the big picture’ by not making them study it at all, but instead by entertaining them. Both these approaches to the written Word of God are ways to escape the main function of scripture, which is to bring us face to face with our sin, and with our Saviour.

We say we study the bible, but actually the bible is studying us. We may think we are rightly dividing the Word of God, but actually the Word of God is rightly dividing us. That is, if we let Him. (Jesus is the Word of God. The bible is His icon.) Rightly dividing us from our sin, from the world and all its pomp, and from the power of the evil one.

People think we're so blessed to live in an age when there are so many amazing resources available, yet it's precisely this mistaken attitude about technological resources that has changed Christianity from a living faith and close walk with the Lord to a kind of dinner theatre about such a faith and walk.

We have become detached from the Word of God like a doomed fetus becomes detached from the uterus and then dies, which the mother may not discover for days, but which can kill her as well if it is not discovered in time. That mother is the Church, that fetus is the believers who do not live in the Word but only ‘watch a movie’ about it and think they've ‘got it.’

To live in the Word of God is to make the holy and God-breathed scriptures, the bible, our daily bread, our constant companion, our very home.

This means never being without it, physically, when possible, even if it's only a slim New Testament and Psalms tucked into a pocket.

This means rising in the morning with the Word on our lips, praying and thanking the Lord in the words of psalms and prophecies, not just five times a day as Muslims do, but all through the day (and night).

This means turning not to vain and sometimes vile entertainments (making excuses for the profanity in them), but turning to the bible for refreshment, for relaxation, for recreation.

No, you can play sports, go on hikes, collect stamps, read novels, write poetry, play the guitar, have an electric train set, or even a speedboat… but what’s on your mind, really?

I'm no different from the rest. I often have to yank my attention back to where it belongs, visit the mansion that Christ my Lord and Saviour has prepared for me in His Father’s house. What? You thought He was talking about the heavenly mansion? Well, yes, of course, that one too. But the study of and meditation on the inspired words of the divine and holy scriptures, that is like a foyer leading into the heavenly mansion, and a foyer is part of the house, isn't it?

Paradox upon paradox, that the churches that claim most strongly to be centered on the bible have the most trouble cleaving to it, but find ever more numerous by-paths and supposed short-cuts to keep them off the One True Highway to Heaven—the Word of God.

Visit any Christian book store. The bible section, besides being splintered by the proliferation of ‘specialty’ bibles, is often dwarfed by sections devoted to contemporary Christian authors, gimmicks, and games. Why all these Christian authors and their books?

Isn’t the Word of God in the form of the bible enough for us? Isn’t the Holy Spirit here with us to help us understand it? But how can we hope to be disciples of the Lord, if we do not stay constantly at His side? And how do we do this? By ‘never letting the sacred volume out of our hand,’ as Jerome says.

Instead of expanding your facilities and upgrading your film stash and other technological enhancements, get back to the bible, teaching it, studying it, learning it by heart, worshipping with it, praying it, prophesying with it, evangelizing with it, healing with it, feeding on it and living in it.

There is no other divine scripture on earth, no other literature whose sum is greater than the total of its parts, no other book so alive that it doesn’t need to be enhanced with movies and computer games.

And we think that we can do better than the living God who provided this crown for us?


Joel said...

Is there a particular pocket version of the NT, Psalms (and maybe the proverbs) that you would recommend?

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I wish the Jerusalem Bible was available in such an edition, but it's hard enough to find the JB (1966) anywhere in good, used condition. Unfortunately, I can't recommend a pocket-sized NT+Psalms, but I just discovered that the Orthodox Study Bible (NT and Psalms) has been published in a 'military' edition, which has a comouflage cover and small size to conform to army regulations:

I am going to try to find out where I can get a copy, and order it today.

Joel said...

Ok, thanks. Looks like you can get one at The Orthodox Marketplace.