By Samuel Dickey Gordon
What God has spoken to others has been written down for us. … God spoke in His Word. He is still speaking in it and through it. The whole thought here is to get to know God. He reveals Himself in the word that comes from His own lips, and through His messengers’ lips. He reveals Himself in His dealings with men. Every incident and experience of these pages is a mirror held up to God’s face. In them we may come to see Him.
This is studying the Bible not for the Bible’s sake but for the purpose of knowing God. The object aimed at is not the Book but the God revealed in the Book. A man may go to college and take lectures on the English Bible, and increase his knowledge, and enrich his vocabulary, and go away with utterly erroneous ideas of God. He may go to a law school and study the codes of the first great jurist, and get a clear understanding and firm grasp of the Mosaic enactments, as he must do to lay the foundation of legal training, yet he may remain ignorant of God.
He may even go to a Bible school, and be able to analyze and synthesize, give outlines of books, and contents of chapters and much else of that invaluable and indispensable sort of knowledge, and yet fail to understand God and His marvellous love [and] will. It is not the Book with which we are concerned here but the God through the Book. Not to learn truth but through truth to know Him who is Himself the truth.
There is a fascinating bit of story told of one of David’s mighty men.1 One day there was a sudden attack upon the camp by the Philistines when the fighting men were all away. The Philistines were the traditional enemy. The very word “Philistines” was one to strike terror to the Hebrew heart. But this man was reckoned one of the first three of David’s mighty men because of his conduct that day. He quietly, quickly gripped his sword and fought the enemy single-handed. Up and down, left and right, hip and thigh he smote with such terrific earnestness and drive that the enemy turned and fled. And we are told that the muscles of his hand became so rigid around the handle of his sword that he could not tell by the feeling where his hand stopped and the sword began. Man and sword were one that day in the action of service against the nation’s enemy.
When we so absorb this Book, and the Spirit of Him who is its life that people cannot tell the line of division between the man and the God within the man, then shall we have mighty power as God’s intercessors in defeating the foe. God and man will be as one in the action of service against the enemy.
I want to make some simple suggestions for studying this Book so as to get to God through it.
First there must be the time element. One must get [time] daily when the mind is fresh. A tired mind does not readily absorb. This should be persisted in until there is a habitual spending of … time daily [with] the Book, with a spirit at [rest] from all else, so it can take in.
Then the time should be given to the Book itself. If other books are consulted and read, as they will be, let that be after the reading of this Book. Let God talk to you direct, rather than through somebody else. Give Him first chance at your ears. This Book in the central place of your table, the others grouped about it. First time given to it.
A third suggestion brings out the circle of this work. Read prayerfully. We learn how to pray by reading prayerfully. This Book does not reveal its sweets and strength to the keen mind merely, but to the Spirit-enlightened mind. With all the mental keenness possible, with the bright light of the Spirit’s illumination—that is the open sesame. I have sometimes sought the meaning of some passage from a keen scholar who could explain the Orientalisms, the fine philological distinctions, the most accurate translations, and all of that, who yet did not seem to know the simple spiritual meaning of the words being discussed. And I have asked the same question of some old saint of God, who did not know Hebrew from a hen’s tracks, but who seemed to sense at once the deep spiritual truth taught. The more knowledge, the keener the mind, the better if illumined by the Spirit that inspired these writings.
There is a fourth word to put in here. We must read thoughtfully. Thoughtfulness is in danger of being a lost art. Newspapers are so numerous, and literature so abundant, that we are becoming a bright, but a not thoughtful people. Often the stream is very wide but has no depth. Fight shallowness. Insist on reading thoughtfully. A very suggestive word in the Bible for this is “meditate.”
Run through and pick out this word with its variations. The word … means to mutter, as though a man were repeating something over and over again, as he turned it over in his mind. We have another word, with the same meaning, not much used now—ruminate. We call the cow a ruminant because she chews the cud. She will spend hours chewing the cud, and then give us the rich milk and cream and butter which she has extracted from her food. That is the word here—ruminate. Chew the cud, if you would get the richest cream and butter here.
And it is remarkable how much chewing this Book of God will stand, in comparison with other books. You [can] chew a while on Tennyson, or Browning, or Longfellow. And I am not belittling these noble writings. I have my own favourite among these men. But they do not yield the richest and yet richer cream found here. This Book of God has stood more of that sort of thing than any other, yet it is the freshest book to be found today. You read a passage over the two-hundredth time and some new fine bit of meaning comes that you had not suspected to be there.
There is a fifth suggestion, that is easier to make than to follow. Read obediently. As the truth appeals to your conscience, let it change your habit and life.