What is the sense that you have when you open up the Bible? Does it feel like a duty or more like a delight? Is it a habit that you’ve developed over years or an occasional, spur of the moment decision? Does it feel like the words of an old, faithful friend being spoken to your soul or a complex book from an ancient world?
The Bible is a remarkable book – it is deep enough for an elephant to swim yet shallow enough for a toddler not to drown. There is profundity and simplicity. It makes the wise simple and the simple wise.
For many people, however, they open the Bible and feel the gap – culturally, historically, and spiritually. Rules of interpretation (known as ‘hermeneutics’) are given to help people observe, interpret, and apply the Bible. But what if the Bible could be read much more simply and supernaturally? Does it have to start with such a complex science?
Martin Luther believed that there were three steps in reading the Bible, and, if followed, would make a person a great theologian. As he studied Psalm 119, he came to see that the Bible could be read not as a mere academic exercise, but a spiritually transforming encounter with the living God. His concern was not that people would read the Bible scientifically and end up with knowledge, but with faith that produced experiential wisdom. The three steps are oratio, meditatio, and tentatio.
Oratio is reading the Bible prayerfully. Luther would say that if we approach the Bible with our reason and understanding, we would be presumptuous and come with human wisdom. Instead, prayer is the posture of humility that kneels down before God and asks him to enlighten, lead, and give understanding.
Meditatio takes the Word of God and meditates upon the words over and over so that the Holy Spirit might reveal what is meant. Becoming a theologian is not a science since the meaning of Scripture can never be exhausted by finite human minds. Reading, hearing, singing, speaking the Word will bring illumination to all of life.
Tentatio is the acknowledgement that when we open the Bible, Satan will oppose us and we will struggle. All opposition and struggle drive us back to God, asking how His Word is truly sweet, good, comforting, and mighty. By struggling, God meets us and reveals to us how the Word of God is experientially good and lovely, making us wiser than our enemies.
So when you open your Bible, take these three tools and believe that God will make you delight in His Word! As we explore these three ways of reading the Bible over the next three weeks, pray that the Lord will make the Scriptures sweeter than the honeycomb to your soul!
Expecting great things from His Word,