I was in 2nd or 3rd grade when, in addition to roping steers and wiping out the local sparrow population with my slingshot, memorizing the first chapter of the Bible became my fixation. (Yes, I've always had an above-average portion of the inner nerd.) Being a King James kind of kid, words like firmament, winged, and creepeth tumbled off my southern tongue as I chiseled the chapter into my memory. When I'd accomplished my goal, my pastor caught wind of what I'd done, and I soon found myself front and center one Sunday morning, rattling off the account of creation like an underage rabbi in Southern Baptist garb.
Do you ever want to go back in time, not to meet some famous person, or to experience some monumental event, but simply to meet the younger you? To rediscover some fire in you that once burned hot and bright, but has cooled through the passage of years to smoldering embers?
I wish I could tell you that my youthful devotion to the Scriptures only grew with me as I matured from a boy into a man. But the Bible and I have had an on-again off-again kind of relationship. Through the years, I suffered through moralizing Sunday school lessons and struggled through theologizing seminary courses; was both pupil and teacher in a boatload of Bible classes; and even penned a few articles and studies that, in one way or another, involved Holy Writ. You might think that, given all that time and effort I’ve invested in the Word, I must really love it. But the truth is that the Scriptures, like all of God's gifts to me, easily fall prey to the contempt that familiarity breeds.
When I read books or articles that cite the Bible, I have a tendency to barely glance at the verses of Scripture the author quotes, as my eye hurries along to read what stunning insight the writer may have to share next. My mind says, “Oh, that’s just the Bible being quoted. Move along. Nothing I don’t already know.” I’ve noticed over the years, when Christians gather for “Bible Study” time, that actual study of the Scriptures takes a back seat to discussions of doctrinal issues, debates over ethical questions, sharing insights into relationship challenges, bashing the unorthodox, lamenting cultural trends, and a host of other issues, while Bibles sit on the tables open but unread, unstudied, unloved—props of piety not Scriptures for study. How many pastors, when prepping for their next sermon, spend as much time reading, meditating upon, and inwardly digesting the Scriptures as they do consulting commentaries, other sermons, Luther, the church fathers, or anyone else besides the inspired prophets of Christ?
Indeed, let it be said that there is much to be gained from reading books about the Bible, listening to scholars lecture concerning the Scriptures, discussing matters related to the inspired text. But no matter how scintillating the author or how insightful the book, when we detach ourselves from intimate, direct contact with the holy Scriptures, we are kissing the bride through the veil.
We need skin-to-skin contact with those sacred words. I do. We all do. So if you’re like I am, and have let your love for the Scriptures grow lukewarm, if not cold; if you find yourself, like a bored husband, ogling others while the beautiful biblical bride stands right before your eyes; if you discover that you’re looking everywhere but the Scriptures themselves to find out what God wants or says or demands or offers; then
lift the veil that separates the two of you,
put your lips to the sacred words once more
and taste and see that the Lord is good.