The Bible has sometimes been described according to an acronym: “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” While this is memorable, somewhat humorous and a bit helpful, it really only hints at the fullness of what God’s Word is meant to be in our lives. Holy Scripture is God’s revelation of himself to humankind. While there are many times we wish there were more in our Bibles—more explanations, more answers, more clarity—as Christians we trust that the Old and New Testaments are God’s Word in its complete form, and that Scripture represents “the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct,” according to the affirmations of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
God’s Word of Instruction
I’ve been spending time lately in Psalm 119, the longest chapter of the Bible. You might already know that this psalm is structured in what must have been a poetic challenge to the psalmist: it’s composed of 22 stanzas named after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each of the eight lines in each stanza begins with that corresponding letter. Almost all of the 176 verses refer to God’s Word in some way, frequently repeating the words “law,” “statutes,” “word,” “instructions,” etc.
Over the course of this lengthy psalm, the writer reveals a deep love for the Word of God that is somehow simultaneously inspiring and guilt-inducing (at least for me). Do I really love God’s Word more than much gold, do I often pant after and long for God’s instructions, and do I truly lie awake at night considering God’s Word and meditating on it? At my best moments, yes. And most days, I’m spending time in God’s Word and asking God to allow me to be shaped by it, so that my life might be different because of what I encounter in God’s Word.
A God Encounter
The fact is, when we encounter God’s Word, it’s an opportunity to encounter God himself. We’re not opening the pages of some dusty book that’s irrelevant because it’s so old. Its age actually speaks instead to its timelessness and to the fact that God’s Word stands eternally. As we place ourselves in front of Scripture and actually listen to it rather than simply read the words, we have the opportunity to hear again the voice of God, and we trust that God’s Spirit will be at work in us to apply those words to our lives and to transform us.
Paul tells his friend and protégé, Timothy: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If we truly remain rooted in God’s Word, we can trust that God will accomplish the purposes he has in mind for us.
Of course, just because Scripture is invaluably useful in our lives doesn’t mean our encounters with God through his Word will be easy, or even painless. Hebrews 4:12 declares, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” That’s not a simple process and it doesn’t come without a struggle. But we couldn’t possibly be in more loving, more powerful or more perfect hands than when we come to God’s Word with open hearts, minds and lives.
With you in the journey,