Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
As a bible teacher in all sorts of environments for a long time now, I have been exposed to many denominational idiosyncrasies with respect to how they ‘read’ certain scriptures and doctrines. Somehow, over time, like most of us, I managed to find a way to counter them in line with my own ideas on biblical interpretation. I eventually realised that I had been exposed to some truly terrible teaching over many years and as I got older I realised that there was only one way to sort out this mess of doctrinal conflict, and that was to sign up for a degree in theology majoring in biblical studies. It was at this point that I was exposed to many different ideas and interpretations relating to the reading of the scriptures and I was challenged to re-think many of the ideas that I had held onto so tightly for so long. The good news is that God in His grace was very patient with me and gently led me through the process of training my mind on how to read the Bible more accurately, I was able to see both the bigger picture of where everything fitted into the biblical narrative and also to dig right down to the subtle nuances that are often lost in the English language translations.
What does that mean for us then? Please allow me to suggest that we approach our Bible reading with an open mind. Even in Jesus’ ministry almost everyone had preconceived expectations of what their scriptures said about the messiah. He demonstrated over and over that their ‘read’ on the scriptures was incorrect. The centuries of rabbinical interpretation and teaching had resulted in a population with both unrealistic and unrealised expectations for Jesus as the messiah the anointed one of God. The consequence for them was, of course, that they had their messiah, the son of god, standing in front of them and they missed him. Knowing what we know now, of course, we have a very different view of what the Old Testament teaches about the messiah. We now have two thousand years of scholarly study of the scriptures behind us today to assist us with our understanding.
Let us look at a couple of examples from the scripture that illustrate what I believe that we are going to need to really get to grips with our mission as a church in Nambucca Heads.
Luke 10:38–42 (NLT)
Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Here is this story in Luke 10 where Jesus enters the house of Mary and Martha, and Mary is sitting at his feet, so totally focussed that nothing is going to stop her from listening to him. Martha’s running around doing all this stuff, preparing, and she actually gets angry and tells Jesus ‘hey can’t you tell Mary to help me she’s just sitting there’, and Jesus answers and says “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
It looks like a simple story at first blush. Yet when you study the context and culture of the day you will quickly discover that this was far more than it seemed. You see in that culture; Mary’s place was with the women. By every convention of the day she should have been doing exactly as Martha asked. Women were excluded from biblical teaching. This was men’s business, and she had no place sitting down with the men to learn from Jesus. Jesus did, however, recognise her desire to know Him and to deepen her relationship with Him and he honoured her by not only allowing her to stay, but commended her for her devotion.
When I read that story, I’m thinking, gosh our churches are filled with Martha’s that are anxious about so much stuff that is going on in their busy lives, and I’m not hearing about the people that are just sitting at the Lord’s feet every day doing the one thing that Jesus says is necessary. I mean don’t you think that’s a big deal when Jesus says one thing is necessary, and that is what Mary is doing, sitting at my feet.
In the old testament there are many examples in the Psalms of a similar attitude towards our relationship with God. Here is Psalm 27: 4 and 14
4 One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
14 Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
All through scripture people saw this as the priority, I just want to be alone in the presence of God. It seems that we’ve lost this art of meditating day and night on the Word of God. Psalm 1 says we become these trees that should be deeply rooted but instead we are just blown and tossed by the wind. We’re not rooted. We’re not strong. We’re not deep, and the church needs to get deep in the word. When that happens. When individuals get alone with the word of God, instead of just going to the word for answers for our problems. We could just continue to learn more about who God is, and what he says for me, and that will shine a light on everything in my life and give me a different kind of perspective. We will see things through a different lens as it were. A heavenly perspective.
Isaiah 55:8–9 (NKJV)
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
As we get closer to him, we will recognise that there are things that we are thinking that are nothing like the things that He is thinking. We will realise that there are things that we are doing that are not what He would be doing. We live in a time where everyone just says, I think this, I think that, or I feel this, I feel that. God’s saying it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand. Look up, you see the heavens up there now, it’s so much higher than Earth, that’s why my thoughts are so much higher than yours. So why do we spend all day looking inside ourselves and trying to figure out what we feel and what we think, if God tells us right there that his thoughts are not the same as ours but they’re infinitely higher.
It’s not good enough for us to starve ourselves all week of abiding in the presence of God and sitting at His feet with the word, only to come to church on Sunday and expect the worship service to fulfill this deep need that we all have. To expect the pastor to have done all the abiding and meditating in the word for us, so that all we have to do is just listen as if somehow all someone else’s effort will miraculously be transferred to us by some divine osmosis. Friends we need to get into the word seriously for ourselves and have it as our topic of conversation when we meet together.
The last word by Bob Gass
Don’t “surf the net” of God’s Word, study it! Always come to it like you are coming to it for the first time. Meditate on it! Memorize it! Discuss it! Ask yourself, “What is God saying to me in this?” If there is a promise, what are the conditions? Have I obeyed them? Do the words I speak agree with what God has said? Don’t read words of life and then speak words of death. Remember, faith cometh by “hearing,” not “having heard,” or you’d have to hear it only once. (See Romans 10:17.) If there’s no faith present, it is usually because there’s no Word proclaimed. Many of us cannot believe that God will heal us or meet our needs, because we have not heard enough of the Word!
Jesus said, “Take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:24). No matter how good they may be, the people in your life can’t give you faith if they don’t have any of their own. In Ephesians 6, Paul says, “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” If you’re going to win this battle, you’d better know your weapon, its range, its penetrating power, and how to use and maintain it. The devil came at Jesus three different ways, and each time He answered, “It is written.” He had the Word in His Spirit! When you’re sick, you can’t say, “He took my sickness and bore my infirmities” (Matthew 8:17) if you don’t have it in your spirit!
So today get into the Word, and get the Word into you!
 Bob Gass, A Fresh Word For Today : 365 Insights For Daily Living (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 332.