Psalm 107:43 says that “whoever is wise, let him attend to these things…”
When we think of Bible reading, or Bible study, or devotion time — what a wretchedly sugary phrase that is — we must admit that we approach the Bible with certain attitudes. At times the main root of these attitudes is demonstrated by, or described by, the word “get.”
That is, we approach the Bible to “get.” Here are some phrases that I have heard from people over the years in regard to their Bible reading:
- “Get something from” – this speaks to their quick flyover of a passage. It’s a synopsis style of spirituality that samples truth, or Bible browses, hoping to find a passage to “get something from” for the day. This could be likened to hens pecking around in the front yard hoping to pick up something along the way.
- “Get something out of” – this is a little more in-depth, by an inch or so. Some actual study, or at least a smidge of mindful staring at a verse or two takes place here. An effort was made; or, some contractions were felt, but little pushing followed.
- “Get into” – this is a phrase that is used in conjunction with a New Year’s resolution, or following a good Bible lesson at church or small group time, as in “I am going to get into the Bible this week and dig in.” What usually happens the next day is a nice sashay or jaunt through a chapter or so of the Bible, which eventually slows from there on. This type of Bible sauntering can lull one into a devotional nap, which in turn declines into a spiritual coma, until the next New Years, or good lesson at church, or such. Tragically, it’s a case of good intentions shipwrecked upon the shores of lackadaisical island.
Note the word common to all of these scenarios: “get.” The idea of “getting” here is one of taking possession of and carrying around something for spiritual comfort or encouragement for the week. The “getting” is usually not followed by “keeping.” Sadly. So, it is a spiritual pacifier, or salve, or wobbly crutch for the day or week.
The idea of “getting” from the Bible is inherently an arrogant one. It assumes that God’s word is static and that things can be lifted from it for our benefit, when in truth the Bible is God’s living word that cannot be “gotten” or possessed. It takes possession of us. Not the other way around. You can get the flu or poison ivy. Those can be achieved by a person simply going to the source and making some contact. Conversely, the Bible requires more than you coming to it and making some contact for good things to happen. As a side note, if you really do read and study the Bible you will be able to avoid many diseases that are bothersome, and that cause a rash (see Leviticus).
One of the legion of things that is wrong with this idea of a “getting” approach is that it is like a child strolling through a candy store sampling the goodies that suits his/her fancies and tastes, with little regard for anything in particular. That is, until the next brightly colored treat catches his/her eye and he/she scurries off after it. The “getting” approach is random, careless, rushed, mood-driven, and selfish. With this approach the reader — or skimmer — attempts to dictate to the Scripture by forcing it through the sieve of his or her desires or needs for that moment in order to get a quick hit of nicety or warm fuzzies.
It usually goes like this: someone (less spiritually mature than you or me, at least for this example) is stressed, feels anxious, and can’t find a formula to reduce that anxiety. Then, the Bible is sought out as a last resort. A verse is found, latched onto because it says something positive, and the person walks away thinking that he “got” a promise from God out of this verse. The soul of this kind of person is akin to a spiritual dryer lint trap, it has lots of things passing by it, but only collects fluff — useless, but soft, colorful, and April-fresh fragranced fluff.
Bible study is not about getting. It is about going to and soaking in God’s Word. Read Psalm 107:43. Seriously, go read it. It says that we are to “attend to” God’s Word. This phrase in the original Hebrew has the idea of keeping watch over and observing, or taking heed to for observation. Yikes. That will take some time, and thinking, and discipline. Egads.
But, doesn’t God’s eternal Word deserve such attention? Yes, it does.
This type of attention is similar to that which a mother gives to her sick child, an outdoorsman devotes to watching nature, a soldier dedicates to his post, and of a poet pondering over and choosing the right word. Love, wonder, commitment, and careful thought are the motives of the previous examples. That is what attending looks like. That is what God’s Word deserves … and demands. Oops.
We are to attend to His Word. This mindful attending will lead to:
- Guarding against sin (Psalm 119:2-3, 9, 11)
- Gaining Wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-7)
- Understanding His Word and dividing it rightly (2 Tim 2:15)
- Having delight greater than riches (Psalm 119:14, 24, 35, 47)
That only names a few of the benefits of attending to God’s Word.
If we are wise we will alter our approach and “attend” to God’s Word, and not try to “get” from it. By attending to the Word it will alter us, and make an altar of us. The wise attend to His Word; His Word attends wisdom to them.