Monday, April 21, 2014

Shallow vs deep bible study: do you want to really see?

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, I see a branch of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, You have seen well: for I am ready to perform My word.” (Jeremiah 1:11, 12.)

Charles Spurgeon said in sermon #2678, "Lesson of the Almond Tree",
OBSERVE, first, dear Friends, that before Jeremiah becomes a speaker for God, he must be a seer . The name for a Prophet, in the olden time, was a “seer”—a man who could see—one who could see with his mind’s eye, one who could also see with spiritual insight, so as vividly to realize the Truth of God which he had to deliver in the name of the Lord.

Learn that simple lesson well, O you who try to speak for God! You must be seers before you can be speakers. The question with which God usually begins His conversation with each of His true servants is the one He addressed to Jeremiah, “What do you see?” I am afraid that there are so me ministers, nowadays, who do not see much. Judging by what they preach, their vision must be all in cloudland, where all they see is smoke, mist and fog. I often meet with persons who have attended the same ministry for years—and when I have asked them even very simple questions about the things of God, I have found that they do not know anything.

It was not because they were not able to comprehend quickly when the Truth was set forth plainly before them, but I fear that it was, in most cases, because there was nothing that they could learn from the minister to whom they had been accustomed to listen. The preacher had seen nothing and, therefore, when he described what he saw, of course it all amounted to nothing.

No, my Brother, before you can make an impression upon another person’s heart , you must have an impression made upon your own soul. You must be able to say, concerning the Truth of God, “I see it,” before you can speak it so that your hearers shall also see it. It must be clear to your own mind, by the spiritual perception which accompanies true faith, or else you will not be able to say with the Psalmist, “I believed, therefore have I spoken.” Let me say again that sentence which I uttered a minute ago—the speaker for God must first be a seer in the Light of God.
I often cry out to the Lord that I want to see. I want to plumb the depths of His word and learn more about Him all the time. I want to go deeper, see more, understand Him. I know I see through a glass darkly now, and it will only be later that I fully know, but still, can I know You more today than yesterday, please? (1 Corinthians 13:12).

It's a double edged sword though. Knowing Him better through His word means I get to know myself better, also. In reading Who He is, we get to know ourselves better to, positionally. I get convicted, repentant, and sorrowful over my own sin and the sin of the world.

This is the analogy.

If you know the size of RI, the ocean is never very far, since RI is so small. Moreover, my grandparents had a house on the bayfront, and we kids and all the cousins would visit constantly. Weekly, just about daily in summer. And we always had a boat.

Lubec Harbor, ME. Murky Atlantic waters hide rocks & great hazards.
EPrata photo
In the book The Wind in the Willows, Water Rat is extolling the virtues of being on the water to Mole, who has never been in a boat. Mole wants to know if it's nice.
"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
The bay or the ocean has many charms, and all of them are interesting to a child. We splashed on the water, swam, messed around on the boat, played at the water's edge. We collected shells and we dove off the dock and we raced to the mooring buoy and we lazed on the grass. We loved the water.

Snorkeling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped tube called a snorkel, and usually fins. Use of this equipment allows the snorkeler to observe underwater attractions for extended periods of time with relatively little effort.

As we grew older, we became fascinated with what was under the water. We'd fight for the masks and snorkel gear and paddle along, looking in fascination below the surface at the pretty pebbles the small waves were rolling along the sand. Or a hermit crab curling into his house shell as we swam over him, darkening his shallow water sky. Sometimes we'd forget we were in such shallow water and scrape our knees as we kicked along the beach's edge, heeding our grandmother's warning to stay close to shore.

As we grew even older, we wanted to see what was under the surface, really deep. Could we see horseshoe crabs? Fish? The anchor of the boat as it bobbed in the calm waves under a sunny sky? What was under there!? It was frustrating, the waters were not clear and even with a mask and flippers, we couldn't get down far enough to see the bottom. Under the surface was still a mystery to us.

Then I sailed in The Bahamas. The waters are clear there. It was both fascinating and disconcerting to say the least! Suddenly I could see all the way down, but what the clear water revealed was another world, and one fraught with dangers, toils, and snares. Our keel passing over a coral head, we didn't know if the coral was inches below the surface and ready to open the underside of our boat like a sardine can, or was in fact as deep below as the charts said. Predator barracudas were everywhere. And actually seeing the bottom was sometimes not a blessing, because it gave us an aquatic vertigo, always unsteady in thinking the boat as about to run aground in what looked like mere inches of water but was in fact fathoms.

In this photo, it was so clear that we could see our own anchor,
in 30 feet of water. In the moonlight. EPrata photo
Being able to see the depths under the surface of the waters revealed another world. It was as if the surface of the ocean was simply a thin veil, covering a vast and mysterious and beautiful world, hidden until now. It was a world that existed with ours, was immediately adjacent, and in this bit of Bahamian clarity, was in equal parts scary, dangerous, and destabilizing.

Do you want to go deeper? Do you want to see? Really see, as Spurgeon described? I hope you do. As we grow in sanctification we do not stay in the shallow water for long. We should desire to peer into the depths of the ocean of truth and see what the Lord will reveal.

"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation..." (1 Peter 2:2)

The milk here is the spiritual food good for building up. When we're born-again as babes we begin feeding on the pure spiritual milk. We crave it with intensity like a baby cries for his bottle! We need it every few hours! When we have capacity to understand more, we still thirst, and we go deeper into the Living Waters.

But we must be ready to withstand its glories. We remember who we are and in taking in all truth, we see our depravity compared to His holiness. We cry out, as Isaiah did,

"And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Reading the bible deeply, coming so close to His glory as revealed in the bible, some days I might as well say something similar, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a woman of unclean lips, and unholy heart, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have read the words of the King that the Spirit has delivered to us and revealed in His word!"

And yet we desire more, deeper, to see. Or we should.

"The word is to be desired with appetite as the cause of life, to be swallowed in the hearing, to be chewed as cud is by rumination with the understanding, and to be digested by faith" [Tertullian].

Or...stay in the shallow end. It's up to you.





2 comments :

  1. That video was painfully hilarious. :)

    C H Mackintosh is an excellent Bible expositor...my husband and I have read his commentaries for years and recently began reading his Notes on the Pentateuch with our 10 year old son. I know most of it is going over his head, but it will lay a good foundation for his later study.

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  2. That video was funny. We just got an email from our small group leader with an accountability form that we will start using soon. My flesh wanted to fight it at first, but I know it is for my own sanctification.

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