When it comes to reading and interpreting our Bibles it is always important to take into account the historical and literary contexts of the verses recorded. But what if there was something more than the objective science of interpretation to our readings of the Bible? That is, what if there was an inward, subjective approach to the Bible that we as Christians ought to bring as well? I know those words can set any of us who love the halls of exegesis uneasy.
A Sterile Study
However, I’ve found that for some it is far too easy to simply handle the Bible as scientists handle radioactive material - behind glass, covered in sterile clothing, gloves and all - treating Scripture as something solely to be studied and examined for its contents and data to be reported, rather than something to be encountered that actually reads you better than you read it.
This doesn’t mean that we hi-jack faithful biblical exegesis. Authors, locations, genres, audiences and so on are critical! Historian R.G. Collingwood said it right when he said: “any worthwhile history must involve ‘thinking the characters’ thoughts after them.” Thus, running off in any direction desired by the reader is just foolish and selfish. Reading like that betrays a basic respect for the Author and authors of the Bible.
I believe the prophet Isaiah offers us more than a clue to encountering the living God. He provides the exact prescription.
“But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.”
~ Isaiah 66.2
Trembling. This means literally to shake or quake and be moved with awe before God’s Word.
What was the last experience that caused you to tremble?
Seeing your baby born?
Standing before Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon?
Staring out into the sea or up into the cosmos?
Visiting a cathedral? Attending a funeral?
What if that experience of trembling was to actually precede our exegesis of the text? Simply recognizing what we are reading matters. The Bible contains the very
An Inappropriate Yawn
I find that my walk with God is most stagnate when I’m no longer trembling before God’s Word, but rather yawning as I stare at the words on the pages because I’ve grown self-absorbed, bored with God because I’m too familiar with him and focused on “my kingdom come” thinking.
When was the last time you trembled at the Word of God?
If you’ll notice, Isaiah doesn’t say, “This is the one to whom I will look…”
“the one who has a PhD in Theology.”
“the one who has perfect church attendance.”
“the one who has all their t’s crossed and i’s dotted.”
“the one who has the most followers on Twitter.”
God looks for the trembling, the broken and the one who shudders before the Creator’s Word. This isn’t trying to scare you out of Bible study. This is simply giving the Bible it’s proper place. The Bible is like a lion, and thus, if you really know what you’re looking at, you, by nature, will tremble because of it’s power.
“At these words Peter trembled, Plato did not; so let the fisherman keep what the great and famous philosopher ignored!”
Augustine, Sermon 68.7