Fact: The Bible is a big book. The sheer variety of literature found in it is intimidating to anyone who really wants to know it. Studying the Bible is a little like walking onto a new continent with a pick and a shovel and determining to dig up all the gold found there. You start out enthusiastic and a little naive about the task you’ve taken on, but as you hike around digging, you begin to realize just how big the land mass is. “I’ll spend the rest of my life digging!” It is a big book.
Someone once said “The Bible is like a mighty river; there are places where a child can wade, and there are other places in which you can drown an elephant. Good swimmers seek deep water.” I love that statement because it affirms two important truths: the Bible can be read with profit by a very simple person. But also, the Bible is of sufficient depth to dazzle the greatest intellects. Not that simple people can “get” the Bible and intelligent people cannot. Rather, there is material in the Bible which a child can understand, but there is also material that has made the greatest theologians of history scratch their heads.
What ought we do when faced with a continent with so many different landscapes? Always stick to the flat, easy areas? That’s hardly daring. It’s sort of like remaining in kindergarten your whole life. No, let the children come and learn, but don’t let them stay children! Let them grow into “young men” and “fathers” (1 John 2) who grow in knowledge and learn to gaze in wonder at the marvels of the Book. Travel far into the heavenly country! Plunge deep into the spiritual river! Keep hungry for more knowledge of God. Stay thirsty.
Bible study principle number 1: Always hungrily, humbly seek the Word, and never think you’ve “arrived” in your understanding of it. This isn’t to deny that a person can become “grounded” in their Bible knowledge. How depressing would it be to think that we should “always be learning but never come to a knowledge of the truth!” Nevertheless, never get to the point where you can no longer be corrected by the Bible. Always recognize there’s room for clarification, adjustment, and even correction. Always let the Word be your judge. The Bible is the reference point, and a deadening confessionalism creeps in whenever we replace the Bible with the present state of our (or anyone else’s) thinking, no matter how hard-earned or helpful it may be. Encountering God in His Word should be humbling the deeper you go. A person hasn’t explored the Continent much who hasn’t felt shaken and frightened. A person who gets used to plunging into the Depths will indeed walk away stronger, but he also has great respect for those massive currents. “To him will I look . . . to him who trembles at my Word.”
So is a thirsty pursuit of God’s Word still a feature of your life? Do you continually “come to the waters?” Or is the word of a theologian (or worse, the word of a novelist) getting more of your time? (You’ll fill your mind with something.) As my busy life rushes past me, I am always keenly aware of the fickleness of my own soul and my proneness to wander. And, thank God, I become more and more grateful for Christ, who “doesn’t quench the smoking flax” and who keeps bringing me back thirsty to His Word once more.