Patient Reading

We Americans tend to be an impatient lot. (I’m sure other cultures have their own problems with impatience, but I am writing as an American.) Patiently waiting for things is practically a thing of the past. If I want to know something, I can simply talk to my phone, and I will get a million possible answers in .34 seconds. If I want something, I need only tap a few things on a screen and, sometimes, by the end of the day, I can have it. I need ... I want ... answers fast. Who has time anymore to wait on things with all of our time-saving mechanisms?

Then we come to the Bible. The Bible is an ancient book with laws concerning white hairs growing out of sores, where you may and may not defecate, and how to deal with goring oxen. There are odd stories about an axe head floating, a man being swallowed by a great fish, and some guy name Jacob being touched on his thigh so that he walked with a limp the rest of his life (therefore, “the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.” Gen 32.32). You come to the New Testament letters and there is a quite a bit about Jews and Gentiles and their relationships with one another. What use is all of this stuff?

Books are created that use Bible blurbs to give motivational or inspirational quotes. Why? Because we need a Google Bible in which we can find those things that help us to hack it with the stresses of the twenty-first century. If it is not immediately and apparently relevant to our situation, then we don’t need it. Who has time to think through and meditate on Scripture? I just need to know that I can do all things–throw a ball, close a deal, win this game, achieve my childhood dreams–through Christ who strengthens me.

The Scriptures demand us to slow down. Read patiently. Meditate thoroughly. As you meditate through those passages that aren’t immediately relevant to your situation, the way you are thinking is changing. As the way you are thinking is changing, you are slowly being transformed (Rom 12.2). Your understanding of God, his creation, and how you relate to both properly is being shaped in a way that has long-term effects on the way you act and respond to situations around you.

For instance, in Ephesians Paul speaks about us as being seated with Christ in “the heavens” (Eph 2.6). We don’t see ourselves right now literally seated in the heavens. So, what possible relevance does this have for us? One reference that Paul has in mind here when he writes this is the second and fourth days of creation. On the second day of creation, God created the firmament, which he called “heaven.” In the firmament, on the fourth day, he placed the sun, moon, and stars for signs and festival times, to govern or rule the day and night (Gen 1.14-19). Throughout Scripture rulers and governments are symbolized by heavenly bodies. (Think about the fifty stars on our flag representing fifty governments.) Christ, the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4.2), has risen to rule over the earth. We are seated with him in the firmament-heaven to rule with him. We rule the world with Christ Jesus in the present.

This changes the way I think. Salvation is not just about me escaping the fires of hell. Salvation is about ruling with Christ in order to set the world right. This change of thinking changes everything from the way that I pray to the way that relate to the material things of creation. I am vested with responsibility to be a good ruler, to take proper dominion over that bit of creation that God has given me (for example, my own body, my land, my family, etc.), making it fruitful.

To think like this takes time and years of meditation. It doesn’t come by mining the Scriptures for a motivational nugget or two every once in a while, or hearing teaching that is only and always “how to.”

Of all the patience that we cultivate in this Advent season, let us cultivate patience in reading the Scriptures.