There are places in the Bible where God’s word is compared to food. In the Old Testament, the Psalmist says that God’s word is sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. The prophet Ezekiel agrees. When God says to him “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it,” Ezekiel says “I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.” The prophet Jeremiah says to God “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart. The prophet Amos explains that the season of spiritual apostasy in Israel in his day is connected to what he calls “a famine of hearing the word of the Lord.”
In the New Testament, Peter says that we should desire God’s word the way a newborn baby longs for his mother’s milk. When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, He says that our souls need spiritual food – God’s word – more than our bodies need physical food. He calls Himself the Bread of Life.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that one mark of spiritual growth in our lives is that we move from the milk of God’s word to the meat. As we grow, our appetite should change. And what we desire should change as well.
Most of us are diligent to keep our bodies well fed. If we skip a meal, we’re likely to describe ourselves as famished or starving, when what we really are is a little hungry. Some of us are careful and meticulous about what we eat. We avoid things that we think might be unhealthy. We may be careful to monitor the percentage of proteins, carbs, and fats we eat each day. And it’s not long after we’re done with lunch that we’re already thinking about what we’ll have for dinner.
Most of us are much less diligent about keeping our souls well fed. We grab a snack here and there, usually on the run. We can go days without taking in any spiritual food. Maybe once a week, when we come to church, we sit down for an extended meal. But most of us don’t know how to prepare a meal for ourselves. We’re busy.
As a result, a lot of Christians have weak and malnourished souls.
People who are facing actual starvation actually lose the sensation of being hungry after a while. The body adjusts. People who are actually famished often don’t feel famished.
Of course, you see where all this is going. I’m concerned that many of you may be going from Sunday to Sunday without much spiritual nutrition in your life.
I’m concerned that you may be grabbing a quick snack (better than nothing at all), but going a week or more at a time without having a solid spiritual meal.
I’m concerned that we accept substitutes for the pure milk of God’s word.
And I’m concerned that some of us need to move from milk to meat, but we don’t.
Some years ago, D. J. De Pree addressed the annual Gideon convention in Washington, D. C. In his message he pointed out that if we want to realize fully the revitalizing power of God’s Word, we have to engage in ten important spiritual activities. He said we must:
- read it
- eat it — that is, take it into our very being
- bathe in it for spiritual cleansing
- look into it as a mirror to see our true self
- meditate on it
- memorize it
- study it
- teach it to others
- talk about it
- and sow its seeds of truth in the field of the world
Look at that list and ask yourself how long it’s been since you were engaged with God’s word in any of those ways. DuPree told his audience that the regular practice of these scriptural admonitions will keep us in a state of perpetual revival.
Martin Luther said he studied his Bible as he gathered apples. First, he shook the whole tree, that the ripest might fall. After that, he shook each limb. And when he had shaken each limb, he shook each branch. And after each branch, every twig. Finally, he looked under every leaf.
It is a good and healthy practice for us to turn to God’s word regularly, to read a portion of scripture, and as we do, to ask God to speak to us through the passage we’re reading. If our hearts are soft and we come expectantly to scripture, God the Holy Spirit will speak to us directly through a particular verse or a passage. This is what we would call devotional reading.
But that should not be the only way we interact with God’s word. We should read it rapidly, just as you would any other book. But then go back and shake every limb — study it book by book. After that, shake every branch, spending extended amounts of time in a particular chapter. Then shake each twig, by carefully studying the paragraphs and sentences. And you will be rewarded as you begin looking under each leaf, by searching the meaning of the individual words.
There are tools that can help you. Like Bible study software (I use Logos). There are websites designed to aid your study of scripture (like this one or this one or this one). A good study Bible is a helpful resource (my top three are the ESV Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible, and the MacArthur Study Bible). It also helps to have a good commentary (like the New Bible Commentary or the Believer’s Bible Commentary).
But you can start today with whatever you have. Look in your app store and you’ll find a whole bunch of free Bible apps for your phone or tablet. Or pull out the trusty paper Bible that maybe you haven’t opened in a while. Pick a New Testament book to begin reading. Say a prayer. Open God’s word and dig in.
The feast is waiting.
We mentioned this in church Sunday, but here’s more info about our upcoming Family Fun Night later this month:
And looking ahead to next month, we have a few things we want to make sure are on your radar.
First, we’re moving our annual church business meeting from March 1 to March 15. We’ll have it right after the potluck lunch we’ll have that day, immediately following our morning worship service. More potluck details coming soon.
And guys, make sure you have March 20-21 circled on your calendar for our spring men’s retreat. Here’s a “save the date” for you:
If you’d like to know more about Dr. Landon Dowdan, our speaker for the retreat, here’s a link for you.
Some of you know about The Well, the group of young adults who meet every Tuesday night at Redeemer. Nathan Izard has been helping lead this group, and he’d love to connect and answer any questions you might have about who comes and what they do each week.
They have a special series starting later this month. Beginning on February 25, and continuing for 4-5 weeks, Dr. John Dietrich will be leading a series that looks at the subject of work – our job or our vocation – from a biblical perspective. The series is called Work is God’s Idea. If you know any young singles – twenty-somethings or thirty-somethings – who you think might be interested in learning more about how we can think more biblically about the way we spend the biggest part of our day, invite them to come.
We’ll have more info soon. And again, you can send Nathan an email with any questions you might have. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you think of yourself as a godly person? Would other people describe you that way? Or does that idea maybe sound presumptuous? In 2 Peter, we’re told that godliness is one characteristic we should add to our faith. But what exactly does that mean?
We’ll find out on Sunday!
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!