“Cliché-anity” is when short sayings or clichés substitute for real theology and deep thinking. It happens like this: Christians get used to hearing a catchy phrase that may have at the time been helpful, but then uncritically adopt it longer than we should. (And in some cases, we adopt it when we shouldn’t.) ...
Do you struggle to read the Bible? Do you want to read the Bible more than you do? Do you often start a Bible reading plan, only to quit after a week? Do you keep telling yourself, “I’ll begin reading the Bible after X and Y get taken care of”?
Let me remind you of three neglected aspects of Bible study from Proverbs 2:1-4:
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
First, we’ve neglected urgency.
These verses are the words of a father to his son, or an older believer to a younger believer. “My son,” he says. There’s urgency in his words. He is pleading with his son to study God’s Word. It’s a life-and-death matter. Proverbs makes it clear that evil, seducing forces are seeking to destroy us each day. Before you know it, you’ll be standing in the presence of God, and are you ready?
I believe we need to recapture this urgency. Too often, we merely “suggest” that people read the Bible, as if Bible reading were optional. We’re afraid to plead with the younger generation, for instance, to study the Scriptures. These days, which are filled with so many other activities, we need to be urgent more than ever. The next generation needs to see and hear us plead with it to read God’s Word. Only then will they realize that some things are optional, but some are life-and-death. This is the latter.
We plead with them to do their best on the sports field or in the class room. How much more ought we to plead with them to read the Bible?
Second, we’ve neglected hard work.
Notice the various action clauses in these verses:
- Receive my words
- Treasure up my commandments
- Make your ear attentive to wisdom
- Incline your heart to understanding
- Call out for insight
- Raise your voice for understanding
- Seek it like silver
- Search for it as for hidden treasure
Can you see all the obsessive language? On the one hand, we’re to be urgent, but on the other hand, we’re to be diligent. Reading the Bible is not easy! It’s hard work. In fact, if it’s not hard work for you, then chances are, you’re missing something important.
Reading the Bible is not automatic. You have to be diligent. Receive, treasure up, make your ear attentive, incline your heart, call out, raise your voice, seek, and search. Personal Bible study is a battle, maybe the greatest of your life. There will be so many obstacles against you. You have to fight to make it happen and to receive understanding.
Perhaps we ought to change the way we talk about Bible reading. Instead of simply telling people, “Read your Bible,” we need to be more realistic. “Friend, reading the Bible will be a struggle. But you need to persevere. Call out for help and cry out for understanding. Seek it with all you’ve got. Keep your ear open so you don’t miss the truths God has for you.”
Third, we’ve neglected imagination.
Finally, we have failed to see God’s Word as a treasure. These verses teach that God’s Word is like silver and hidden treasure. No wonder his pursuit is so vigorous! He is seeking a valuable object. I’m convinced that so many of our problems about Bible study would be solved if we realized that the Bible is a treasure. You don’t have to convince anyone to search diligently for a treasure. Every human does it naturally.
This could mean we need to approach our study of the Bible differently. Perhaps we need to think of it more emotionally, rather than intellectually. We need to spur our imagination more than our rational mind. The metaphor “seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure” is highly emotional. It’s meant to stimulate your imagination. Once your imagination is on board, there’s little stopping your mind and volition.
How are you doing with Bible study? I’ve observed that too often, we neglect one or more of these three aspects. We’ll think of Bible study just in terms of routine or knowledge. But the more we can recapture urgency, hard work, and imagination, the more vital our pursuit of God will be.