I was quite taken with a short video clip by John Piper this week.
The intro reads:
“It is one of the saddest effects of the fall that over time the greatest wonders in the world become routine. The first day among the Alps we are speechless with wonder. By the end of the week, we’re playing video games. This reality is a great human tragedy.
So it is with the Bible. It is an immeasurable wonder that God has given us an inspired book containing the truth about himself and his ways and what he wills for our lives. If it had not been around for two thousand years, stocked in every bookstore, found in hotel drawers, courtrooms, mobile apps — if it arrived today, we would either write it off as a ludicrous myth, or we would bow down in worship and scarcely dare to touch it.”
Piper speaks in hopes of restoring our wonder in the Word of God. And I ‘get’ what he’s saying because I distinctly remember my first sight of the Swiss Alps as a teenager on a school trip. They were so achingly beautiful in the light of the setting sun that I wondered how anything ever again would seem beautiful in comparison. That thought almost made me cry. I remember it still.
The Word of God is like this—an incomparable revelation of God’s heart, God’s will, and the glory of God’s Son, all written down for us. And yet, the wonder fades… Why is that?
That’s what I’ve been pondering this week. Have a listen to John Piper’s thoughts here, then I will add my own.
Some see a portrait…others a window with never ending beauty beyond.
God wrote a book—pages and pages of God—His thoughts, His heart…We see God Himself in this book. We meet Him here or we don’t meet Him, not with any hope of friendship…
Our weak, tired, distracted eyes see a boring portrait on the wall, but it’s a window… it breaks through into the real world, the better world, the lasting world. And through this window shines a divine light that changes everything!
Discipline and resolve can carry you only so far. We need something stronger. There are too many traps and hurdles along the path. At the root of the reasons we don’t read the Bible is that we don’t want to read the Bible.
We see a wall, not a window, a boring portrait, not the never ending beauty beyond it. So we leave it shut and we miss the miracle.
The God who said let light shine out of darkness loves to shine…
He wakens our dead bored souls.
He frees us from bondage to sin.
He satisfies us with Words, His words.
How else will I know Him. How else will I prepare myself to enjoy Him forever. I’ll spend the rest of my life looking out of this window, waiting for another sight of Him, another glimpse of my God –John Piper
Piper’s words make me think about my own experience of the Word of God. I have read it nearly all my life. And mostly, I have loved it. But not always. Some days I get up early to read it, longing to hear God’s voice—to sense His Spirit speaking to mine in its pages–directing, reassuring, counseling… But many other mornings I don’t wrangle myself out of bed. I don’t rise to listen. Why is that? I think I’d rather sleep a little longer, (or lie there awake but cozy, as the case may be). There is in me this lingering nagging doubt. Maybe God won’t ‘show up’. Maybe it will be a frustrating waste of time to open those pages and search in vain for a living word. Maybe this morning the Word will be dry and empty, like chaff to my hungry soul. And I’ll come away wishing I hadn’t wakened my hunger. Or maybe I’m not even hungry. All seems well in my world. I think I’ll do quite fine today without the manna.
I suppose there are lots of reasons we don’t read the Word with an insatiable appetite—reasons we see it as a severe-faced portrait on the wall rather than a window overlooking the Alps. One thing that has helped to sustain my appetite for the Word through good times and low times is this. Where once I came looking for a verse for me, a tidbit I could pluck right off the page to make me feel better about me, more and more I’m coming to Scripture looking for what God is saying about Himself, His own heart, His desires, His plans. What does He want me to know? Why did He include this passage in the collection of ‘all Scripture’ that is declared ‘profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…’ (II Tim.3:16) Asking this question has taken my attention off my need and turned it back to God’s heart. He’s given this inspired Word for my benefit but it is not primarily about me. It’s about Him. And the more I look at it that way, the more I see, and the more I want to come back to know Him better.
Suppose we were to come to the Word to see God, to know Him as He really is, not as we have imagined Him to be? What if we were to come full of wonder, to marvel, to fear, to bow, to adore this God who is so unlike us and yet has stooped to make us in His image so that we can walk with Him and hear His voice in the cool of the day?
Suppose I could refrain from trying to make every passage fit my immediate need—like a TUMS for the soul, some quick-fix to take away the discomfort of life in a disordered world? Suppose instead I would keep coming back to this book as God’s remedy for the underlying cancer that’s causing all the pain in the world as we know it. There may be no quick fix, but there is hope here, an eternal hope that resets my fixation with the present.
Here lies God’s unfolding story of reaching down to the likes of us. In the beginning, here is God creating. In the end, He’s banishing evil and wiping away our every tear. And in the middle God manages the messes man makes as He brings His Kingdom reign to earth. God’s word gives me a window into all of this.
Do I come to the Word as an old portrait on a wall I’ve passed a thousand times or as a window framing the never-ending beauty of a God who makes Himself known to me in its pages?
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Is.55:1-3,9-11 ESV