Listening to the Holy Bible being read makes me feel like one of the first branches grafted into the One True Vine.
Over the past three weeks, the voice of Max McLean has become like the voice of a friend, speaking familiar passages that I have read through many times. But there is something about listening to God’s Word, rather than reading it for myself; when I hear the Word being read, it is like wearing the shoes (or sandals) of those who listened to it at the first.
When the Church first began, it was built up by those full of the Holy Spirit, blessed by God to show lost sheep the way into the Kingdom. The apostles wrote letters to those wanting to (and/or needing to) know the Way of Christ more perfectly, and those letters are what we know today as the New Testament. The books of the New Testament were not written as publications for sale, but as letters from the heart of God for the edification of His beloved Church.
When the letters were received, they would have been read before the body of believers and seekers in that region, so that all those seeking after a Messiah may be blessed by the Word that testifies of Christ. I am blessed to belong to a church where the spiritual leaders preach from the Word of God, but only recently have I personally started to listen to the Holy Bible being read. Before this, I listened to hours of sermon after sermon, where men gave lessons on Scripture. By each of those sermons, I was blessed and exhorted, but nothing sticks to my spirit like the Word of God. When I face temptations or trials, it is not the words from sermons that come to my mind and heart, but the Words spoken by God through the Holy Bible. The Bible itself is an incredible sermon that needs not be expounded upon, and the message it brings is both simple and multifaceted, hard-hitting and encouraging, yet surprisingly short. In just three weeks, I have listened through the New Testament three times and I am on the fourth round now. And the more I listen, the more I feel the truth of the final statement in the book of John: And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:25)
The Holy Bible is too short to fully expound all there is to know about God, because He existed before anything was even made; He has always been. What books could be written about those things which happen outside of our confines of time? If books could not contain Jesus’ deeds here on earth, how much less His deeds in Heaven? And though the Bible seems short, yet it is often all that we can do to wonder and marvel at the Word written by the living God. Surely, the Creator’s ways are past finding out and what pleases Him is a mystery. He has woven every soul into a cage of flesh and blood, when as yet there was no flesh and blood, and someday, this earthly temple will be torn down and built again into an everlasting habitation. But while we are still in the flesh and dependent on blood in our veins and oxygen in our lungs, we do not have the capacity to know the height, depth, and breadth of the God Whom we worship. Even the Holy Bible cannot fully convey Who He is, because, if it did, there would not be enough time in a single life to read it, and what mind could possibly understand it? The Bible God has given us is short, yet no one fully understands it or can honestly say that they know all there is to know about God. So herein is faith: that we fall on the One True God, wondering and marveling at His ways and words that we cannot fully understand, yet not letting that wonder turn to doubt, but allowing it to further be transformed into a higher form of worship.
There is a great temptation to doubt that which we cannot understand. Sometimes, it seems easier to say that something does not exist or is false, rather than to say four simple words, “I do not understand.” It takes humility to admit hopeless ignorance, but no one can enter into the Kingdom of God without humbling themselves before God. Humility is a necessary element of faith. Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)
Children were humble before Jesus, because He was good to them, spoke truth, and they recognized that He was worthy of their attention. Though they were too young to understand many things that Jesus said, they rejoiced just to spend time with Him. But Jesus knew that they would grow up someday, and He did not want them to lose that childlike wonder that would draw them to be like the One they most admired in childhood. That is how we should be; like a child, admitting that we do not have all the answers, submitting to be held by a God Who is good, and marveling at His ways, truth, and goodness. And no matter how much we grow in faith, we should always humbly rejoice to sit at Jesus’ feet, as children of God.
At one point in Jesus’ ministry on earth, the spiritual leaders of the age stopped asking questions of Him. Jesus had answered every question wisely, not giving any reason to be accused of anything, and the spiritual leaders finally became dumb, as they truly were at the first. Before God, we can say nothing and ask nothing, but when we do speak, He listens; when we do ask, He answers. It is a wonder that God would put up with “the least of these” as they whine, complain, implore, and cry out. But God never grows weary of the little children coming to Him. He delights in their faith and persistence, and desires that they sit with Him, hear wisdom of Him, and find the joy and rest that comes from being in His presence.
In the New Testament, it is mentioned at least 72 times how the people marveled and/or were amazed. They did not understand what they saw or heard, but instead of responding how the spiritual leaders did (being struck dumb and desiring all the more to kill the one who spoke or performed the miracle), they stood amazed and were that much more intent on listening to and observing the one teaching. Jesus, too, had been amazed and marveled at the people. Sometimes, He marveled at their unbelief, and other times, He marveled at their faith. Though He knew, and continues to know, the hearts of men, yet He feigned ignorance here on earth. How much of His deity and majesty did He cast off to put on human flesh? For one, He cast off enough, so that anyone could look upon His face and not die. Those who believe on the name of Jesus Christ are blessed with the gift to look upon His face and see the truth, that they are forgiven and greatly loved. And that, in itself, is reason to marvel.
Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11
Now as I stand upon this Rock,
I see a dying land that has denied their God;
Denied His wonders, denied Him praise,
And turned from following holiness.
When will they run to You, O LORD,
And turn from their drunken babbling?
O how they need You, O LORD,
But they are stubborn; content with stumbling.
Before the close, open the eyes of the blind.
Through Your children, may Your glory shine.
Give us courage to show forth Your wonder and praise,
And to love as You loved until the end of our days. Amen.
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, and precious. And he that believes on Him shall not be ashamed.” Unto you therefore which believe, He is precious, but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, and a peculiar people; that you should shew forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:6-10