When did you last fall into the pages of the Bible?
Perhaps a slightly strange question with which to begin the week, but one that W. E. Sangster, a Methodist preacher of great standing during the mid twentieth century asked me when I was reading one of his books yesterday. Entitled ‘Secrets of Radiant Life’, the book explores how a Christian can find God in life, and life in God.
In the book, Sangster encourages us to consider what we understand the Bible to be:
(Owing to the age of the book, male gender pronouns were used to represent both women and men)
“If a man believes that the Old Testament is a fragmentary record of a group of unimportant Semitic tribes who lived centuries ago in Asia Minor, and the New Testament an account (largely legendary) of an unusual teacher named Jesus of Nazareth, plus the correspondence of one of his chief disciples with their early converts, well, the book deserves no exceptional respect…
If a man believes, on the other hand, that the Bible is, in a most special sense, the Word of God, he will count any day ill spent which does not include some time given to its reverent study. He will come to the book, not thinking first of personal enjoyment or thrill or novelty, but only of understanding, and how best he may translate its message into life…
To him it is a unique volume… which contains the only record of God’s incarnate life, the spiritual pilgrimage of the race among whom He was born, and the birth of the Christian Church…
The container may be an earthen vessel (for the record is sometimes in the thought-forms and imagery of the age of its writing), but it bears the living water which comes sweet and untainted to the thirsting souls of each succeeding age.
Sangster then encourages his readers to dive deep into the Scriptures. Instead of reading them from a distance, he encourages us to imagine ourselves into the situation - to see and feel and hear and smell and taste your way into first century Palestine; for in so doing we can come to know the Scriptures far more intimately.
He ends the chapter with this advice, which I commend to you all:
- Read a few verses from the Bible each day
- Read them as early in the morning as possible
- A little, thoughtfully read, is better than a lot raced over
- Don’t read at random: read systematically
- Offer a brief pray for understanding before you read
- Take a few moments afterwards to think it over
- Once a week, imagine yourself into one off the Gospel incidents
- Study the whole incident
- Learn all you can about it
- Select the character you will be
- Be that character
- Live their life
- Alert every sense which is involved; touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell
- Meet the Master: sit at His feet
You have taught that Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
May we, and all who faithfully read Your Word, find in it both guidance and inspiration, that we may live the life of the Christian and spread Your Gospel.
This we ask through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.