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Across the Pastor’s Desk: Press on to understand Scripture

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Tyler Mykkanen

Tyler Mykkanen

 

“I’m not very good at reading and analyzing a text.”

My son said that recently when we were talking about school. He said he wished he was better so he could understand the Bible better, too.

How many of us feel like that? Was he expressing what you’ve often felt, but — like a “good Christian” — not said aloud?

If you are one of the many (all?) who sit down to read your Bible and find yourself mumbling, “I’m not very good at reading and analyzing a text,” then I’m writing this for you. Take heart and press in to read the Bible because the divine author wants to be known.

God wants to be known. This is especially evident in Exodus. God saves his people and judges Pharaoh and the Egyptians so they will “know that I am Yahweh, your God” (Exod 6:7; cf. 5:2; 7:5).

In Ezekiel, God makes this point over 70 times! Over and over in the Old Testament, God acts to make himself known. And he has his servants write down his words and deeds in the Scriptures (i.e. the Bible), so that future generations might know him also (Exod 10:2; Deut 6:6–7).

This desire to be known isn’t all that different from other authors though. All authors want to be known to some degree or another. But the Bible is wholly different for one important reason: unlike other authors, God has the power to make himself known.

This power is implicit in Jeremiah 31:34: “No longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.”

God doesn’t magically zap this knowledge into our hearts. He makes himself known through the words of Scripture itself.

This is what the psalmist means when he writes, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps 19:7). In other words, Scripture (God’s law and testimony), does something in us when we read. God’s word is living and active and accomplishes what he purposes, including making himself known (Isa 55:11, Heb 4:12).

We know God through his Scriptures by reading and analyzing a text, yes, but not only (and not even most significantly). The most significant way we know God when we read his word is through his Holy Spirit working in our hearts to accomplish his purposes while we read.

This is why “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

The same words, but to one folly and to the other the power of God. This is because God’s words, through which he makes himself known, work in the heart of the Christian by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:14).

The upshot of all of this is that you are not struggling alone to read and understand your Bible. Your ability to know God through his word is not solely dependent on your ability to read and analyze a text. These skills help, but ultimately your ability to know God through his word is most dependent on his willing ability to make himself known.

His willing ability knows no bounds; God has most significantly demonstrated his willing ability to be known by sending his son Jesus to make him known. Jesus lived a righteous life, died an undeserved and substitutionary death for sinners, and was raised from the dead by the power of God — all so that we could know God (Phil 3:8–11)!

So sit down to read your Bible, confident in God’s willing and able help. Ask him for help; he will not give you a stone (Matt 7:7–11). Rather, he will reveal himself to you in his word by the power of the Holy Spirit, even if you don’t feel very good at reading and analyzing a text. Press in and read, be encouraged and know him more.

Tyler Mykkanen is the lead pastor at Sojourners Church in Albert Lea.