The sheer size of the Bible can be overwhelming when you approach it to study it. Where do you start? How can you possibly know all of the information inside? How can you begin to understand what men and women of God have pondered and debated for centuries?
And the answer could be discouraging:
You, in your own strength and with the power of your own brain, cannot understand this book. It is too much for you.
Before you click away and go off discouraged from studying the Bible altogether, let me assure you:
there is still hope for you.
There is a way you CAN understand the Scripture. But it is outside of you. Understanding comes only from one source – God! The most exciting part of the study of God’s Word is that He (the author of the book) comes alongside you and becomes your teacher!
Today I have some simple things to say about God, the Teacher of the Word. I hope you will find encouragement to continue the habit of studying the Word of God.
The Deep Things of God
The Word of God is deceptively simple in some places. The truth of God’s Word seems so easy to grasp in places where it says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” These words strung together are so simple that children can get them!
But in other places the Word of God can be so frustratingly difficult to understand. There are prophecies and promises that are beyond human comprehension. But God wrote His words (all of them) for a reason – so He has a purpose for the confusion.
As I read more of Scripture and study it, I am convinced that the places where understanding is difficult are there for a simple reason:
to draw us closer to God.
The difficulty of the message calls us to seek more understanding, to ask the One who created us and wrote these words to explain Himself. We lean in to God and ask Him to be our Teacher. We sit patiently as He whispers, revealing His Word to us. And then we walk through our day pondering the deeper things of God.
We cannot be certain of the author of Psalm 119 (another mystery held by God), but the Psalmist is certainly a person who loved God and His Word. He was one who held the study of God as the highest priority of his life. In the most exact sense of the word, he was a student of God’s holy Word.
He spent an entire ancient alphabet extolling the wonders and riches of the Word of God.
But if you look carefully, you will find a guy just like us. He is approaching the word daunted by its immensity. He is confused. The Word of God is laid out before Him and he wants more than anything to obey it. He wants his life to not only line up with God’s Word, but for his life to be wholly centered on the Word.
And he needs more than what is plainly there. He needs a tutor. Time and again in the Psalm, he beseeches God to be his teacher. Asking, “Teach me Thy statutes” at least seven times, He seeks even more than what God has given in His Word. He realizes, as with all good literature, that the individual words on paper are just portals to something deeper.
A Threefold Prayer
Seeing his need, and knowing the best place to go for the understanding he seeks is God, he prays to God, “Teach me.” In his persistent and fervent prayer, “Teach me,” we find he is asking God for three things:
- A Change of Mind
- A Change of Heart
- And, A Change of His Life.
He knows something about this Word of God that is so important: it has POWER! It is a force that can cause (and even demands) adjustment of our very beings before God. We cannot read God’s Word without facing a choice: obedience or disobedience.
Thus, the author of Psalm 119, prays to God continually that he will make the right choice. That he will remember the choice he has made. And that God will meet him at the place of His choosing and change him.
Let’s look at these changes and see what we can learn for our own study of God’s Word.
A Change of Mind
The Psalmist starts out where we must all start: square one – no understanding. He reads God’s Word for content – for basic concepts and precepts. He says to God, “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Thy Law.” (Psalm 119: 18) And he requests of God, “Give me understanding that I may observe Thy Law.” (verse 34) This sets his mind to be prepared to see and recognize truth. In this simple prayer, the Psalmist is asking God to not only show him truth, but to correct error. He requests: “Teach me good discernment and knowledge,” in verse 66.
When we approach God’s Word, we come with all sorts of preconceived notions – some true, some not. The Psalmist’s prayer reminds us where the source of Truth is: God’s Word. He reminds us that we must ask God to open our eyes to see the places we are incorrect, so we can change them to line up with the truth of God’s Word. When we pray, “open my eyes” or “give me understanding” we are praying for our minds to be changed.
A Change of Heart
Once our minds have been changed and our understanding has been lined up with the truth of Scripture, then God can change our hearts. The Psalmist spoke of the changing of his heart in a few different ways. He wrote this amazing prayer to God:
Establish Thy Word as that which produces reverence for Thee.
And He said, “Incline my heart to Thy testimonies and not to dishonest gain.” Later he testified of his daily routine before God and His Word, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Thy words.” (verse 147) And the ultimate result of a heart changed by the Word of God is repeated over and over in the Psalmist’s request: “Revive Me, O LORD, according to Thine ordinances.” (verses 149, 155, 156, 159) REVIVAL! O, to be transformed in the very deepest part of our hearts into burning lights for the glory of God!
The change of the heart is similar to to change of the mind in that it is externally imperceptible. It is internal. But it is the most basic response to the Word of God: FAITH. In my reading through many resources and commentaries over the years, I came across a quote that has remained with me: “Faith is the hand of the heart.” The hand that reaches out and grabs on to God’s, or even simply puts it out there, knowing God will take it in His, is what the Psalmist is speaking of here. Taking in the Word, understanding its content, causes us to respond in faith – to believe God IS and He is who His Word says He is. An accurate picture of God (presented in His Word) produces reverence. It causes us to worship Him for who He is, as He is.
A Change of Life
The building blocks of a change of mind and a change of heart are capped with a change of life. The Psalmist repeatedly refers to a walk, a path, his feet on the path – a movement forward along that path. And what he is getting at is: life – a daily walk. Since His mind and heart have been changed by the wonderful Word of God, He prays to God to ask Him for help in changing his ways. He says to God, “I considered my ways, and turned my feet to Thy testimonies.” (verse 59) Then he prayed, “Establish my foot steps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.” (verse 133) He also requests of God, “Sustain me according to Thy Word that I may live.” (verse 116)
Asking God to be your Teacher
When you begin your study of God’s good Word asking Him to be your teacher, you are starting out where the Psalmist started. But where he started was not with an entire alphabet of poems asking God to teach him. He started simply by asking, “Teach me Your statutes.” There are many ways to say it, but if you are worried about how to ask God to be your teacher, all you need to say is, “Teach me.” Doesn’t that give you comfort! Doesn’t that tell you that God is there for you no matter your educational background!
The first step of making God your Teacher is to ask. The second step is to immerse yourself in His classroom: the Word. As you do, you may find it helpful to talk to your Teacher asking Him to change your mind, change your heart and change your life as you go along. There are places where the Scripture will be so clear that you can get it right away. But there are places where you will need to dive deep and ask for a little bit more help. Rest assured, when you have begun your time with prayer, God will delight to answer, revealing wonderful riches from His perfect Word!
In the next post, I will be talking more about this Teacher we have. Oh, He is SO GOOD! But in the meantime, when next you sit down to do your Bible study, take a moment to talk to your Teacher, asking Him to instruct you and to change you. All you have to say is, “Teach me, O LORD.”