Every Christian I know would affirm that the Bible is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. Strangely, many seem to think it is as cold as one too. How often the Bible is treated as a cold set of sharp propositions, a repository of truth statements that are precise and sharp, but cold as steel.
When talking about the Bible I have sometimes used the idea of a thermal imaging camera. You sometimes see them used from Police helicopters as they track a living suspect who is on the run and hiding from the pursuing police on the ground. Through these cameras everything else is a cold gray or blue, but the suspect who is hiding out of sight behind a shed or a bush is glowing red and orange. To normal eyes that bush would look like any other, but through thermal imaging it becomes glowing and vivid.
I wonder what we see if we take a thermal imaging camera to look at the text of the Bible? Is it gray or blue and cold, or is it living, glowing red and orange with life?
When we speak of the truths of the Bible to others do our words glow with life, or do we give off the vibe that there is nothing living to be found there?
Some preachers seem to turn the biblical text into a cold set of historic truths, and some seem determined to freeze the life out of their listeners too! But the key issue for all of us is not primarily about how we present the biblical truths in conversation or in a sermon, the key issue is what we see when we read it ourselves. Are we alert to the red and orange life in the Bible? To the normal eyes of others in our culture it will look as dead and cold as any other book, but through the eyes of a sensitized heart it will be living, glowing and vivid.
So why is the Bible not merely a store of cold truth statements? Because human realities are reflected in both the content and the form. On every page of the Bible we can feel the beating hearts of both the writers and the characters. We see people fearing and hiding from God. We see people passionately pursuing a life pleasing to Him. We see real people, warts and all, not re-written glorified accounts of carefully spun historical records. No, we see life in all its complexity and vivid reality.
As well as the content, the form of the writing also reveals this red/orange glow. Narratives grip us with their tension and build toward the climax and resolution of that tension. Poetry tends to be the type of writing chosen when the heart is full and overflowing (with praise or panic). Even the direct discourse sections tend to be an impassioned plea of a speech or the warm expression or ardent imploring of a letter. Both content and form speak of the human heart beating on every page of the Bible if only we have eyes to see.
But again, let’s ask why is the Bible not merely a store of cold truth statements? Because divine realities are reflected in both the content and the form. On every page we see the beating heart of the God who inspired His word to be given to this world. We see a God offering his heart to an undeserving humanity, pursuing them to woo them, jealous of their hearts in their unfaithfulness, and showing the passionate lengths to which He would go. We see God in all His glorious others-centred love, not aloof and carefully distant, but showing His beating heart for any who dare to see what is being offered throughout the Bible.
As well as the content, there is the form of the writing which also reveals this red/orange glow. God inspired the types of writing as well as the content. He inspired the narratives filled with the tension of human lives lived in response to a loving God. He inspired the poems filled with the pounding hearts of His people in their hopes, fears, dreams, faithlessness and faithfulness. He inspired each letter, each speech, each prophetic pronouncement, each word. Both content and form speak of the divine heart beating on every page of the Bible.
The Bible is not just words on a page. It is not just truths in type. It is a unique revelation that glows warm with the glow of life. Let’s pray for eyes to see it when we read, and then share it as we can, living our lives in response to the revelation of our living God!
One thought on “The Bible Glows”
Thanks Peter – beautifully thought through. The glow made me think of Jeremiah and the fire in his bones. Looking for the actual scripture I (lazily!) googled for it (Jeramiah 20:9) and came across a sermon by Dwight Moody; http://academyofpreachers.net/about-2/a-sermon-by-dwight-a-moody/. In it he says this to young people:
” Do not be afraid of your voice. When you speak, the fire of God burns bright. When you speak, the fire in your soul ignites the mind and imagination of another. When you speak, you become like Jeremiah and like Jesus, the power of God; the fire in your bones dances across time and space to melt the heart, purge the soul, and set on fire the holy imagination of those who listen.
When the youthful Jeremiah was hesitant to own his voice and unloose his speech for the glory of God, here is what happened: “Then the Lord put out a hand and touched my mouth and said, ‘I have put my words in your mouth.”
The living, laughing, loving, failing, faltering, frustrating lives we all live must rise up as flames; heat and light, that can be flung like fireworks into the darkest of places.
A scripture that spoke to me recently was after Jesus said that ‘the fields are ripe – the labourers few’ he goes on to say ‘pray EARNESTLY’ for more labourers. I hadn’t seen that before. The earnestness. I had just lamented that there were not enough preachers preaching, teachers teaching.
Peter: keep teaching to ignite others with a holy flame straight from the heart of God! As happened to me when I came to Cordeo last time. I’m looking forward to the next Cordeo in March, see you all then God willing.