I’ve always wanted to go to the mall and take a one-question survey. Here’s the question I would ask: Describe God.
What kinds of answers would you get at your local mall? What about you? How do you answer that question?
Our answers to this simple question are all over the map, are they not? That is why it is oh so critical that we spend much quality time reading, studying and meditating on the Bible. This is where we find the only authoritative answer to the question, “Who is God and what is He like?”
And this is why a great question to ask when reading any portion of Scripture is this: What does this passage teach me about God (God the Father, God the Son, and/or God the Spirit).
Obviously, some portions of the Bible provide more in-depth answers to this question than others, but this is a question you should be asking every time you read the Bible.
I regularly read through the book of Psalms, usually reading a chapter (one psalm) in the morning to start my day. There are 150 psalms, so it takes me about 5 or 6 months to read them all. And then I start over and do it again. I’ve been doing this for the past 5 years, and if you’ve got a couple hours, I’d be glad to tell you how the cultivation of this habit has changed my life and taught me a boatload of truth about the God of the Bible.
But there is one psalm that I never read in one sitting. That would be Psalm 119. It is the longest chapter in the Bible (176 verses), divided into 22 eight-verse stanzas. There’s just way too much truth here to digest in one session.
So I usually take 22 days to read through Psalm 119. Such a huge feast should be eaten in smaller bites! I read one eight-verse stanza each day for 22 days, and I like to keep a journal to record my thoughts. Nothing fancy here – just a spiral notebook with my chicken scratch all over it. I’ll write down the date and Scripture reference at the top of the page, and then I’ll look for one particular verse that “jumps off” the page and into my heart. I record why I like that verse and what I think that verse means, or what I need to do to live out that verse in my life. And then I’ll write out a prayer based on the verse, pouring out my heart as I ask God to change me to be more like Jesus by doing, thinking, saying or becoming what I just read about.
It’s a journal. It’s whatever happens to come into my pea-sized brain when reading the Bible that day.
When reading the psalms, I tend to focus on the verses that talk about God – his character and attributes, his actions and purposes, his kingdom and reign. And there are many of them!
For example, on June 18, 2013 I read Psalm 119:73-80. Here’s an excerpt from my journal. It’s an answer to the question, “What does this passage teach me about God?”
He is my Creator (v. 73a)
He is righteous because his laws are righteous (v. 75a)
He is faithful even when he afflicts me (v. 75b)
His love never fails (v. 76a)
He is the source of comfort (v. 76a)
He is the God of promises (v. 76b)
He is compassionate (v. 77a)
He is the source of delight because his law is my delight (v. 77b)
I probably spent about 15 or 20 minutes reading these 8 verses and writing down these statements about the character of God. And I loved every second of it!
We serve a great God. And this God has revealed himself in Scripture with great clarity. This creative, righteous, faithful, loving, comfort-giving, promise-keeping, compassionate, delightful God is the only true God. He made us for himself. And he sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth 2000 years ago to demonstrate his breath-taking character in all its glory.
He has done all that for us, even though we have often rejected him and turned our backs on him.
In light of that, isn’t it a privilege to make the prayers of this stanza our own? “Give me understanding to learn your commands . . . May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees” (Psalm 119:73b and 80a). After meditating on the awesome attributes of our God, we can’t help but express our desire to sit at his feet and experience the pure joy of his instruction and presence, and then to stand and willingly, lovingly obey him all the days of our life.