What should we expect from the reading of the Bible?
I bet it is safe to assume, if you had never read the Bible before starting on our current quest of reading through the Bible in 2014, that you have been surprised in some ways by what you have found in it. Now would be a good time to assess what your expectations were and what you have actually encountered thus far in your reading.
In a recent sermon, Kevin Deyoung spoke of how our expectations of God could often be categorized as the Gospel According to Cats or the Gospel According to Dogs. In the Gospel According to Cats, we expect God to demand much of us while He remains aloof, giving us attention and affection one moment and then, in a fickle manner, scorning us another moment. Contrarily, in the Gospel According to Dogs, many of us assume that God is always happy to see us, loves us no matter what we do and just wants to please us so we will show him some love in return. The Gospel According to the Bible, we are finding, is neither of these.
King Josiah is the last great king of Judah before the Babylonian Captivity. After years of neglect, he has the Temple repaired. What a sad commentary that the Word of God (the “Book of the Law”) had been so neglected over the preceding years that it had literally been lost in the Temple. When Hilkiah the priest finds it, it is read before the king.
We read in 22:11-13 the king’s response to what is read: “11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. 12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
What should we expect when we read the Bible? We should expect it to confront us in our sin with truth and authority. We should be prepared to respond to it with conviction and repentance.
This is the response of Josiah. He becomes so zealous for repentance and the rooting out of sin among his people, that he, in an almost comical fashion, has to be stopped from destroying a monument over the tomb of a man of God that he assumes to be yet another altar to a false god. (22:17) Do we find in our own hearts such a zeal for rooting out sin? Such is the mark of one who has “turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might. (23:25) Such a one God hears and responds by giving him peace. (22:19-20) Yet His wrath remained on the nation. (23:26-27)
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6) He blots out the sin of the repentant. (Acts 3:19) This is the consistent testimony of the Bible.
We should come to our reading of the Bible not expecting it to be submitted to our desires and will, but that we would be submitted and repentant before God’s desires and will contained in it — always ready to repent and turn from our sin.