Select Page

I still remember the first time I read this sentence by J. I. Packer: “God’s purpose in revelation is to make friends with us.”[1] I marveled at the thought that the God of the universe wanted to be friends with me. Could it be true?

I now know that through the means of Holy Scripture God shares his life, light, and love with us. He communicates in order to commune with us. He reveals his character in order to elicit our trust. He announces the saving gospel of his Son to sweep us up into his reign of grace and fit us for the new heavens and earth: “The seals are broken, the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb, and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light—that Christ, God’s Son became man, that God is Three and One, that Christ suffered for us, and will reign forever.”[2]

Three exhortations follow:

We should read the Bible. The community of the redeemed should be a community of readers. But not any kind of reading will do. According to the classical Christian tradition, reading well requires learning a set of dispositions—studiousness, attentiveness, humility, modesty, docility, and patience. These virtues reinforce the truth that we receive God’s Word and sit under it as servants. We do not stand over it as interpretive Lords, nor do we sit beside it as God’s equals.[3] God is “absolute giver”; we are “absolute receivers.”[4]

Since God reveals himself not only to inform our minds but transform our lives, let’s prayerfully cultivate these virtues as God’s people, so that we might profit from our time sitting before his feet.

We should meditate on the Bible. I’ve noted in sermons that the Hebrew word for “meditate” means to “mutter, to speak in a low voice, to talk to oneself.”[5] Picture in your mind’s eye someone who whispers the truths of God’s Word under his or her breath throughout the day. Or picture a dog salivating over and chewing on his bone. That’s what we’re to do with God’s Word.

The best way for me to meditate on Scripture is to force myself to answer questions like the following:

Am I living in light of this? What difference does this make? Am I taking this seriously? If I believed and held to this, how would that change things? What does this teach me about God and his character? About human nature, character, and behavior? About church, or life in the people of God? What does this mean for my relationship with God? To myself? To this or that person or group? To this or that behavior or habit? To my friends, to the culture? Be concrete—is there something you must stop doing because of it? Is there something you should start doing? Why might God be showing this to you today? What is going on now in your life to which this would be relevant?[6]

We all prefer the secure confines of predictability and the armor of false peace, but the Bible urge us to open ourselves up to our Savior and taste the freedom of enslavement to Christ.

We should cherish the Bible. That God in his kindness shares a portion of his knowledge with creatures summons us to wonder, astonishment, trust, and gratitude.

I can do no better than conclude with Herman Bavinck (1854–1921), who shows us that God reveals himself to us in Scripture . . .

. . . to the end of re-creating the whole person after God’s image and likeness and thus to transform that person into a mirror of God’s attributes and perfections. Hence the object of revelation cannot only be to teach human beings, to illuminate their intellects (rationalism), or to prompt them to practice virtue (moralism), or to arouse religious sensations (mysticism). God’s aim in special revelation is both much deeper and reaches much farther. It is none other than to redeem human beings in their totality of body and soul with all their capacities and powers.[7]

And so we pray:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (Thomas Cranmer’s Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent).


[1] J. I. Packer, God Has Spoken: Revelation and the Bible, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1990), 50, italics in original.

[2] Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1957), 71.

[3] Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and Its Interpretation (New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 76.

[4] Charles P. Arand, “Luther on the Creed,” Lutheran Quarterly 20 (2006): 1–25.

[5] Gerald H. Wilson, Psalms: Volume 1, NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 96.

[6] Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Dutton, 2014), 148, 154, 158–159.

[7] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, Prolegomena, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 346, emphasis mine.