“Oh how I love your law! It is my mediation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” Psalm 119:97-104
Last week I focused on looking at reading through God’s Word, today I want to focus on helps for reading God’s word; things like devotional readings, study bible footnotes, and commentaries. I often say how blessed we are today in the history of the church to have access to God’s Word. We have all sorts of tools at our disposal. That can be both a good thing and it can be a bad thing. I want to share with you some benefits and some detriments to items that we use to help us study God’s Word.
First the benefits: We have the blessing of not being the first Christians. We have a wealth of history we can enjoy. We have the writings of those who have gone before us that we can learn from. There are many things I have learned from fellow believers. Because my knowledge and time is limited, I can take advantage of the work of others and enjoy the fruit of their labor. Having commentaries helps us to make sure that we are consistent with the church of history in our understanding of scripture. We don’t want to drift from truth based on our own thoughts and feelings. Confessions and Catechisms help us to organize Biblical material so that we can understand what the Bible teaches regarding key doctrines of our faith. Devotionals can help us to apply God’s Word. So, there are some great benefits that we can enjoy by reading these helps in addition to God’s Word.
Now the detriments: First, make sure that you are spending more time reading God’s Word than you are other devotional reading. If I read a couple of verses and two pages of someone else’s thoughts on it, I’m not really getting a steady diet of God’s Word I’m getting someone’s ideas with a splash of bible. When time is of the essence settle for God’s Word over man’s thoughts. Second, make sure that you can trust the authors of commentaries and resources you read. Are they looking at Scripture from a perspective that matches the teaching of your particular church? Or do their teachings contradict what your church teaches? If you ever have questions about things you read, I always invite you to discuss them with me. Third, never elevate these other resources to the level of Scripture. There are many times in my past that I simply believed the teaching of men that I thought were far more educated than me, even when I thought their words contradicted Scripture. If it doesn’t line up with the Bible don’t just accept it, investigate it further. Or better yet go to your Pastor and Elders and ask them about the apparent discrepancy.
As we study let’s take advantage of the wonderful books and resources that are all around us. I hope to read more in 2020 than I did in 2019. But let us also be on guard so that we do not allow ourselves to drift from the plain teachings of Scripture.