the spice box “Putting scholarship in its place”
By Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel
I’m always intrigued by the “how’s” and “why’s” of things. I was one of those annoying children who always wanted to take things apart to see what made them tick. It was never enough to have someone explain the mechanics behind the operation of a toy or piece of equipment—I wanted to see inside. Wonderful things are found inside of stuff.
One of my early treasures was the coil of copper wire I found inside a radio. (Unfortunately, I was a whole lot more interested in taking things apart than I was at putting them back together.) I was always challenging my teacher’s statements: “So, if hot air rises and cold air sinks, why is it colder at the top of a mountain than in the valley?” Being a good teacher, she made me look up the answer and bring back a report.
At Simpson Bible College (now Simpson University), I enrolled in a course that really intrigued me and changed the way I approach biblical studies: sacred hermeneutics, the application of scientific principles to the study of sacred Scripture. The basic idea is to seek first of all to understand what the writings would have meant to the original readers, and listeners, in the context of their day—their own milieu, their own culture, society, historical and geographical setting, political and religious influences, etc.—and then use that understanding to help in applying the message to today’s life situations.
I still enjoy applying those interpretive principles to my personal study of Scripture, and enjoy the process and the results. Yet I have found that there are times that it is helpful to set aside the challenges of scholarship, and simply relax and enjoy the reading of the Bible.
There is something special about just sitting back and reading the Bible as you would read any book—enjoying the story, the message, as you would enjoy a novel or a letter from a good friend. To do so provides the continuity, the overall message that we sometimes miss out on in our more critical, more scholarly studies. Instead of reading a few verses with the goal of finding something to preach on, or reading a few verses devotionally and taking time to meditate on them, just read. Get the broader picture, the whole story, instead of concentrating on a fragment out of context. A question comes to mind? Just make a note of it for later study, and continue reading.
When you get tired reading, just stop and set it aside as you would set aside your novel, marking the place so you can pick it up where you left off. It’s not a marathon, it’s a pleasurable walk through the Scriptures, taking time to savor the experience. Forget about looking for things that you can use in your teaching; forget that you are a leader; just read, letting the Spirit speak as he will. Read for personal growth and development, because you know, deep down, that you need to grow in grace, and in your understanding of what God has to say through his Word. Forget it’s your work, your responsibility, and that you need to learn all you can so that you can teach others—just read, and let God bless.
And then, get back to work, refreshed by your spiritual sabbatical with the Word of God—and let God bless others through you.