By G.B.F. Hallock
“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” Ps. 119:97
A young lady asked by her friend to explain what is meant by devotional reading of the Bible, made answer as follows: “Yesterday morning I received a letter from one to whom I have given my heart and devoted my life. I freely confess to you that I have read that letter five times, not because I did not understand it at the first reading, nor because I expected to commend myself to the author by frequent reading of his epistle. It was not with me a question of duty, but simply one of pleasure. I read it because I am devoted to the one who wrote it. To read the Bible with the same motive is to read it devotionally, and to one who reads it in that spirit it is indeed a love letter.”
This young Christian’s explanation is certainly clear and satisfying and shows a soul with deep spiritual insight. The heart has not a little to do in rightly interpreting God’s Word.
Let us notice some of the elements that enter into the devotional study of God’s Word.
“Most people,” says Martin Boos, “read their Bibles like cows that stand in the thick grass, and trample under their feet the finest flowers and herbs.” It is easy to make this mistake. In his helpful little book, Pleasure and Profit of Bible Study, Mr. Moody said: “I used at one time to read so many chapters a day, and if I did not get thro [sic] my usual quantity I thought I was getting cold and backsliding. But, mind you, if a man had asked me two hours afterward what I read, I could not tell him; I had forgotten it nearly all. When I was a boy I used, among other things, to hoe corn on a farm; and I used to hoe it so badly, in order to get over so much ground, that at night I had to put down a stake in the ground, so as to know the next morning where I had left off. That was somewhat in the same fashion as·running thro [sic] so many chapters a day.”
A good many Christians in their devotional reading of the Bible read so hastily and with so much inattention they need to put a mark in order to remind them if they have read a certain distance and to prevent them from reading the same chapter over and over again without knowing it. We may call that studying the Bible, but it is not.
Another element in a devotional study of God’s Word is meditation. Andrew Bonar tells of a simple Christian in a farmhouse who had “meditated the Bible thro [sic] three times.” This is precisely what the Psalmist had done. He had gone past reading into meditation. Like Luther, he had shaken every tree. in God’s garden, and gathered fruit therefrom.” The idea of meditation is “to get into the middle of a thing. Meditation is to the mind what digestion is to the body. Unless the food be digested the body receives no benefit from it. If we would derive the fullest benefit from what we read or hear there must be that mental digestion known as meditation. If we would “buy the truth” we must pay the price which Paul intimates when he wrote to Timothy, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them.” David meditated in God’s Word because he loved it, and he loved it the more because he meditated in it. He said, “O how love I. thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” He prayed, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”
Another element in a devotional study of the Bible is a humble desire toward the truth, or teachableness. The Bible cannot reveal its beauties to those who think they know more than God does, and are not willing in teachable spirit to hear him speak. God hides these things from the self-thought wise, and prudent, and reveals them unto babes. Some people have so much intellectual pride or are so prejudiced against God’s Word that they never for one moment even give it candid attention.
IV. Love for the Author
As we intimated in the beginning, the main requirement to a devotional study of the Bible is love for the Author. Love for the Author sends us to the Book, and the reading of the Book increases our love for the Author.
We have read of a young lady who purchased a book and read a few pages, but was not interested in it. Some months afterward she met the author, and a tender friendship sprang up, ripening into love and betrothal. Then the book was dull no longer. Every sentence had a charm for her heart. The reason was that Love was the interpreter. Seeing beauty in God’s Word is much conditioned in the same way. The Bible has infinite value in itself; but to reveal its richest treasures It needs love as an interpreter. To those who do not know God personally it may seem dry and uninteresting; but to those who know and love him its every page become like a casket of jewels glowing wIth beauty and light; yes, like a letter of love — quickening the heart-throbs and filling the soul with rapture, and with fresh, and holy resolve.
Excerpt from “The Preacher’s Assistant” Vol. XIII No. 9, Sept. 1901