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Jan 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 17, 2021



And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and the recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:16-21

Intro: Three weeks ago you joined me on this journey of discovery

We began by recognizing our Scriptures as are sacred writings
– then we asked, How are we supposed to read sacred writings?
• sacred does not mean they are merely “religious”
• rather, they have a divine, other-worldly origin and quality
◦ they reveal truth otherwise hidden from human minds
– there is another uncanny feature to the sacred writings;
• as we read the ancient texts, God speaks directly to us
◦ as if they were written for us and meant to be heard here and now
◦ it is like hearing Jesus read from Isaiah and then telling us,
Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing
◦ this is how New Testament writers read the Hebrew Scriptures
Have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
(Heb. 12:5–this exhortation is found in Proverbs 3:11-12, written centuries before the book of Hebrews!)
Martin Buber described how the Hebrew Scriptures recount history from creation to redemption, and, “in the course of its history, experiences revelation, a revelation I experience if I am there.”
◦ and that is the key that unlocks the mystery! mindfully being there
• in the sacred writings, we hear our names called
◦ we are told what we need to know today
◦ that we are loved, that there’s hope for us, that God is for us

We need to be familiar with a few ground rules

Sacred, does not mean magical
– it is not like you can flip open the Bible to any page at random,
• look at one verse, start reading, and God will reveal divine mysteries
• that is not a sacred reading – it is divination or “bibliomancy”
– a similar practice is proof-texting
• using isolated verses scattered through Bible to construct a doctrine
(This week my son, Will, sent me a photo of a coffee mug that made a play on a verse from Philippians, “I can do all things through a verse taken out of context”)
◦ because a person is able to quote many Bible verses from memory,
◦ does not mean they know their Bible really well!
• scripture is sacred, but it is still a written document
◦ we read its books start to finish to hear its message

Another lesson we need to keep in mind

Scholars talk about two ways of learning or knowing
– learning about something from a distance leads to objective knowing
learning about something close up leads to subjective knowing
scientists and philosophers strive to be objective
◦ their goal is to get to the facts without personal feelings getting in the way
◦ getting too close or caring too much can interfere with or distort the experiment
they write reports and essays, and draw diagrams
artists let their feelings guide them to the subject and the process
◦ they allow themselves to be moved by what they observe
they write poems, and paint pictures, and dance stories
objectivity is considered intellectual
subjectivity is considered emotional or relational
objectivity is separated from its subject
subjectivity is connected to its subject
objectivity excludes personal feelings
subjectivity listens to its deepest feelings
objectivity is analytical
subjectivity is intuitive
objectivity is a function of the head (or the brain’s left hemisphere and pre-frontal cortex)
subjectivity is a function of the heart (or the brain’s right hemisphere and limbic system)

Sacred writings require both kinds of reading – with head and heart
– we come to God’s word with the whole self
• objectivity helps us learn what we need to know about God
• subjectivity helps us to know God
Joel Green explains that we need background studies training in ancient languages, historical settings, archeology, and so on, but they cannot substitute for “the more essential ‘preparation’” of acceptance, devotion, attention and trust.” The other tools “must take their place alongside other commitments rather than above them.”
He quotes Rene Padilla, who observed that scientific objectivity is “neither possible nor desirable” for interpreting scripture. “It is not possible, because contemporary interpreters are stamped with the imprint of their particular time and place as surely as is the ancient text . . . . It is not desirable, because the Bible can only be properly understood as it is read with a particpatory involvement and allowed to speak into one’s situation. Ultimately, if the text written in the past does not strike home in the present it has not been understood.” (quoted in Joel Green, Seized by Truth)
– so we want to come to the sacred writings subjectively
• to read them in the way John described his contact with the Word as
that . . . which we have heard, which we seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands (1 Jn. 1:1)
• we want to come close enough to feel the life that breathes in the word
◦ to hear it as God’s word spoken directly to us, here and now

When reading the sacred writings, we want to be receptive

We must come to the Scriptures with an open mind and an open heart
– the old priest, Eli, taught the boy Samuel to pray,
Speak, LORD, for your servant hears (1 Sam. 3:9)
And Jesus said, more than once,
He who has ears, let him hear (Mt. 13:9)
• if I’m expecting a call, I had better have my phone turned on
◦ it is not difficult to block God’s voice
• sometimes I shut off reception just by the mood I’m in
– there is a great description of receptive reading in 1 Thessalonians
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers (1 Thes. 2:13)

At some point, we’ll have an adverse reaction to something in the Scriptures
– a passage will disturb us, or we won’t like what it says,
• or we’ll immediately disagree, or disbelieve it
◦ the Bible can be confusing and frustrating
◦ it can also evoke worry or anxiety
• misunderstanding scripture is part of our discipleship
So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me . . .’? What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We so not know what he is talking about (Jn. 16:17-18)
– when we come up against a challenge, we can approach it objectively
• we can do some serious Bible study and research
◦ gather more information and look for a rational answer
◦ and keep trying until we find find a credible solution

But when reading the Scriptures as Sacred writings,
I assume that I am in error and not God’s word!

• this is how I let God speak to me, which is my purpose in reading sacred writings
◦ so I read them without judgment
◦ if I close myself off to them, they will close off God’s voice to me
– so when something bothers me, I ask:
1. Have I read this wrong? Did I misinterpret a verse or miss something?
2. Is this how I am supposed to feel?
• much happens in scripture that should disturb and disgust
• we gain more by struggling with scripture than by ignoring our reactions
3. What does my reaction reveal about me?
• what has the text touched in me? Brought to the surface?
• the sacred writings know us better than we know ourselves
– until now, we’ve been thrashing on the surface of text
• but dealing with an adverse reactions takes us deeper into them,
• or allows them to sink deeper into us, and we are enlightened

So rather than approach the sacred writings with judgment,
– I come to them with curiosity
• when I ask, What am I missing? – often, it is the most important thing
• so, every once in awhile in your reading,
◦ pause and take a cleansing breath
– God doesn’t require us to understand everything in the Scriptures
• he asks us to take it in – like soil receiving a seed

When reading the sacred writings, we want to be responsive

We hear God speak directly to us, and then the question is
– “What am I going to do with this?”
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only (Jas. 2:22)
• most of the time, the answer is obvious
• we do what God tells us
◦ we pray for someone, we surrender something, we laugh, or we cry
– but the point is, we come to sacred writings with the intention to respond
• I am not only taking this word into my head,
◦ but into my whole body
• by bringing attention to my body as I read,
◦ I sometimes catch myself not breathing or shallow breathing,
◦ my shoulders are tensed, or I’m clenching my jaw
– in the Scriptures, whenever God called someone’s name,
• they responded by saying, “Here I am”
• I believe this is the proper here-and-now response to the sacred writings
◦ I am present, I am focused and attentive, I am available

Conclusion: You know, some Christians feel Bible reading is an obligation

Will I treat it like that – like an unpleasant chore
– or will I hold it like it could explode in my hands?
– can we read it as if listening to Jesus read it, and then telling us,
Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing

Henri Nouwen, “One good way to listen [for God’s voice in prayer] is to listen with a sacred text: a psalm or a prayer, for instance . . . repeating it slowly in the mind, word by word, sentence by sentence . . . [Listening] to the voice of love becomes not just a passive waiting, but an active attentiveness to the voice that speaks to us through the words of the Scripture. . . the voice [we] so much wanted to hear.”

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