Searching the Scriptures – Find the nourishment your soul needs
Charles R Swindoll
Lately I’ve been looking at how I read the bible – is reading the same as studying? Does the genre matter? How important are the genealogies? All these and more are some of the things I’m sure many of us think about. So far, I’ve managed Jen Wilkin’s ‘Women of the Word’ (recommended, relatively easy read, could do it in a group) and RC Sproul’s ‘Knowing Scripture’ which is so good I keep re-reading bits.
Then I happened upon this book by Swindoll, it has some great reviews and was free on Audible, so I downloaded it and then bought the Kindle version as well.
Swindoll credits one of his early mentors with the method he outlines for the study of scripture and presents it as a ‘meal’ – a feast in fact. He talks about the frustration many of us feel when we pick up a bible and are faced with so much small print, detail and some incomprehensible passages, feeling overwhelmed we may then just give up and make do with the teaching from the pulpit. But is that enough? Not according to scripture and Swindoll clearly brings this out.
First Swindoll takes us through how the bible is put together, why we should take the time to study it and what it can teach us. Highlighting the genres and opening up how that affects the way we read is really helpful.
The author points out that we are called, in 2 Timothy 2:15, to ‘work hard…in order to explain the Word’ (paraphrase). In Matthew 7:24-27 the Lord Jesus Himself illustrates the wisdom to be found when we listen and follow His teaching.
Swindoll includes some exercises to get us started – he asserts that “the bible does not yield its truth to lazy minds…but requires careful and diligent work [study] on our part.
Swindoll is anxious that his readers understand that whilst good teaching from the pulpit is essential; we need to be able to satisfy our deep spiritual needs on our own – and not by having a quick glance at today’s devotional as we swallow our coffee before the day starts. Swindoll points out that “without sufficient and regular biblical nutrition” our inner life will suffer, our souls will ‘starve’ – ergo we will not grow as Christians, we will be unable to serve as we should, to pray as we should or to witness as we should. Indeed, Swindoll references
Hebrews 5:11ff –
11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Are we spending time on the idle things of the world – full of soul numbing distractions and entertainment; or do we long to feed and nourish our souls with the Word of God? The writer of Hebrews seems to be saying that relying on the basics kind of stunts our spiritual growth – but to move onto the ‘meat’ of God’s Word takes time and diligence.
One of the many tips Swindoll gives is this – ‘the difference between hearing and reading the bible and STUDYING it is a pen and paper’! Spiritual nourishment, leading to spiritual growth and maturity does not happen automatically – we must approach the scriptures as though we are searching for priceless treasure – diligently, consistently and intensely. Consider an archaeological dig and the continued sifting and resifting of the earth; gentle sweeping away of debris. Approaching the bible in this way will help us to follow the instructions given in Proverbs 2. (Note the change in verse 5 from ‘if’ to ‘then’!).
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
I haven’t finished Searching the Scriptures yet. But I’ve read enough to feel confident in recommending it to others.
Paper back copy Eden bookshop