What is the Bible?

Psalm 119 answers this question with a great variety of answers: the law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, righteous rules, word, word of truth, judgments, promises – all to be prefaced or followed by reference to the Lord God i.e. Your commandments, the word of Thy mouth. Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” So we can safely say that the Bible is God’s words recorded for us – the simple ones – to learn from and follow. So how does the unfolding take place? Again, Psalm 119 has an abundance of examples to describe our access to the very words of God: learning from, hearing, delighting in, meditating upon, recounting, considering and on and on. Over and over it refers to our walk, living according to, running on the path, our practice. There is a cause and effect relationship between the understanding of and obedience to God’s word and our daily steps in life.

The Bible is rich with revelation about God, his character, his actions, his desires towards his people, and so much more. It is a book about God but gives more than facts and proof texts. As an example, 1 John 4 makes a statement that God is love, but Jesus moving towards the cross through the Gospel of John tells us the story of God’s eternal love while the word picture in Psalm 91, “under His wings you may seek refuge,” pushes God’s love deep into our fears. We could wonder how then do we read such an important word? It goes far beyond a road map, textbook, answer guide, or library of theological papers. I am filled with praise that God gave us His word in a form that satisfies the listening child who begs, “Tell me a story!”

In order to allow the word of God to properly unfold for light and understanding, we will gain insight by recognizing that the Bible is literature and its treasures can be enjoyed, delighted in, and pursued as such. The Bible is narrative literature that tells hero-stories, dramas, romances, and relates history that proves true in both time, place, and human experience. These narratives help us to understand abstract concepts like love, mercy, grace and faith by showing us ‘how it works.’ The literature of the Bible also includes a record of visions and prophecies, many of which have already come true and can be traced to their fulfillment inside this same Word! A great portion of the New Testament includes a set of letters written to churches and believers, and what are we today except churches and believers to benefit from the very same instructions. Finally, much of the Bible is written in poetic form using very deliberate techniques to convey man’s worship in praise songs and prayers to God.

The Psalms fall into the last category of poetry and our understanding of them will be so much better if we read and appreciate them as poetry. Learning about the literary techniques used, metaphors, parallelism, and the acrostic form, will help us to use them in our worship and communication with God in a way that is real, rich, and pleasing to Him. The meaning of the Psalms will become clear and affect us as God intends when we begin to understand the poetic images and connect them to other portions of God’s word. (Remember: Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” I trust this!)

In our lessons from the Psalms in Cofradia 2012, I hope to accomplish the following:

  • Learn from the lament Psalms how to take our complaints to God in a manner pleasing to Him. I believe we have an abundance of examples in the Psalms that encourage us to be specific and honest about our fears, loneliness, distress, and problems. We know to look to Matthew 6 for a model prayer but our Father has given us so many examples of those who pour out the emotion of their hearts as tears pour out of their eyes. The Psalms show us a pattern to follow to confess our sins, find refuge in God, and trust in him for righteousness.
  • Connect some of the Psalms to the events in other books in our Bibles. There are times when our emotions try to overwhelm our knowledge of God’s character. The Psalms reflect a real human emotional response guided and trained by the contemplation of the ways of God. The ultimate truth of the love of God is illustrated through the Messianic psalms fulfilled by the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Songs of Ascents at the end of the book can be our companions too, as we journey towards the glory of God.
  • Appreciate the Psalms for their beautiful expressions of praise. Psalm 19 is one of the finest examples of this when it sings, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” This glorious praise of God’s work and his word ends with the most personal of invitations for God’s will to be done. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.”

Pray with me that we will learn together to come to the Bible and say, “Tell me a story!” and “Teach me a song!”

The heavens are telling of the glory of God!

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