Eat This Book
In the book of Revelation, John a follower of Jesus has some crazy visions of angels, dragons and a new Heaven and Earth. Amongst this vision he comes across an Angel straddling sea and land with a scroll in his hand. He gives a thunderous sermon then starts a conversation with John.
We get to Revelation 10:9-10 it says:
I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, ‘Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.’ So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.
The Angel isn’t asking John to just read the book he’s asking him to eat it! In eating the scroll which represents the word of God (The Bible) it takes in all in, absorbing into the tissue of our lives. It’s not just for information sake, it’s about letting it into our very beings. You see the angel doesn’t command John to just pass on information, he commands him to absorb every part of the book into his being so that when he does speak the book expresses itself so easily in his being, just like when we eat healthily we speak and breathe naturally.
John wasn’t the only character in the Bible to eat a book, Ezekiel and Jeremiah both ate books too. Ezekiel and Jeremiah both spoke out in times of Babylonian exile, this was one of the worst times in Jewish history. In times of challenge often God uses this picture of Eating books instead of just reading them, if the tide of culture is so strong, where there is widespread pressure to live by a difference set of standards, purely intellectual knowledge doesn’t suffice we need to eat the book, to absorb every bit of it into our lives in order to bring clarity, strength and confidence.
The Themes of the Bible
The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books written by different authors over different period of time yet it has unifying themes across all the books. Below are six themes that are woven throughout the Bible, they are taken from Storylines and are a great way to look through the Bible.
Every part of Scripture points to Jesus. He is in every book of the Bible if you dig a little deeper. Much like how his life, death and resurrection defines history into BCE and AD, the entire Bible is defined by Him. The Cross wasn’t a second thought on God’s part, he didn’t scramble together a plan B after the incident with the apple in the Garden of Eden, he knew this was going to be how it turned out. As C.S Lewis puts it ‘He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross. So we find hints in all of scripture of what God was going to do. Whether it’s Abraham sacrificing a lamb in place of Issac, the suffering servant in Isaiah or the Ancient of Days in Daniel, there are signposts to Jesus on almost every page.
The Kingdom of God is a theme that runs through the Bible. We have a few Kingdoms these days but not in the sense the Bible uses them. The Kingdom of God is where God rules as King, everything comes under his dominion – it’s interchangeable with Heaven, Eden, Paradise – it’s a place where there’s no sickness, death and where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. So it’s quite revolutionary for Jesus to pray ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as in Heaven.’ It means our mandate as followers of Christ is to take an active part in bringing Heaven to Earth right now, today with the hope that the job is going to be completed by God when Jesus comes again.
A Covenant is a contract or agreement between two people, it means more than a promise and was often bound in blood – it was that serious. God, strangely, loves to make covenants with humanity despite the usual unfaithfulness on our part. God makes covenants with Noah, Abraham and David. Then through Jesus a covenant is made for all who are ‘in Christ’ or followers of Jesus. The Covenant he makes with us today takes shape in all the covenants that have gone before. We are called into being Sons and Daughters of the Living God! Covenant marks out who we belong to, what family we’re in, what country we fight for. The amazing thing about the Messianic covenant is that we are invited into a relationship with God like that of Jesus with the Father.
Salvation is a word thrown about quite a lot these days but the root of the word is deep. Salvation is deliverance from harm and ruin, it is the liberation of slaves, the hand that saves the life of the drowning man. It is no light hearted image and it ties into the history of Israel; a nation who moved between slavery and promised land, exile and freedom for most of their existence. When Moses rescued the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, that was Salvation; something they celebrated through Passover every year. Then 1,500 Passovers later, one man sits with his disciples talking about how his death will be their salvation, how it will take them from exile and death to freedom and life.
The Presence of God is mentioned from Genesis to Revelation. The spiritual Presence of the Living God was often represented by physical places. First in the Garden of Eden, then the tabernacle in the wilderness containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments which became portable in the form of the Ark of the Covenant. Finally Solomon builds a Temple to host the presence of God which was vitally important for the Israelites. Only certain priests once a year could go into the Holy of Holies to encounter the presence of God and a rope was tied around their legs in case they died. Then a man comes about saying he’s going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Then this Jesus dies, the curtain to the Holy of Holies is torn and Paul goes on to say that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. This is big. Jesus through his death and resurrection opens up from the presence of God from an exclusive club to a gift for everyone. Now the Presence of the Living God can live in us!
Worship is a posture towards something. We can posture ourselves towards all sorts of things but ultimately we’ll only get what we desire by worshipping the one who created us. There are many ways to worship but only one recipient. Worship is beyond the songs we sing in a gathering of Christians, it can be the generosity you show in the coffee shop, the hard work you put into your studies or . It is worth-ship, acknowledging the worth of God in all we do and giving praise to him in every situation. With that in mind we come across worship a lot in the Bible.
Meditating on Scripture
It’s great to know the overarching themes of the Bible but it’s also great to mediate on passages and words. There’s an ancient practice called Lectio Divina (Spiritual Reading) used by the church for centuries for how to take time with scripture allowing God to speak to us. It has four movements; reading, meditation, prayer, contemplation. Lectio Divina is about meeting God in the scriptures rather than learning – just accumulating knowledge. It is getting back to the roots of hearing scripture, rather than simply reading dry ink on thin paper. It’s getting to the phrase that Jesus would often use to tee off his parables: “Those who have ears let them hear”.
First you read the scripture. Choose a Psalm, a chapter of a book or a prayer and read it slowly. Give it time without checking Instagram.
Meditate on what God is saying to us through this piece of scripture.
Ask how this applies to our lives and see how we can do something out of the revelation of that word.
Finally wait on God, don’t rush off to do the next thing just yet, wait. It’s often in the moments when we wait on God that we come close to him, without the busyness of the day or the distractions of life.
A few facts.
Ways to Study the Bible
Going deeper into what God is saying can open up new levels of what God is saying to you. It’s about asking questions, a skill that grows the more you study. There’ll be things you see which you haven’t seen before which can be written down for another day. D.L. Moody once said ‘The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives.’ This is what studying the Bible is ultimately about – not so we show off our extensive knowledge of Greek language but so we can become more and more like Jesus.
Study in most senses boils down to asking the right question and doing something with the answer, in Science you ask questions of something – say a bacterial membrane – then carry out experiments to test out your questions. It’s the same with Bible Study, asking questions such as the ones below:
- Where is Jesus in this story?
- What is the context of this story?
- Who wrote this book of the Bible and who were they writing it to?
- What kind of Literature is this book of the Bible? Narrative, Poetry or Discussion?
Get the Tools
The Tools for Study are essential, like with any skill the more tools you have the more you can do. For the Bible Study there are many things you can buy but here’s a few to get you started;
- Study Bible – goes deeper into the background, characters, places and settings that the stories of the bible are found. A solid one will set you back £30 but it’s well worth it.
- Lexicon – This tells you the meaning behind the Greek and Hebrew words that went together in making the Bible. The Bible Hub Lexicon is a great place to start.