How good is your memory? Sometimes my family teases me because of the random information or dates that stick in my mind, (so I try to use that information against them when we're playing Jeopardy.) But does it ever amaze you to consider the depth of the information God is capable of retaining? He knows every detail about everything that has ever happened. And in addition to that, He knows every detail about everything that ever will happen in the future. It's impossible for me to wrap my mind around that.
At the same time, He's been gradually working out the details of His plan to bring His gift of salvation to all who will trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. He has the seasons under His control, does everything He does on purpose, and is working all things together for good, for those who love Him.
At present, He knows every single detail about your life. He knows the exact number of breaths you'll take on this earth. He knows how many molecules are in your body. He knows the people you'll be meeting, the trials you'll be enduring, the joy you'll be experiencing, and the ways in which He will make great use of your life. Nothing escapes His sight.
He's up to all of this, and more, right now. Does His activity arouse our curiosity? Do we want to know more about what He's doing? Are we interested in looking into what He plans to do next?
Scripture tells us about people who were intensely curious about what God is doing. What do you suppose He might want us to learn from their example and experience?
I. It is our privilege to be able to search the Scriptures
When I was 15-years-old, I had one big request for my family that Christmas. I wanted a "Study Bible." If you're not familiar with what that is, it's a Bible that has detailed notes in the margins that help explain what the Scriptures on that page are talking about. My Mother asked our pastor which Bible he recommended, and she bought me the one he suggested. From that point on, I spent a lot of time in that copy of the Scriptures, reading through the pages, thinking through the notes, and making some notes of my own in the margins.
A couple years ago, I watched a video of believers in China who received a shipment of copies of the Bible. As I watched it, I was amazed at how overjoyed they were as they opened up the boxes and were able to see these Bibles up close, and hold them in their hands. The video brought tears to my eyes.
This Summer, I was teaching a group of people and I asked the question, "When was the last time, other than at a worship service, that you took even a brief moment to open a Bible and read it?" The room went silent, and the specific person who chose to answer said she couldn't remember when because it had been so long.
I bring all that up, not to pile mounds of guilt on our hearts and not to shame us, but to remind of us the blessing we've been given that many believers in the history of this world have not had the privilege to experience. We have the privilege to search God's word. We can pick up physical copies of it or read it in digital form. We have access to it wherever we go.
During the Old Testament era, the prophets that lived prior to Christ's advent, longed to look into what the Scriptures revealed about what God was about to do. It's fascinating to consider just how much of the Bible is prophesy.
God's plan of salvation is so clearly outlined in Scripture, that it's easy for us to assume that everyone has understood the same details about it that we have, for the majority of human history. But the truth is, even the prophets that the Lord was gradually revealing these details through, had lots of questions. There was so much more they wanted to know. They looked carefully into what the Lord had revealed to them, seeking the answers.
If you'd like to make studying the Scriptures more of a regular aspect of your life, please allow me to share several suggestions.
- 1. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you understanding into what you're reading.
- 2. Don't be intimidated. The Bible is not impossible to understand, not does it have to be learned in a day.
- 3. Buy a copy of the ESV Study Bible. It's one of the best.
- 4. Read these books first to get a handle on some of the main history and theology of the Bible; John, Genesis, Romans, and Ephesians
- 5. In general, pick one book of the Bible at a time, and read it from beginning to end.
- 6. Understand how the Bible is organized by section. Law, Israel's history, poetry, prophecy, gospels, church history, Paul's letters, general letters, Revelation
- 7. Start with setting aside a small portion of the day, as brief as 5 minutes to read the Scriptures..
- 8. Look for opportunities to talk about the Scriptures with others who read them.
II. The Scriptures point our hearts toward Jesus
Our hearts long for what we've lost. When we look back through the Scriptures, we can see that originally, mankind was created to have perfect fellowship and perfect friendship with the Lord. We lived in a perfect environment and enjoyed God's perfect leadership and protection. Sin wasn't part of mankind's early experience. It didn't mar our conversations or damage our relationships. We lived with perfect safety, perfect trust, and perfect relationships.
That all changed the moment Adam rebelled against the Lord and we've been struggling with the after effects ever since. We sin. We rebel. We fear. We worry. We crave the perfection we've lost. We long for perfect leadership and healing of all we've damaged.
During the Old Testament era, the Lord revealed that He was sending the Messiah who would restore what has been broken by sin. The Messiah would lead and all the nations would eventually come to Him. For generations, God's people looked forward to the coming of this promised Messiah. They dreamed of the day when He would rule and reign with all righteousness.
In their optimism, many were forgetting about something else the Scriptures made clear. Before the Messiah reigned in glory, He would suffer first. He would take the sin of humanity that had broken our relationships with the Lord and each other, upon Himself. The Messiah would be tortured and die before He would rise and reign.
Even though many people weren't necessarily focused on this, we're told that the prophets longed to understand what the Spirit of Christ was telling them. Long before He came, He revealed to the prophets that He was coming and that He was going to do all these things. They wrote down and openly shared the things He was telling them, but they didn't fully understand everything He had been supernaturally revealing to them.
Isn't it amazing to realize that the very things these prophets longed to understand are the very things that we can clearly explain because now we live on the other side of their fulfillment. They looked forward to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus with anticipation. We look back at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus with gratefulness, and we look forward to His promised return with joyful and confident hope.
As we dwell on this hope and find encouragement in it, we have the privilege of coming right back to the teaching of God's word. It becomes clear that the key to understanding it is to realize that wherever we are in it, whether the Old Testament or the New Testament, the entire thing is seeking to point our hearts toward Jesus. We find types, symbols, shadows, and other things that point us to Jesus throughout the Scriptures. And as the word of God is actively pointing our hearts to Christ, so too should our lives be of use to Him to point others to Him as well.
III. Rejoice in your opportunities to serve someone else
For several days this past week, I attended a ministry leadership conference at the Pocono Mountain Bible Conference. Different speakers freely volunteered their time to speak on several subjects that were intended to be helpful to the pastors and other leaders that were there. And as we were finishing up and getting ready to leave on Thursday, it became clear to some of us that the camp director and his wife didn't have the kind of help they would normally have from staff. It was going to fall on them to clean the Dining Hall, meeting room, and every cabin and rest room the group had used, by themselves. When we realized that, several of us decided to stay and help them with these tasks. We also called people we knew who lived in the area and asked them if they would come and join us as well. Our hearts were warmed through this opportunity to serve.
When it came to the prophets who were being led by the Holy Spirit, it was revealed to them that even though they strongly desired to understand the details of what they were being told, the information that was being given to them was for the benefit of others. In writing things down that they didn't fully understand, they were serving those who would come after them. People would come to faith in Jesus through the testimony that poured forth from the pens of these prophets. You and I are the beneficiaries of their service.
Amazingly, just as the prophets longed to look into these things, so too do the angels. Does it surprise you to think that angels marvel at what God is doing in your life? They're amazed at the sight of someone who once lived in the darkness of sin and rebellion, coming to faith in Jesus as the Holy Spirit opens that person's eyes and reveals to them their need for the Savior.
But, even though they have great curiosity about what the Lord is doing, the angels are still content to serve the Lord and serve you as they watch God unfold His plan.
The prophets served us. The angels serve us. Jesus has and is serving us. He invites us to adopt the attitude of as servant as well as an outpouring of our faith in Him.
Maintaining a servant's attitude isn't always an easy thing to do. They always say that it's easy to serve others, right up to the moment when someone actually begins to treat you like a servant. As we wrap this up, here are a few thoughts on maintaining a servant's attitude that were shared some years ago by John Stott.
© John Stange, 2017