The 17th chapter of Acts says: “Now the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians. They received the word very eagerly and examined the Scriptures every day to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11 EHV).
The Bereans were different, “more noble-minded,” not by nature, but as believers in the coming Savior, God the Holy Spirit has given them a hunger and thirst for the Scriptures.
It is true that the preacher must bring his very best effort to the pulpit in expounding the Word of God. But it is also true that people bring ears with different attitudes to the hearing of God’s Word.
Some people come out of obligation, some with apathetic ears, some with a chip on their shoulder. Some listen and yet reject the word of God – not because the Bible contradicts itself – but because the Bible contradicts them. Maybe they want Christ without the Bible – sweet Jesus apart from the words Jesus said. Others may want the Bible – but without Christ – they want only a few moral guidelines to prop up their world view or pet opinions.
The Bereans bring eager ears to the Word. They examine the Scriptures every day to see if Paul’s message is true. The Bereans know they have both the right and the responsibility to study the Scriptures. Bible study is not just for the experts. It is not just a book for religious professionals.
It is easy to fall into this trap, asking the wrong questions – “What does the synod say? What is the law of your church on this?” Luther urged the church of his day to go back to the Bible for themselves. He translated the Scriptures into the language of the people so they could read it and apply it to their own souls.
“Search the Scriptures!” said Jesus. “They testify of Me!” The message of the Bible is that God Himself became one of us. He carried away the burden of our guilt and cooled our burning shame in the blood of His cross. He loved us and gave Himself for us. He rose from the dead to defuse death itself. He ascended on high that He might be with us always. He has promised to come again – to take us home. He has written all of this down in a book. He wants us know His book, to immunize us against false teachings – to inoculate us against the trendy virus of wanting Jesus to be a therapist, a life-coach, a financial advisor, a politician, an aerobics instructor – instead of Christ the Savior of sinners.
Perhaps we sometimes see how far from God we have drifted – how strange the words of the Bible sound to our ears. Then let us go back to the Bible, to God’s own book. Don’t think of Bible reading as something only for the super pious, or the overly intellectual. Don’t think of it as one more added obligation to your already crazy daily schedule. It’s the opposite of that. It’s the real food for which your heart is hankering. It’s the real water for which your soul has been thirsting. It’s the real rest for which your mind has been longing. God has provided “streams in the desert.” You’re hungry, thirsty, tired. Take time to eat, drink, rest.
Chew on a chapter each day. Or meditate on half a chapter a day. Read it when you feel like it. Read it especially when you don’t feel like it. Set aside 15 minutes each day. Turn off the TV. Put down the smart phone. Or if you gravitate to technology – use the Bible app ON your smart phone. Don’t like reading? Did you know you can LISTEN to the Bible on your I-phone? Go to www.biblegateway.com. Ponder and pray over what you are reading.
We have Bible-reading schedules in the narthex – through the Bible in one year, or three years, or through the New Testament in 3 months. But no need to turn these into paper tyrants. Start with a chapter of the four Gospels each day, or a chapter of Genesis, or a Psalm each evening. By God’s grace, you may wonder at what kind of poor life you once put up with before you examined the Scriptures each day like the Bereans, before you went back to the Bible.