November 14, 2021

“Oh, That’s Good!

            A man told me that finally he had decided to read the Bible – from Genesis through Revelation. “But pray for me,” he said; “Right now I am in Leviticus and it is not nearly as interesting as the stories in Genesis.” Not wanting to discourage him, I told him the Lord would reward him in the next book, the Book of Numbers, with the story of a talking donkey.

            While the man’s plan for reading the Bible can be rewarding, there are better ways to read the good book. One might, for example, begin by reading daily a portion of the Gospel of Mark and one or more of the Psalms. Then do the same with the Gospel of John and Genesis. But instead of reading “a chapter a day,” it is more profitable to read meditatively a few verses, pondering the meaning and praying for enlightenment.

            In these days my plan is reading through one book at a time with one goal in mind: to find a “eureka” verse or a passage about which I can say, “Oh, that’s good!” Then I highlight that verse or verses to remind me of the gold nuggets I have found in the Bible mine. In other words, they are verses that have special meaning for me, verses that warm my heart with hope and joy.

            The scholars wisely warn us not to take verses “out of context.” Context is everything we are told. While I agree with this basic principle, I don’t believe my plan violates that rule. Let me illustrate with one of my favorite verses – Genesis 2:18: The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

            This is a statement God makes in one of the creation stories. God was thinking about Adam when he said that, after which he created Eve to become Adam’s helper. That is the “context” of the verse. But when I read it, I say joyfully, “Oh, that is good!” Why? Because the same God who said that about Adam is the God who saw me in my aloneness and gave me Dean as my wonderful companion! That verse affirms for me the character of God.

            In the Book of Joshua, God said to Joshua, As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5). When I read that, my heart leaps within me and I say, “Oh, that is good!” Why? Because when I read it, the Spirit of God says to me, “Walter, as I was with Moses and Joshua, so I will be with you.” Believing that, they served God in their day. Believing that helps me serve God in my day.

            The words of Jesus are another example. The context of Revelation 3:20 is clearly stated; the Risen Christ is making this statement to lukewarm members of the Church in Laodicea: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. I “get” the context, but these words prompt me to say, “Oh, that is good!” Why? Because the Spirit of God tells me that Jesus is knocking on my door, and on everyone’s door, ready to come in and offer his life-changing power to anyone who opens the door and invites him in!

            The following words are found in the first of three letters written by John: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). The context? Words from a letter written by John in the First Century. But I read those words and say, “Oh, that is good!” Why? Because the Spirit of God tells me those words constitute an exciting promise of almighty God – He will forgive my sins, and yours, if we confess them and allow Jesus to live in our hearts! And Oh, my friends, that is good!” + + +