Most Americans just do not read much. One poll states that in the past twelve months 41% of the respondents had not read a fiction book. 42% had not read a non-fiction book. And 28% have not read one book in the past year.
When it comes to the Bible the results are similar. You might agree with more than half of Americans who believe the Bible has too little influence on a culture that is on the decline. And yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis even though 88% said they owned a Bible.
Believe it or not there’s some good news. The early Christians didn’t read their Bibles much either. They didn’t even own Bibles. Before the printing press and the Gutenberg Bible in the 1450’s, the only way a Bible could be copied was by hand. The first century Christians did not carry around a pocket Bible, an iPad app, or even notebooks they could write in.
And yet they knew their Scriptures. They did Bible study. They just did it differently than how you and I think about study. Their Bible study involved meditation. “Blessed is the man [who] …mediates on his law day and night.”
The Hebrew word for “meditate” (hagah) means “to mutter or mumble or growl.” It was used to describe a lion who is ready to feast on its prey and is making a low, growling sound. The people of God would hear the word and then turn it over and over in their minds through meditation. And each time they turned it over in their minds through meditation it would go deeper and deeper into them until it became them.
The ancient believers were also good at memorization. Usually from about the ages of five to ten good Jewish boys would start spending time with the rabbi. They would memorize the Torah, that is, the first five books of the Old Testament. The goal was that they could recite all this by the time they were ten. (Just take a moment and let that sink in. Now think about how much of a slacker you and I are.)
When they began their studies the rabbi would put honey on their fingertips, tell them to lick it off, and say, “May the words of God be like honey on your tongue.” It developed in them at an early age a desire to spend time with God’s word.
Sometimes we need to find time to dig deep into the Word. But all of the time we need to let the Word dig deep into us. Hear the words of Scripture first with the church. Then take what you hear and meditate on it. Memorize verses and sections of it.
You can develop a taste for Bible study beginning today. You may want to keep a jar of honey nearby.
— Excerpt from the BELIEVE Study Series by Randy Freeze