more than my necessary food

It was part of Job’s argument in defence of his claim to a clear conscience that in addition to leading a morally unblemished life, he valued God’s Word ‘more than his necessary food.’

But this bible reading plan made me remember the astonishing accusation made by a reformed pastor at a conference I was at a couple of years ago – that the single biggest thing that reformed people needed to do was read their bibles more, because, apparently, there is this trend for people to read nothing but the gospels and the psalms and a bit of Isaiah!

Obviously, nobody’s ever been guilty of reading their bible too much, but can it really be true that people who supposedly adhere to the ‘sola scriptura’ principle, and part of whose confession states that the Holy Spirit makes ‘the reading of the word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, to salvation,’ could be so lax as to leave vast tracts of said scriptures untouched and unread on a regular basis?

(Actually, that’s not part of the confession, that’s part of the Shorter Catechism, but the confession states that ‘the grace of faith … is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word,’ and that God calls his people, ‘by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ,’ which comes to the same thing.)

If these are the effects which the Word can have, ie when the Holy Spirit chooses to bless it for those purposes, surely it makes sense to pay close attention to its entire contents in the hope that at least some of it would sink in for the saving and strengthening of our souls. Especially when the scriptures (a) have the property of being perspicuous, clear, and meaningful to the reader, and (b) contain everything that the Father and the Spirit know is necessary for our salvation, there can be no valid reason for neglecting them.

Obviously it would make a world of difference if it was as easy to put these grand suggestions into practice as it is to write them down: but the fact remains, there’s no valid reason not to put them into practice.

‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.’ Jeremiah 15:16

‘The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.’ Psalm 19:7-8

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7 thoughts on “more than my necessary food

  1. “as also our most dear brother Paul … hath written to you, as also in all his epistles … in which are certain things hard to be understood …”

    :-)

    St Peter of St Paul
    on this their joint feast day, funnily enough.

    I had a Scripture lecturer who used to say that if, when you read your Bible, the letters of St Paul seemed clear enough, then it was time to buy a decent translation…

    Re the comment of that chap at the conference; do college CUs count as reformed? Those I met as an undergrad seemed to read nothing except St Paul; I always thought the Gospels+Psalms preference was a Catholic thing. (really and truly just a statement of fact, am not being controversial!)(in the sense of picking an argument, you may I suppose think that a terribly controversial statement)(though it is also merely a reporting of an impression)(goodness these virtual media are tricky)

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  2. Well, beyond what has turned out to be my very naive assumption that people would read their bibles (a) at least once daily and (b) working consecutively through all the books of the OT and NT, I don’t feel too confident about commenting on reformed reading preferences! I suppose it would make sense for some people to only read the NT – that would be roughly equivalent to Paul’s epistles i suppose.

    Of course, our dear brother Paul also wrote lots of things that aren’t so hard to be understood. What on earth could the lecturer have meant? :P

    (I’ve no idea where Isaiah fitted into things incidentally – perhaps that was the kind of detail which made me remember it and wonder if this could really be true, not just a fit of rhetorical pessimism :) )

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  3. Well, said lecturer was a) fond of exaggerating things and b)a big fan of the Douay – “It tells you what the Latin says which tells you what the Greek says” (with appropriate reservations re critical eds etc)(and we were talking about the NT, it’s pretty bizarre in places in the OT!) but other than that he also used to say that the only good translations were Protestant ones.

    My favourite verse?

    Cor was the overseer of the things that were fried in the frying pan.

    Close second

    I am become like a bottle in the frost. [ex. nr lots for why perhaps they should have taken on Jerome’s psalm translation!)

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  4. Forgive me if I observe that your (middle) name must be Parenthetical :)

    If you weren’t so keen on “(a) perspicuity” in the original post, were you okay with “(b) sufficiency” ? I’m reading a book on-and-off at the moment about perspicuity so might have more to say on that here some other time.

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  5. Incidentally, the suggestions which I thought I was making in the original post have turned out on second reading to be decidedly non-salient, if not non-existent.

    Either way, they should have included:
    * read the bible
    * read it frequently (in the sense of, daily)
    * read the whole of it (yes, even Ezekiel and Leviticus, altho you are allowed favourite bits)
    * read it prayerfully, ie in the conviction that divine help is needed in order to get substantive & lasting benefit from it

    ‘Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’ Ps 119:105

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  6. Um, have I been irritating? I know about the brackets. It’s a sign of some embarassing complex, no doubt.

    Your recommendations? Am in complete agreement! The comments were mostly flippant observational comedy, sorry if they didn’t come across like that – I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t agreeing with you. Cor and his frying pan are not actually up there in the verse-of-the-moment from daily conversations with scripture.

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  7. No not irritating! Keep bracketing!! It’s something i have to consciously stop myself from doing too :)

    The added recommendations were just to fill a gap in the original post, i’m delighted we agree :) Not worried by the frying pans either – it’s not in my version tho – not sure what an equivalent would be in terms of general clunkiness but will give it some thought…

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