“… they beheld God, and ate and drank.”
It is no secret that I love the Scriptures, and that I encourage everyone I can to read the Scriptures as often as possible. If you want to know God, if you want to be reminded of his love for you, of you want to know how to live a life that is pleasing to God, if you want to know why everything else in this world is so messed up: look to the Word of God. As 2 Timothy 3:16–17 teaches us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” There is nothing you need to know in this life or for the life to come that cannot be found in God’s Word.
I encourage my friends to use Bible reading plans as 1) a means of discipline, daily coming to the Word, and 2) a plan to take in the whole counsel of Scripture. I am reading through M’Cheyne’s reading plan right now, but there are countless other quality reading plans out there, take your pick.
The problem with reading plans, however, is that sometimes you read the passage just to get it read, and then move on, without letting it really sink in. We come to Scripture sometimes acting like the Cat in Dr. Seuss’ I Can Read With My Eyes Shut; but, as the Cat says, “if you read with your eyes shut, you’re likely to find that the place where you’re going is far, far behind.”
Take for example my reading this morning. In M’Cheyne’s plan, I was scheduled to read from Exodus 24. Now in that chapter God tells Moses to come up the mountain and to bring Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and the 70 elders of Israel to meet with God. Obeying the Lord, these elders ascend the mountain and we are told that when they went up, “they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his and on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank” (Ex. 24:9-11).
What!?! Wait a minute, did I just read that? I must have read this passage a hundred times before, but I’ve never seen that before. They saw God, they beheld him, and ate and drank!!!
Now, there’s a lot more to the chapter, but I haven’t gotten there yet. I don’t know if I will today. My reading plan isn’t important enough that I should just gloss over something so monumental. They beheld God and ate and drank. It’s very hard to express in writing just how verklempt I am over this. They beheld God and ate and drank.
See, normally, that doesn’t happen. Later in Exodus, Moses asks to see the face of God, to which God replies, no man may see the face of God and live (Ex 33:20). Manoah and his wife, after their encounter with the angel of the Lord, are pretty sure they are going to die because they have seen the face of God (Judg. 13:22). Isaiah, when he sees the Lord seated upon the throne in glory, cries out, “I’m a goner,” knowing his sinfulness cannot stand in the presence of God (Isa 6:1-5).
But what we read here in Exodus is that God called these men up the mountain, they saw God, and they were not killed, but were instead, fed a meal… they ate and drank. Does anybody else hear the 23rd Psalm here, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, my cup overflows.” Immediately my mind jumped to the story of the Emmaus Road, the two disciples, leaving Jerusalem depressed and discouraged because of the crucifixion, encountering the resurrected Jesus along the way, who taught them from Scripture everything concerning himself (Luke 24:27), and how after he blessed the meal their eyes were open. Even now I think about our worship services, how in the reading and proclamation of the Word of God we see God and hear his voice, and still he gathers us around the table to feed us in his presence.
This one little line from one verse in Exodus has completely wasted me for the day. I don’t know that I will recover. I don’t know that I want to.
So what should I do next, check my email? Really?
Honestly, some people get more out of reading the New York Times than they do from reading the Bible. They may read an article in the paper and that’s all they talk about the whole day, while they are hard pressed to remember what they read that morning, or even 5 minutes ago, from Scripture.
Friends, when you are reading God’s Word you need to allow it time to penetrate and permeate your life. Don’t just “buzz the tower;” read it, hear it, meditate upon it. Pray that God’s Spirit will give you ears to hear the Word of God, to see the grace of Christ. Let us not be like the Pharisees of old who searched the Scriptures thinking that in them they would find eternal life, but never realizing that all of Scriptures were, in fact, pointing to Christ (John 5:39).
We need to read with our eyes open, and our hearts prepared for impact.