Why can’t Johnny read the Bible? Let me count the ways.
From study Bibles to sound-bite commentaries (to use the word oh so loosely) to our inability to hold a paragraph or chapter in tension long enough to experience its force and meaning…there are many reasons why Johnny as an adult can’t read the Bible…or doesn’t read the Bible…or won’t read the Bible.
The Sunday morning class I’m in is a great group of men and women; we’re using a study guide by a well-known popular pastor-speaker-author-writer. This past Sunday morning we were in Revelation Chapter 5. In verse one John writes, “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.”
The question was raised, “What is the scroll and what are the seals?” That is a fair question, my problem is not with the reasonable question, my problem is with the answer; better yet, my problem is with the lack of process in discovering an answer. The study guide, written presumably to help people read the Bible, actually has the opposite effect, it has the opposite effect because it gives answers to questions rather than guide people in experiencing the Bible and discovering its truth and wonder themselves.
At Revelation 5:1 the study-guide tells the reader that the scroll and its seals portray an ancient Roman will that required seven witnesses and that the ancient reader would have understood the imagery thusly. Case closed. Not much reason to ponder what the scroll is, not much reason to ponder the seals, not much reason to experience chapters 5 – 7. Why visit the Grand Canyon if we can read a description of it?
How can I possibly understand and experience the scroll and its seals after only reading one sentence (5:1)? Even if I think I know what I’m reading how can I experience and understand the import of the sealed scroll after reading one sentence? After reading the Bible for almost five decades one of many things I’ve learned is that the Bible can be newer and fresher today than it was in the 1960s if I will only submit to it, ponder it, listen to the Holy Spirit, and seek to see Jesus. The most familiar passages of the Bible can become the freshest when breathed on by the Holy Spirit in my heart and mind - with new fragrances and poignant vision pouring forth from the words and enveloping my soul and testifying to my spirit.
When I was a boy I visited the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. (the Smithsonian) a number of times; the precious gem exhibit was my favorite. Crystals and gems were displayed in cases and settings down a corridor displaying their intricate facets and beauty…culminating in the Hope Diamond. I can see the exhibit as I write this even though it has been many many years since my eyes last gazed on them; but I can still see them, I can still marvel, I can still ponder. If this is so with a physical display of earthly beauty, should it not be even more so with the display of heavenly wonder and beauty portrayed in the Throne Room of Revelation chapters four and five?
In 1986 I visited the art museum of Emory University in Atlanta, GA; there was an ancient marble statute of a woman with fine features draped with a translucent cloak – the translucence of the cloak, so finely executed, captured my attention and imagination – I can still see it and when I mention it to Vickie, who experienced it with me, she knows what I’m talking about, she sees what I see. Can we see the Throne Room of Revelation Chapters four and five? Have we experienced the unfolding scroll of chapters 5 – 7? If not, perhaps we should spend more time there, perhaps we should ponder the chapters when we awake and when we lie down and as we move through our days, perhaps we should walk the corridors of the chapters, pausing and pondering, looking at the images from various angles, allowing their mystery to capture our imaginations…and above all…let us behold Him who sits on the Throne and the Lamb – for it is their light and life that animates all that we see and all that we’ll ever see in the Throne Room.
The Throne Room is not only a good place to visit…it is a good place to live.