“Come” said the festive postcard tucked between bills and advertisements. I flipped the card over, expecting a sales pitch, but instead I saw the time, date, and place of a party, and I was on the guest list! After months of isolation during the pandemic, I couldn’t imagine anything more welcome.
What’s the best solution for our hungry hearts? God’s plenty. In fact God is the Host who invites us to be satisfied by his feast.
We’ll find God’s plenty on the pages of our Bible. The first half of Hungry explained why our souls feel empty. The second half equips us to find gospel food that satisfies. But before we roll up our sleeves and get to work prepping the meal, we need to have a little talk.
Why is it hard to study my Bible?
Personal Bible study doesn’t always come easy for us, does it? Yet, so often we assume we’re the only ones struggling, that everyone else has a plan and sticks with it. So when the topic comes up, we keep quiet and just sit there feeling guilty or defensive.
We talked about that problem at one evening study. I asked:
What has made personal Bible study hard for you in the past?
One woman took this first question and ran with it. “I’m so glad you asked this. I always feel like a failure in this area. The thing is, I know it’s important to spend time in God’s word, but I never hear what to do with the ups and downs I experience.” Other people piped in quickly with their own version of the story:
- “I have trouble focusing–I find I keep reading the same verse over and over.”
- “I fall asleep when I read the Old Testament.”
- “Bible Study Fellowship intimidated me, I was always afraid I had the wrong answer.””
- “Children destroyed my quiet time.”
- “I always end up distracted by my to do list or the messes I see around me.”
Each women had struggled. Yet each one who shared also kept getting up and trying again. Why? Because they found God was faithful to use his Word in their lives, no matter how imperfectly they took it in.
Does Scripture command a “quiet time”?
Then I asked a second question:
Does Scripture command “devotions” or a “quiet time”?
As we considered what the Bible says about itself, we realized the answer is, “No, but….” The Bible does encourage us to feed on God’s word in many ways:
- Deuteronomy 6:6-9, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart…”
- Psalms 1:1-2, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…but his delight is in the law of the Lord.”
- Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”
- 1 Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.“
- 2 Timothy 4:2, “preach the word…reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
The last two verses are so helpful. Paul is exhorting Timothy, not in personal devotions but in public proclamation of God’s word. It seems the preached word is to meant to be our main meal. It gets us started into a week of feeding ourselves, our own study and meditation directed and energized by the Sunday feast.
That truth seems to take the burden from our shoulders.
Come to Me
This chapter Come reminds us that we are personally invited. We often forget that personal Bible Study is the study of a Person. It’s not simply dry words on a printed page, but the voice of Jesus.
When we open our Bibles at home, what are we expecting? Answers to our questions? Guidance for our day? Food for our hunger?
Above all we should be expecting to meet a Person.
God wants us to know him. He has taken the initiative by speaking. He spoke in order to tell us things about himself that we couldn’t know any other way. Unless he had spoken to us first, we couldn’t know him truly, as he really is. We would only know him as we think he might be. That’s why God spoke, first in his creation, then through his prophets, and finally…
“…but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:2)
If we open our Bibles to meet God, we will find that we see him most clearly through Jesus. The picture we get of God goes from black and white to high definition color when we see it fleshed out in the life and death of our Savior.
When we respond to the divine invitation, we aren’t meant to eat first, so we politely nibble at the party. No, the Triune God is our Divine Host, and his invitation rings out first through the prophet Isaiah, then is picked up by the gospels of Luke and John.
Isaiah writes, but it is God himself who speaks, “Come.”
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).
At Bible study we read the whole chapter (Isaiah 55:1-13), and then began observing everything we could about the character of our Divine Host. The passage was dripping with his gracious presence.
After that we turned to the familiar story of Jesus coming for dinner to the house of Mary and Martha. With Isaiah’s picture of God fresh in our minds, we considered how Jesus made Isaiah’s Divine Host come to life. Here is some of what we observed:
- Jesus was the real host that day, not Martha.
- Jesus was feeding Mary the truth about himself, God the Son
- He knew Martha’s need and also her reluctance.
- Jesus was inviting Martha to leave her serving in order to be served by him.
The gentle chiding we hear in the passage reminded us of how personal God’s invitation is to each of us. He knows us, and knows what is keeping us from coming to him.
What’s Keeping You and Me From the Table?
We are all reluctant guests who are being pursued by our persistent Divine Host. Even when we sit down and open our Bibles, we often are distracted. We think we already know this God. We don’t expect any surprises from this familiar book. It’s our agenda we bring. As well as our preconceived notions.
We are half-hearted guests, who come late and leave early, giving excuses on our way out. Why?
“Saying yes to any invitation means saying no to something else. Martha had to leave her serving in order to come. What might God be asking us to leave so that we can come?” (Hungry, p. 144).
The question hung in the air as we ended.
It was a question to be pondered and prayed.