You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! — Psalm 119.4-5
How little time I spend praising God for Scripture. Somehow modernism reduced the sacred word to “the text”— an inanimate printed copy of something that at one time was important. Psalm 119 is significant not only because of its length (it is the largest prayer in Scripture), but because of its unrelenting focus on the glory of God’s word. The Psalmist pleads:
Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
I am a sojourner on the earth;
hide not your commandments from me!
My soul is consumed with longing
for your rules at all times.
Modernism has flooded Christians with a desire to prove, explain, expound, justify, and defend Scripture. Add in evangelicalism’s fatuous mimicry of the entertainment industry and we want to “make it relevant,” and “engaging” through summaries, media, and topical studies. Praise, contemplation, and response have been eclipsed by study, systemization, and rote memorization.
This is, of course, the natural compensatory mechanism that kicks in when sinful people approach a holy God through the living word. Perhaps no one has summed this up as succinctly as Søren Kierkegaard:
The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly.
Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?
Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you?
Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.
Psalm 119 is an invitation to experience the joy, intimacy, and power of God’s living and active word. The prayer is a model of what life could be when we allow study to take its proper place, behind awe and devotion.