God Teaching through the Bible

February 19, 2019

Scripture calls us to account and helps us know God’s will. 
The Bible, as interpreted by the Holy Spirit, shows us what God requires of us and provides authoritative and unfailing spiritual guidance for our lives today. (A statement from Core Values of Northwest Yearly Meeting.)

The Bible witnesses that God is present among us, that God is self-revealing, that God wants to be known. The Old Testament’s stories tell of how God showed up to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, the prophets and many others to guide them, teach them, and empower them to follow God in their ordinary lives. In the New Testament, God shows up especially in the person of Jesus who lived and taught among us, revealing in his life God’s wondrous character, full of grace and truth. And we see the emergence of a community that responds by following Jesus and sharing the good news of what they had seen with the world around them.

In giving us the Bible, God worked in its storytellers, writers, and editors and in the communities of faith over time that have valued and preserved these texts for us. Because God is still here, we rely on God to continue to lead us and teach us directly, and we rely on God to help us understand and rightly use the Bible.

The Bible sometimes seems very direct and succinct, as in Micah’s “Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8), or in Jesus’ words “You should treat people in the same way you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). And as we come to know the whole Bible, enduring themes and specific instruction become clear and important to us. At other times, the Bible may puzzle us or we may not easily get a clear sense of authoritative guidance, and here we need to read with humility and with help from others.

God is with us in the rough and tumble of our world, and we see in the Bible that God was present to folks who lived in the rough and tumble of worlds very different from our own. They spoke different languages than ours, had different customs and ideas about how the world worked, and lived in profoundly different cultures than ours. We see those realities in the biblical texts. So as we read, we need to respect those differences and often go to the trouble of learning about them so we can better understand. Modern study Bibles, translators, commentators, and others can help us as we read.

At the same time, reading to soak in all of Scripture, not just in our favorite texts, grows a deeper knowledge that helps us resonate with the Bible’s core witness, a kind of resonance that helps us understand and discern what we need to know. We’ll see how people grew in knowing God over time, but we’ll also be grounded in the encounter with God to which the Bible witnesses. God is still with us to teach and to guide.

(This essay was first published in the newsletter of Newberg Emerging Friends Church in September, 2018.)



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Living in Fun

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