Love… joy… delight: do these come to mind when you picture the Bible? I love my husband. I delight in my children. I often rejoice in my relationships with others. But do I feel passionately about God’s word?
Psalm 119 overflows with words of passion. The psalmist’s love and joy jump off the page to inspire our hearts. “I find my delight in your commandments which I love, ” (vs. 47) says the psalmist to his God. He goes on to declare, “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (vs. 111). What treasure causes such expressions of pleasure?
The psalmist delights in the Scriptures because he delights in God, who personally communicates with us through his word. As J.I. Packer has said, “The written word of the Lord brings us to the living Lord of the word.”
But what if I’m not “feelin’ it”? Exhaustion, sickness, discouragement and just plain busyness can wreak havoc on all our relationships. Likewise, these things can shrivel our hearts and turn our Bible reading into teeth-gritting duty instead of relational delight. So how can we be like the Psalmist and increase our joy in the Bible? Let me give you seven practical ways:
First, come to know the God of the Bible. (Nothing will give true joy without this.) The psalmist asks God to “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (v. 37). The Bible is an interesting book for anyone, but it is electrifying when you have a relationship with its Author.
God created us for relationship. But even those of us who grew up in Christian homes, go to church and read our Bibles have sinned. We have rebelled against God’s steadfast love and lived for ourselves. We deserve death, not life. But God sent his only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross, taking the punishment for anyone who would repent and believe. After Jesus died, God raised him from the dead, and he makes us alive in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, who awakens our hearts to delight in God’s word. To enjoy the Bible, God must turn our eyes from worthless things and give us life.
Second, pray. The psalmist not only declared his delight in God’s word, he prayed to delight in God’s word. Verse 18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law”!
I used to find the Bible boring. My times of reading and prayer were duty not delight. So I prayed and asked others to pray for me. It didn’t happen overnight, but my time in the Bible grew to be my favorite time of day. Unless God gives spiritual sight, we will remain deaf to his word. (We hear God speak with our eyes.) So pray for the Lord to show you wondrous things in the Scriptures. Can you imagine a prayer he would find more joy in answering?
Third, have a regular time, place and plan for Bible reading. We don’t expect to have energy for our day without eating breakfast. We don’t get into the car and drive to work on an empty tank of gas. We fuel our bodies and our cars. How much more eternally important is it to fuel our souls? The psalmist knew of this need: “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (v. 148).
George Mueller was a nineteenth century Englishman who was famous for his reliance upon God in establishing multiple orphanages in England. He was a busy man. When he was 76 years old, he wrote what he had learned over the past 50 years:
I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord…. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it…. What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and… not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.
If we want to be happy, we need the routine of spiritual meals every day.
A regular place to read your Bible will help you get into a routine. I have a favorite rocking chair next to a bookcase with pencils and a notepad. I don’t have to get myself organized. Everything I need is right there.
And have a Bible reading plan. Whether you’re digging deeply into a particular book or reading through the Bible in a year, know what you’re going to read before you sit down. Don’t allow indecision to stop you before you get started.
A time, a place and a plan will help you stay consistently in God’s word. Soon you will find these are habits you refuse to give up because the Bible is bringing you such joy.
Fourth, meditate on what you read. The psalmist sings in verse 97, “O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” He “stores up” (v. 11), “fixes his eyes on” (v. 15), “understands” (v. 99) and “unfolds” (v. 130) God’s word. He enjoys thinking deeply about the Scriptures and this brings understanding that spurs on his delight.
Meditating on the Scriptures simply means to think about them—think them through—ask questions of the text, look at every word, figure out the meaning. Then ponder its implications for your heart, your family, your church and the world.
You know, the world ignores God. Television, radio, and social media: these all work together to invade our minds and tempt us to treasure things that bring only fleeting pleasure. We need to purify ourselves from the toxicity of the world by washing in the water of the word. We need to soak in it. As we immerse ourselves, we’ll see the superior pleasures of Christ and his ways. The Puritan Thomas Watson explained, “The reason we come away so cold from reading the word of God is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.” Meditate on the Scriptures to increase your joy.
Fifth, be involved in a Bible-centered church. The Psalms were not written primarily for individual consumption but for community. Psalm 119 was written for the people of God to sing together. You will delight in your Bible even more if you enjoy it with others. Being involved in a word-centered church where others are enthusiastic—not about entertainment, programs or stories—but about the word of God being sung, read, prayed, and preached, will stoke your passion for the Scriptures.
Sixth, speak the word to outsiders. The psalmist declared, “I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (vv. 46-47). Sharing the good news of Jesus, dying for sinners, can spur us on in the faith as we contemplate God’s grace to us. It can also challenge us to grow in our knowledge of God through the Scriptures so we are ready to give answers and defend the faith. Our delight in God’s word causes us to share it with others, and sharing it with others causes us to delight in it more. Try it and see!
Treasure… Joy… Delight
The Bible is a treasure more precious than any earthly prize: “I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold” (v. 127). In it is found great joy: “I rejoice at your word, like one who finds great spoil” (v. 162). There is no sweeter delight: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (v. 103). What will be your most precious treasure this year? Your greatest joy? Will your heart go after the world, or is the Bible your sweetest delight?