The Personal Narrative of Jonathan Edwards - Part XIII
In an earlier installment in this series there appeared a statement by Edwards on the power of Scripture, about which I said nothing. I would like to return to it for a moment. Perhaps you remember these words:
“I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.”
How far removed this is from the declarations of boredom that I so often hear from people who describe their reaction to reading Scripture! I think what Edwards here refers to must be what the author of Psalm 119 had in mind when he spoke repeatedly of the impact of Scripture on his soul. Consider the following brief sampling, and ask yourself if such vivid and passionate language accurately portrays your attitude toward the glory and power of God’s Word:
“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches” (v. 14).
“I will delight in your statutes” (v. 16).
“My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times” (v. 20).
“Your testimonies are my delight” (v. 24).
“Behold, I long for your precepts” (v. 40).
“for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (v. 47).
“The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (v. 72).
“Oh how I love your law!” (v. 97).
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v. 103).
“Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (v. 111).
“Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold” (v. 127).
“I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil” (v. 162).
“My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly” (v. 167).
So, do you dwell “long on one sentence” or skim quickly with only a cursory glance at words on a page? The greatest profit that I have gained from Scripture is when I paused to take a word or phrase or sentence and turned it over and over again in my mind, speaking it aloud, perhaps even singing it unto the Lord. Memorize it. Muse on it. Ruminate. Reflect. Cry out to the Spirit for the light of understanding. Evaluate your soul and mind and life and leisure time in the light of its truth. Place your thoughts and deeds and desires and daydreams under its authority.
Those incredible statements from Psalm 119 cited above should never be read in isolation from the rest of the psalm. The reason God’s word resonated with such sweet savor in the soul of the psalmist is because he was committed to seeking the Lord with his “whole heart” (Psalm 119:2,10) and to meditating on his precepts (119:15) and to fixing his eyes on God’s “ways” (119:15). His resolve was to “keep [God’s] law continually, forever and ever” (119:44).
Listen to the psalmist’s prayer, repeated over and again:
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (v. 18).
“Teach me your statutes!” (vv. 26,68,124,135).
“Make me understand the way of your precepts” (v. 27).
“Graciously teach me your law!” (v. 29).
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes” (v. 33).
“Give me understanding that I may learn your commandments” (vv. 34,73,125,144,169).
“Teach me good judgment and knowledge” (v. 66).
“Teach me your rules” (v. 108).
If this were our prayer, perhaps, then, like Edwards we would begin to feel “a harmony” between our hearts and “those sweet and powerful words” and to taste “a refreshing food” in God’s word and see the “wonders contained in it”.
Rest assured of this: God will not allow his word to rest lightly on the heart of one who longs to experience its life-changing, sin-killing, Christ-exalting power.