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TEXT: Psalm 119:162

SUBJECT: How to Enjoy the Bible

Do you enjoy the Bible? I presume you read it, believe it, and try to obey it, but do you enjoy it? When you read it at home, do you feel more blessed or burdened? When it's read in church, does your heart sing or slump? Do you enjoy the Bible?

The saints have always enjoyed it. Our Psalmist, for example,

Rejoiced in God's Word as one who finds great treasure.

He wasn't alone. Others:

Delight in the Law of the Lord.

Esteem the Word of His mouth more than my necessary food.

Find it sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.

The Saints don't agree on everything, of course, but it's hard to imagine a Saint disliking the Word of God. And so, how is it with you? Do you enjoy the Bible?

I suspect most of you would have to give a mixed answer. Sometimes you do enjoy the Bible; at other times, not so much. Why is this?

Some of the enjoyment is directly tied to your walk with the Lord. You tend to enjoy the Bible a lot more when your conscience is clear; when it's not so clear, you don't enjoy the Bible. If this is your present condition, I urge you to confess your sins to the Lord right now and receive the Promised Mercy. Then go back to your Bibles tonight, and enjoy the Feast that it is!

Backsliding is one reason you don't enjoy the Bible very much, but it's not the only reason, and I'll say no more about it tonight.

NO CHRIST

The other reason you do not enjoy your Bible is because you're not finding Christ in it! This is why Christians almost always enjoy the New Testament more than the Old, and the Gospels more than the Epistles. Because Jesus is what makes the Bible sweet to sinners!

Let me illustrate this with a couple of real-life anecdotes from my real life.

The Magic Pan is the restaurant I love most in the world. The food is good, the service is fine, the ambience is okay, but this is not why I love the Magic Pan. I love that restaurant because I fell in love with a girl there, the girl I later married.

The restaurant I hate most in the world is.well, I won't dignify the place by naming it! The food is good, the service is fine, the ambience is okay, but this is not why I hate the unnamable restaurant! I hate the place because it was there that another girl spoke to me the unforgettable words-

You're repulsive!

Now, let me apply the two stories to our present topic: If you don't find Christ in the Bible, all you've got left is the Law and the only thing the Law can say to sinners is-

You're repulsive!

If you think I'm overstating the case, the fact is, I'm understating it. What Romans 3 says about sinners is a lot harder to stomach than what the unkind girl said to me--

There is none righteous, no not one; there is none

who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no not one. There throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.

If this is what the Law says to every sinner, it's no wonder people find the Bible so hard to enjoy. Without Christ in it, the Bible is still true and authoritative, but it is not sweet! Or redemptive.

But what if Jesus really was in the Bible, and not just here and there, but on every single page without exception? How would that affect your Bible reading? You think it might raise your level of enjoyment? You know it would.

ON EVERY PAGE

But is He really there? On every page of the Bible? Seriously? Yes He is. In John 5:39 He says so-

Search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life but it is they which testify to me.

He's not saying that a few proof texts-Isaiah 53, for example, or Psalm 22 testify to Him, but whole Scripture bears witness to Him! From cover to cover; on every page! This is why, after His Resurrection, He could open the understanding of His disciples to see Him in all--

The Law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms.

You don't have to put Jesus into the Old Testament! You don't have to read Him into Leviticus or impose Him on the Proverbs! He's really there, everywhere! Once you learn how to find Him all over the Bible, you'll start enjoying all of your Bible, for the Christian can truly sing-

Jesus, the very thought of Thee,

With sweetness fills my breast.

THE RULES

How do you do it? At this point, I ought to stop and recommend three authors who have written on the subject: Graham Goldsworthy, Sidney Greidanus, and the beloved Edmond P. Clowney. These men have written extensively on the matter, and what I have to say is a grain of sand compared to their continents of theology.

That said, I can still point you in the right direction, and maybe the best way to do it is lay down three easy rules for finding Christ in the Old Testament. Here they are:

    1. Identify the big idea of the Old Testament passage.
    2. Compare and contrast that big idea to what the New Testament says about Christ.
    3. Connect the dots both ways.

Stating the rules is a lot easier than working them out, of course, but working them out is not as hard as you might think. I'll give three examples from places in the Old Testament that hardly anyone likes to read.

TABERNACLE/TEMPLE

We'll start with the building of the Tabernacle and the Temple. The former takes up fifteen chapters in Exodus; the latter, five chapters in I Kings and seven more in II Chronicles. These are big chunks in the Old Testament, hard to read, and even harder to 'get anything out of'. But you can 'get something out' of the long and tedious chapters, because there is something in them-and that is Christ! Apply the three rules to see how to find Him.

First Rule: Identify the big idea of the passage. Why were the Tabernacle and Temple built? They were built so that God could dwell with His people on earth. That's not deep at all, is it? Right on the surface.

Second Rule: Compare and contrast the big idea of the passage to what the New Testament says about Christ. That's an easy one, too. Jesus came so that God could dwell with His people on earth. John 1:14-

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

What 'Word'? The Word who was God! Thus, God joined the human race to live with the human race. Matthew 1:23 makes the same point by quoting the prophet-

Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name, Immanuel, which is, being translated, 'God with us'.

Third Rule: Connect the dots both ways. 'God with us' goes back to the Garden of Eden when God walked with Adam in the cool of the day; it also recalls Bethel, where Jacob saw the angels of God climbing down the ladder to earth.

Moving forward in time, it speaks of our Lord's Agent, the Holy Spirit coming to dwell in the believer's body and soul, and also in the church.

The Tabernacle Theme is consummated at the Second Coming of Christ, where every barrier is thrown down and God's people will do what no one but Jesus has ever been able to do: See God's face and live-

They shall see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads!

This is the comparison, this is what the Tabernacle/Temple have in common with Christ. There's also a contrast. The Tabernacle not only revealed God's Presence on earth, it also concealed it behind curtains and walls and armed guards.

The walls were not there to protect God from the people, but the people from God. Why did they need protecting? Not because God is cruel and unpredictable, but because He is just and they were sinful!

The curtains could never be opened until God's justice was satisfied and our sins were covered. This is what Jesus did for us on the Cross, and that's why the Curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom on the day Jesus died-because the way to God is now open to sinners!

And so, in Christ, the purpose of the Tabernacle/Temple is met: God dwells with us and we dwell with Him.

No wonder Jesus was so miffed with the disciples for their inability to see Him in the Law of Moses: He's right on the surface!

THE DIETARY LAWS

Speaking of the Law of Moses, Leviticus is even harder to read for most of us, and we wonder where Jesus could be in the tangle of the dietary laws.

Read Leviticus and you'll find verses allowing you to eat a hamburger, but not a pork chop, to eat a bass but not a catfish, to eat a grasshopper, but not a shrimp! How in the world can Christ be in these verses? Let's see.

First Rule: Identify the big idea of the Old Testament passage. Why did God separate clean foods from unclean foods? Was it for health reasons? A Seventh Day Adventist once told me it was. Was she right? Rick Warren says it's a good diet to lose weight on! Is he right? No. The food laws have nothing to do with being healthy of skinny! In fact, the diet Daniel and his friends ate made them, Daniel 1:15--

Fatter in the flesh than all the children who ate the king's portions!

Leviticus 20:25-26 gives the true purpose of the kosher Laws-

Therefore, you shall distinguish between clean beasts and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or bird or any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground that I have separated from you as unclean. And you shall be holy to me, for I the Lord, am holy, and have separated you from the peoples that you should be mine.

The Kosher Laws were given to remind Israel that the Lord is separate from other Gods, He has separated them from other peoples, and now they were to separate themselves from the worship and lifestyles of Canaan.

If Israel wants to live with God and have His approval, they must be separate from others. That's the big idea of the passage.

Second Rule: Compare and Contrast that big idea to what the New Testament says about Christ.

Is Jesus Christ separate from other men? He certainly is, Hebrews 7:26, calls Him--

Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the Heavens.

Did Jesus make an effort to be separate from others? He did, John 17:19-

For their sakes, I sanctify myself, that they might be sanctified through the truth.

Did God acknowledge our Lord's separation? Sure He did, sometimes by a word from Heaven, but chiefly, by His Resurrection, which overturned human judgment and fully and forever justified our Lord.

This is the comparison, but what about the contrast? It's obvious: While the dietary laws only separated the Israelite from ceremonial uncleanness, our Lord separated from all uncleanness, not just ceremonial, but moral and religious as well. He was and is the only truly Clean Man.

These two arrows point us to Christ, a Man without sin and wholly devoted to God.

Third Rule: Connect the dots both ways. The Kosher Laws commenced with Moses, but they point back at least to Abraham, who was chosen by God to be separate from all others.

Moving forward, it points to the Sanctifying Work of the Spirit in us as persons and as churches, and, finally, to the New Creation where all sin will be excluded and every single person in the world will forever consecrated to God.

When you know what the Dietary Laws of Israel point to, reading them will make your heart sing! Through the saving work of Christ, you will be made pure in heart, pure enough, in fact, to-

See God.

THE GENOCIDE COMMANDS

My third example has got to be the most chilling part of the Old Testament, the Genocide Commands. When Israel crossed the Jordan River, they were to annihilate every man, woman, and child in Canaan, ten separate nations were to be exterminated. On the express orders of the Lord.

Let's be clear on this point: this is what the Bible teaches, Deuteronomy 7:1-2; 20:16-17, Joshua 6:21 and several other places. In the first cited passage, the Lord goes so far as to say-

Show them no mercy.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust and other slaughters of the 20th Century, we wonder if God commanded these things at all, and if He did, how they square with His holiness and mercy-and never mind trying to find Christ in them!

But the fact is, God did command the genocides, and Israel's only failure was in not finishing the work! How could God order the deaths of innocent men, women and children? He didn't order that-because they were not innocent. As far back as Abraham, God pushed their destruction way off into the future because, Genesis 15:16-

The iniquity of the Amorites is not full.

God did not murder the ten nations; He judged them, and He had every right to do it because: (a) they knew His will, (b) they knew the penalty for crossing it, (c) crossed it anyway with their despicable religion and immorality.

Still, it's hard to find Christ in these commands, especially in light of the incident in Samaria, when James and John wanted God to destroy them for their sin, but Jesus reproved them-

You do not know what spirit you are of! For the Son of Man did not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.

So is it possible to find Christ in these terrifying passages? It is.

Rule One: Identify the big idea of the Old Testament passage. Why did God want the Holy Land clear of these people? It's because they would pollute it with their idols and orgies and human sacrifices, and so on. That's what the commands are about: Cleansing the land so God and His people could live there in peace and purity.

Rule Two: Compare and contrast that big idea to what the New Testament says about Christ.

Does Jesus intend to purge the world of sinners? Not now, He doesn't. That's what the story in Luke reminds us of-

Not destroying men's lives, but saving them.

But what of those who will not be saved? Will they be with us always? No, they won't. They will be with us only until Jesus comes again, and this time, to both save His people and to Judge His/our enemies.

That day is coming, we don't know when, only that it is coming, and when it does, the Genocide Stories will read like Fairy Tales by comparison! For on that day, the world will be swept clean of all impenitent sinners, who, as Jesus said, will be-

Destroyed, in body and soul, in Hell forever.

In light of this terrible fact, we Christians ought to stop apologizing for the Genocide Commands and start warning our unsaved neighbors to-

Flee the wrath to come!

Third Rule: Connect the dots both ways. The judgment on the Canaanites is a re-enactment of God's judgments at the Flood and on Sodom; it points forward to other judgments, the fall of Babylon, the destruction of Tyre and Sidon, and finally, the overthrow of all of God's enemies, whom Daniel depicts as beasts.

God gave dominion to man, not the beasts. But beasts are now in charge. But not for long!

Because of this, we don't have to worry about sinners 'getting away with it'; we don't have to take personal vengeance; we can wait on Christ who will set things right in the end.

CLOSE

Do you want to enjoy the Bible? I'm sure every Christian does, and I think of lot of us are embarrassed to say we don't enjoy it all that much. Some parts are interesting, exciting, comforting, edifying, but other long stretches are deadly dull and we wonder how we can get anything out of them.

I'm not saying the Genealogies are as charming as the 23rd Psalm or that the Minor Prophets are as accessible as the Epistles of Paul, of course not! But I am saying that Christ is in them all, and that when we find Him in the weird and boring parts of the Bible, our hearts will leap for joy as unborn John did when the unborn Jesus entered his home.

Go to the Bible looking for Jesus! And may God lead you to Him! Enjoy the Bible. Amen.

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