It’s hard enough to maintain a personal devotional time on a daily basis. However, when you sit down early in the morning or late at night, and you are reading about Jeremiah being thrown into a muddy cistern, the temptation is to think: But what does any of this have to do with my life? How does the story of the Bible fit into modern day–into my circumstances, my struggles, and my victories?
The struggle is real. And it’s because we are asking the wrong question. We get frustrated when we fail to see how the Bible fits into our lives because the Bible wasn’t meant to fit into our lives. Our lives are meant to fit into the Bible.
The Complete Reversal.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s short book Life Together explains a 180º shift in the way we come to the Bible:
Consecutive reading of Biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of men. We become a part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie but holy, godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dealt with us, and there He still deals with us, our needs and our sins, in judgment and grace. It is not that God is the spectator and sharer of our present life, howsoever important that is; but rather that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the history of the Christ on earth. And only in so far as we are there, is God with us today also.
A complete reversal occurs. It is not in our life that God’s help and presence must still be proved, but rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his Cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.
In this light the whole devotional reading of the Scriptures becomes daily more meaningful and salutary. What we call our life, our troubles, our guilt, is by no means all of reality; there in the Scriptures is our life, our need, our guilt, and our salvation. Because it pleased God to act for us there, it is only there that we shall be saved. Only in the Holy Scriptures do we learn to know our own history. (pp. 53-54)
Seeing Ourselves in the Scriptures.
What we need is a complete reversal. When we begin to see that the Bible is our story, we begin to ask, “How am I Jeremiah in the cistern sinking in the mud?” (Jeremiah 38). When we read about David rejoicing over his enemies, we celebrate the victory we share with David through Jesus Christ (Psalm 18). Sometimes we are Daniel confessing our sins and the sins of God’s people (Daniel 9). Sometimes we are Hezekiah, feeling hemmed in and helpless (2 Kings 18-19). Other times we are Moses trying to lead but feeling frustrated (Numbers 20), and other times we are Elijah depressed and deserted (1 Kings 19). Perhaps you are like Paul, rejoicing in the midst of circumstances and singing hymns from prison (Acts 16).
Bonhoeffer is absolutely right: “Only in the Holy Scriptures do we learn to know our own history.” Our story begins to make sense as we see it through the story of the Bible. As we begin to speak about our circumstances in view of the Bible’s story, we can take heart. We become a part of the people of God who find all of His good promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ. As we see our lives in the pages of Scripture, we are drawn into the story of which Jesus Christ is the center.
Christ the Center.
This approach to God’s Word requires humility. It means admitting, “I am not the center of my own story.” We begin to realize that we will never understand what God is doing in our lives until we see how our lives fit into what God did, is doing, and will do through Jesus Christ. Our lives gain their significance and meaning as we see them fit into Jesus Christ, the center of God’s story.
As we approach the Scriptures, may we not seek to draw its words into our own orbit but may we be drawn by the gravitational force of Jesus Christ into the story of our redemption and salvation as narrated by God himself in His Word.