Here is a great little piece by J.I. Packer. He is pointing out some of our troubles in understanding the Bible.
They tell us that the Bible is the Word of God – a lamp to our feet and a lght to our path. They tell us that we shall find in it the knowlegdge of God and of his will for our lives. We believe them; rightlty, for what they say is true. So we take our Bibles and start to read them. We read steadily and thoughtfully, for we are in earnest; we really do want to know God.
But as we read, we get more and more puzzled. Though fascinated, we are not being fed. Our reading is not helping us; it leaves us bewildered and, if the truth be told, somewhat depressed. We find ourselves wodering whether Bible reading is worth going on with.
Two Different Worlds
What is our trouble? Well, basically it is this. Our Bible reading takes us into what, for us, is quite a new world – namely, the Near Eastern world as it was thousands of years ago, promitive and barbaric, agricultural and unmechanized. It is in that world that the action of the Bible story is played out. In that world we meet Abraham, and Moses, and David and the rest, and we watch God dealing with them. We hear the prophets denouncing idolatry and threatening judgment upon sin. We see the Man of Galilee, doing miracles, arguing with Jews, dying for sinners, rising from death and assending to heaven. We read letters from Christian teachers directed against strange errors which, so far as we know, do not now exist.
It is all intensely interesting, but it all seems very far away, It all belongs to that world, not to this world. We feel that we are, so to speak, on the outside of the Bible world, looking in. We are mere spectators, and that is all Our unspoken thought is -“Yes, God did all that then, and very wonderful it was for the people involved, but how does it touch us now? We don’t live in the same world. How can the record of God’s words and deeds in Bible times, the record of his dealings with Abraham and Moses and David and the rest, help us, who have to live in the space age?”
We cannot see how the two worlds link up, and hence again and again we find ourselves feeling that the things we read about in the Bible can have no application for us. And when, as so often, these things are in themselves thrilling and glorious, our sense of being excluded from them depresses us considerably.
Most Bible readers have knownthis feeling. Not all know how to counter it. Some Christians seem to resign themselves to following affar off, believing the Bible record, indeed, but neither seeking nor expecting for themseles such intamacy and direct dealing with God as the men and women of the Bible knew. Such an attitude, all too common today, is in effect a confession of failure to see a way through this problem.
But how can this sense of remoteness from the biblical experience of God be overcome? Many things might be said, but the crucial point is surely this. The sense of remoteness is an illusion which springs from seeking the link, between our situation and that of the various Bible characters in the wrong place. It is true thay in the terms of space. time and culture, they and the historical epoch to which they belonged are very long way away from us. But the link between them and us is not found at that level.
The link is God himself. For the God with whom they ad to do is the same God with whom we have to do. We could sharpen the point by saying exactly the same God; for God does not change in the least particular. Thus it appears that the truth on which we must dwell, in order to dispel this feeling that there is an unbridgeble gulf between the position of men and women in Bible times and in our own, is the truth of God’s immutability.
We Are to Be Like Them
Where is the sense of distance and difference, then, between believers in Bible times and ourselves? It is excluded. On what grounds? On the grounds that God does not change. Fellowship with him, trust in his word, living by faith, standing on the promises of God, are essentially the same realities for us today as they were for Old and New Testament believers. This though brings comfort as we enter into the perplexities of each day: amid all the changes and uncertaunties of life in a nuclear age, God and his Christ remain the same – almighty to save.
But the thought brings a searching challenge too. If our God is the same as the God of New Testament believers, how can we justify ourselves in resting content with an experience of commuion with him, and a level of Christian conduct, that falls so far below theirs? If God is the same, this is not an issie that any one of us can evade.