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Take Up and Read

Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end.
Psalm 119:97, 103-105, 111, 112

It is the longest chapter in the Bible and its main focus is the Word of God. Variously described as God’s statutes, judgments, testimonies, Word, truth, precepts, along with a host of other very helpful terms, the Lord has set in the center of His Word the importance and centrality of the Word in the life of the believer. The dawning new year is a wonderful and fitting time to consider these things and to renew your commitment to the powerful, life-changing Word of God. One way to do that is to meditate upon the verses above (and all of Psalm 119) and ask yourself if such love and dependence upon God’s Word is a present reality in your life. Perhaps your love for His Word has waned this past year—now is a time to renew and strengthen that love and zeal for His Word as the Lord is pleased to give grace to that end. Pray that He would grant you such desires.

Of course, there are many ways to pursue reading faithfully through His Word each day. In the past, we have always recommended the reading plan of the Scottish minister Robert Murray McCheyne, available on this website and others. You may also choose to take a look at the Ligonier website where you can find a list of various reading plans that will take you through the entire Bible in one or two years. You can find that site here: www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans. Whatever plan you choose, the Lord promises to richly bless His Word to your heart and life as you daily rejoice in His testimonies. One writer recently noted the following: “What I will say first is that if you really want to read through the Bible in 2015, use a plan that takes you straight through from the beginning to the end. The Bible is one great big fantastic story, and if you’re reading a little here and a little there every day, you lose the plot.” He went on to suggest that you consider purchasing a reader’s edition Bible which is set up to be read as a novel. The ESV has developed a wonderful reader’s edition of the Bible that many will find helpful. The point, of course, is to simply take up and read!

That last phrase comes from the life of Augustine of Hippo and is taken from his great work, The Confessions of St. Augustine. Here is what he wrote as he thought back on his own conversion and the instrumentality of God’s Word:

But when a deep consideration had from the secret bottom of my soul drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my heart; there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of tears. Which that I might pour forth wholly, in its natural expressions, I rose from Alypius: solitude was suggested to me as fitter for the business of weeping; so I retired so far that even his presence could not be a burden to me. Thus was it then with me, and he perceived something of it; for something I suppose I had spoken, wherein the tones of my voice appeared choked with weeping, and so had risen up. He then remained where we were sitting, most extremely astonished. I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. And, not indeed in these words, yet to this purpose, spake I much unto Thee: and Thou, O Lord, how long? how long, Lord, wilt Thou be angry for ever? Remember not our former iniquities, for I felt that I was held by them. I sent up these sorrowful words: How long, how long, “to-morrow, and tomorrow?” Why not now? why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness? So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighboring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read.” Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

The words Augustine read that day in God’s providence were from the book of Romans 13:11-14. Here is what he read:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

These are the words he delighted in as he put on Christ that day, by God’s grace alone.

As you prepare to come to the Lord’s Table this week, consider these things carefully. It is surely high time to awake out of our slumber—for salvation is nearer than when we first believed! Take stock of the year past; look with hope and confidence in the Lord’s promises for the year to come. Begin, even now, to take up His Word and read! Come to the Table with an expectant, believing heart to receive from the Living Word of God, even Jesus, all the grace He promises to give.

Rejoicing in Him, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar

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