When I was young, my mother made my brother and me drink prune juice (for obvious reasons). I dreaded walking into the kitchen and seeing that glass full of thick, purple poison awaiting me. I held my nose and reluctantly drank, since I knew it was good for me. But it did not taste good.
I go through seasons when I view God’s Word like prune juice. In these moments my soul lethargically sits down to read, and my thoughts wander to my to-do list shortly after starting. Opening God’s Word sometimes feels more like a chore than a delight.
Yet this is not how David describes it. David describes God’s Word as “sweeter than honey” (Ps. 119:103). It should taste good to our souls, because it is good for our souls. When Scripture is sweeter to me than honey, I run to it as to living water, and I think about his words and the implications of them for my life throughout my day.
But what do we do—especially in bitter and busy seasons—when reading God’s Word seems less like honey and more like prune juice?
Give Your Time
Meditation takes time, which many of us may protest we don’t have. And yet it’s hard to believe David could say that he loved God’s law (Ps. 119:97) without having given time to digging deep and memorizing, meditating on, and understanding it.
God’s Word is the psalmist’s meditation all day long (Ps. 119:97). The Hebrew word for “meditation” here refers to an object of “musing, study, or prayer.” In biblical meditation, we are filling our minds to think deeply on a verse, a passage, or a theme.
The difference between reading and meditating on it is the difference between raking and digging. As with raking leaves, you can read the Bible for breadth and consume large portions at a time. Raking over God’s word has a purpose, and some parts (such as Old Testament narratives) lend themselves to raking.
The difference between reading and meditating on it is the difference between raking and digging.
In digging, though, you read the Bible in depth. You focus deeply on every word and nuance and tone and emotion. Holes can be dug deep—and the same is true for God’s inexhaustible Word. Meditation takes time and energy, but our eventual grasp is deeper, fuller, and more robust.
Give Your Ear
As you read, listen attentively to what God is saying. David’s insight came through humble submission to Scripture—to listening and obeying. David says that God’s Word has made him wiser than his enemies, and has yielded more insight than his teachers (Ps. 119:98–99).
Wisdom is not just the ability to discern right from wrong, but also the ability to know the best course of action in a given situation. For a king like David, divine wisdom could protect a nation from its enemies. David does not boast in his wisdom; he knows it was given by God through his “commandment” (Ps. 119:98). Because David had listened carefully to God’s Word, it was with him even when he wasn’t reading it.
When we give our ear to the Word, we both remember and live out of it. It is living and active, and through it God speaks to our particular times, circumstances, and struggles.
Give Your Heart
Fight the temptation to memorize, meditate on, and understand God’s Word for the sake of merely gaining knowledge. For the Word is the way we know God.
There is a difference between knowledge that produces obedience, and knowledge that merely produces more knowledge. Many people know facts about God and his Word, yet fail to embody those truths. I had college professors who memorized more scriptures than I did, studied more biblical history than I did, and mastered Greek and Hebrew—yet they did not submit themselves to the words they read. True biblical knowledge works itself out in obedience.
If we are to truly give our heart to God’s Word, it mustn’t just enter our minds; we also must allow it to change our wills and actions. As Psalm 119 reminds us, we must look to it to hold back our feet from the evil way (v. 101), to lead us in obeying the rules the Lord has taught us (v. 102), and to equip us to hate every false way (v. 104).
When Bible reading tastes like prune juice, give it your time, your ear, and your heart. As you do, its sweetness will grow, and so will your love for the Author.
This is an adapted excerpt from His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God (The Good Book Company, 2019), edited by Kristie Anyabwile.