I remember hearing the mailman open the door into our apartment lobby. He methodically unloaded his bag into the silver boxes on the wall. When I heard, him I stopped what I was doing and made a beeline to my box. I turned my key and grabbed the mail. Standing there, I’d rifle through the various bills and junk mail like a miner searching for his gold. I soon found it, a letter from my wife. I quickly slammed the box shut, grabbed my keys, and ran back to my apartment with my prize.
This was years ago before many of the technological advances we currently enjoy. My wife was in the military and living in the Middle East for several months. When I received her letters it was like being in her presence. I am not at all embarrassed to detail my process for reading and enjoying this gift. I’d open it up and read through it quickly, devouring all the details I could. Then I’d begin reading again, a bit more slowly this time, in order to interact with it. On occasion I’d hold it up to my nose and sniff it, trying to get even the slightest scent from her, a hint of being in her presence. After reading it several times, I find myself dissecting her penmanship. I’d note the hearts for exclamation points, the sloppier writing about things she was excited about, and the neater pen strokes on the things that were details of life. The letters were my cherished companion while my companion was away.
I often think about this as an illustration of God’s Word to us. He has lovingly, thoughtfully, intentionally, and perfectly penned a letter to us. He has even stopped down, in gracious condescension, to help us better understand who he is, what he is like, and all that he has done for us. He has revealed his thoughts, plans, and motives. He has written to us in beautiful literary style to draw us in to worship. He has written in such a way to make his words fully applicable to all of life’s experiences. What’s more, what he has written is perfect and trustworthy, serves to bring us joy, and make us happy and holy in him (Ps. 19:7-11). He communicates the truth of all that he has done in Christ while mercifully showing us who we really are apart from him (Eph. 2:1-10). The Christian has the perfect words of God, they are scented with heaven, preserved for us, and even addressed to us. This is truly a great treasure!
Sadly many of us have gotten over it.
How would you diagnose my marriage if I retrieved the letter from my wife and tossed it on the counter under the junk-mail? What if I didn’t touch it, but instead left it alone for days? What if when reading it I dosed off or checked social media? How would you assess my heart if I completely forgot what she wrote just a few hours later? It’s not hard to see that this would be indicative of a problem.
But, isn’t this what so many of us do? Our Bibles, those leather-bound tabernacles of grace, scented with the divine presence, are so often simply ignored. They gather dust next to the unwanted mail. Or, when read they are often skimmed like headline news or a Facebook feed.
I am grateful that from time to time the snapshot of me sprinting to the mailbox serves to encourage me about my love for my wife. But, I am also grateful that it serves to convict me about my own lethargy and dullness with the Bible. In truth, the Bible’s preciousness is what keeps it in our hands. A lack of esteem for God’s Word indicates a lack of love for God. To ignore God’s letter to me indicates a dysfunctional relationship with God. The good news for us is that God sees our hearts. He knows we grow cold and calloused. Yet, he still calls us back to himself. I remember Asaph in Psalm 73, besieged by doubt and despair, his eyes are opened when he is in the sanctuary (Ps. 73:17). It is when the believer hears God’s Word that he remembers what God is like. He realizes he was “brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (v.22). But God graciously holds his right hand, guides him with his counsel and will afterward receive him into glory (vv.23-24). With a breath of recommitment and refreshment he declares, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (v.25). God draws his people back to himself through his revealed Word.
He ends with his heart full, “But as for me it is good to be near God…” (v.28a)
To those whose heart is far from God, it is my prayer is that the illustration and consideration of the preciousness of God’s Word would encourage you. And that by picking up, examining, meditating upon, and delighting in the Word of God you would say, “it is good to be near God” when you read his letter to you.