How Did You See That? A Case for Scripture Saturation

david-travis-aVvZJC0ynBQ-unsplashSometimes in a class or after a sermon, someone will ask? How did you see that, which is shorthand for saying: How did you make the connection from Joshua’s baptism to that of Jesus? Or, Daniel in the Lion’s Den to Jesus’s death and resurrection? 

Many times the answer is: Well, I read it. I heard another teacher preach it. Or, a commentary made the connection. Other times, however, I must say: Well, I just remembered it—from reading the Bible last year, this week, or, even sometimes, ten years ago. This latter answer leads the point of this post. 

Good preachers don’t just know and use the good commentaries. They have good biblical instincts; instincts that come from reading, re-reading, studying, discussing, and sitting under God’s Word. Certainly, this means reading good books, but it also means reading the Good Book. A. LOT.

In seminary, this approach to Scripture was given the term: Scripture Saturation. This term comes from David Prince, who in answering this same question said plainly that such connections are found not by reading commentaries, but by saturating yourself with Scripture. No commentary. he argued and I am repeating, can replace the reading of the Bible, for often it is only through Scripture Saturation that various connections are made. Often, it pleases the Spirit to reveal things to us, only as we read the Bible.

Today, this question surfaced again in an online Simeon Trust workshop on Ecclesiastes. In this session, Ryan Bishop showed a connection between Ecclesiastes 8:14–17 and Isaiah 55:8–9. The question came up: How did you see that? And the answer was not that Alec Motyer or Barry Webb showed it to me, but “I remembered it from a sermon I heard a year or so ago?”

That’s how it works: By reading, re-reading, studying, discussing, meditating, stewing over, and sitting under the Word, we become saturated with God’s Truth. And then, with hearts full of the Bible, it comes to mind as we read other portions of Scripture, or prepare a message, or share the gospel with a friend. Many times, the Spirit begins to bring to life connections that we would not see in any other way.

Indeed, commentaries are helpful, even necessary for arriving at a faithful understanding of the Bible. They are typically written by men and women who are saturated with Scripture. But more than reading books about the Bible, reading Scripture again and again is the best way to understand the Bible and to see its contents.

I call this the “parable principle.” God often reveals his biblical truth only through repeated readings. At the same time, he conceals his truth from those who think a singular reading of the Bible will disclose all that Scripture has to say. Such a reality makes reading the Bible imperative and exhilarating, as we continue to see how the whole Bible fits together. Moreover, this principle explains why seasoned preachers will see things that younger teachers do not. Conversely, those who read the Bible as a unified whole (even if young) will be more prepared to see the connections in Scripture before those who read verses and books as isolated compartments in the Bible (even if older).

In practice, sometimes we only see things after we’ve read them a few dozen or a few hundred times. That’s not because they weren’t there in the text from the beginning. Rather, such progressive understanding comes from our minds being renewed by more and more of the Bible. Indeed, just as the apostles were identified because they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13); the same is true for disciples today.  

For this reason, we should give ourselves to reading the Bible and reading the Bible a lot. While preachers can and should certainly focus their devotional reading to their current sermon series. It is also important to read from the whole Bible and to do so regularly. Earlier this year, I outlined a way of reading Scripture that focuses on such saturation.

If interested, you can find the outline here. And if you have kept up with this blog you may see some of the ways I have been reading Scripture this year. And others may notice how I’ve failed to live up to the promise of providing content each month. I do apologize. I’m reading, but haven’t kept up writing. Lord willing there will be more coming. 

Fortunately, the best part about a Bible reading plan is reading the Bible. So brothers and sisters, keep reading God’s Word. Keep delighting in what you find there. Don’t aim to check off a box or get through a plan. Feed yourself on God’s Word and watch how the world of the Bible opens up and reveals to you the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Gone with the Wind: Malcolm Muggeridge on the Effervescence of Geo-Political Rulers

warMy best friend from high school posted this Malcolm Muggeridge quote today on his Facebook account. In light of the world’s unrest, and our need to pray for international peace, they are quite fitting. In an essay entitled “But Not of Christ,” Muggeridge writes,

We look back upon history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’

I look back on my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’ I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own ascension to power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka.

I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that had the American people desired, they could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests.

All in one lifetime. All in one lifetime. All gone with the wind. Continue reading

A Theological Introduction to Ecclesiastes (pt. 3): Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Christ

[This is the final post on a theological introduction to the book of Ecclesiastes. See parts one and two].Ecclesiastes 3

Themes

Finally, there are a number of themes to consider in the book of Ecclesiastes. The ESV Study Bible lists six. These include:

  1. The Tragic Reality of the Fall.
  2. The ‘Vanity’ of Life.
  3. Sin and Death.
  4. The Joy and Frustration of Work.
  5. The Grateful Enjoyment of God’s Good Gifts.
  6. The Fear of God.

These six themes rightly observe the contents of the book. Yet, they do so in a thematic way that doesn’t sync with the biblical framework of creation, fall, and redemption. Therefore, let me suggest a four-fold scheme that augments these themes and helps us see the rudimentary features of the gospel in Ecclesiastes. Continue reading

A Theological Introduction to Ecclesiastes (pt. 2): Date, Title, Genre

[This is the second part of a three-part series outlining a theological introduction to Ecclesiastes].

Ecclesiastes 2Date: Tenth Century

If Solomon is the author (see part one), the date is pretty easy to determine (10th Century B.C.). A better question might be—on the basis of Solomon’s wise but foolish life—when did Solomon write this?

The book itself portrays an aged and chastened king calling young men to avoid the mistakes he has had made. From Solomon’s life we have much to learn, and the point that Solomon wants to drive home on the basis of his own life is twofold:

  1. Fear God and keep his commandments
  2. Beware the vanity of material pleasures

This is the counsel of an older man, whose pain drives him to warn others of his mistakes. Continue reading

A Theological Introduction to Ecclesiastes (Pt. 1): Authorship, Authority, and Intertextuality

[This post starts a three-part series aimed to introduce Ecclesiastes and draw a few theological implications from its overview].

Ecclesiastes 1

To get a handle on the book of Ecclesiastes it is imperative to understand who the human author is (or in this case, who is the most likely candidate). Likewise, since Ecclesiastes is part of the biblical canon, it behooves us to see how the New Testament cites Ecclesiastes. Last, since Ecclesiastes is one of many wisdom books, and one of three in Solomon’s corpus (Proverbs and Song of Songs being the other two), we will consider how Proverbs and Ecclesiastes relate to the life of Solomon and how a structural comparison with Proverbs helps us better understand this enigmatic book.  Continue reading