God’s Word is the source of wisdom and a variety of good things, a truth we see proclaimed throughout Scripture. See, for example, the psalter and the ministry and life of Jesus. But more than merely the source, the presence of God is the good thing itself. Although Christ himself is no longer physically on this earth, he has left us with his Spirit, and the Spirit enables us to experience communion with God through spending time in his Word.
But sitting quietly in the presence of God through time in the Scriptures runs contrary to the various ways our culture has conditioned us to seek goodness, joy, and peace. We have been conditioned to think like consumers, and this shows up in a variety of ways.
Consider whether the following descriptions characterize the way you approach God’s Word.
Our fast-paced, technology-driven culture has conditioned us to be impatient consumers, a mentality that affects most of our interactions. And whether we like it or not, this greatly affects the ways in which we engage with Scripture. We don’t often sit quietly as King David did, simply rejoicing in the presence of God. We don’t often withdraw to desolate places as Jesus did (see Mark. 1:35; 6:31) to spend time with our heavenly Father. More often than not, we come to the Lord, or our “quiet time,” looking for a “quick fix” or for immediate answers to whatever issues or trials we are facing. We look to satisfy our daily dose of spirituality by checking off time in the Word from our long list of daily activities. In many ways, these tendencies have stolen joy from our time with the Lord. We want him to meet us on our terms rather than being content to “wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26).
We live in what has been dubbed an age of distraction. Distraction keeps us not only from giving undivided attention to that which surrounds us, but it also leaves us forgetting, or simply not knowing, what it is to sit quietly in the presence of God with a posture of humility. Thus, we sit down for fellowship at the table of Scripture as impatient, distracted consumers looking to quickly have our fill of whatever passages satisfy our immediate needs.
We are not only impatient and distracted, but we are also greedy. As broken and selfish people, we tend to treat the Bible more like Google or a self-help book rather than the holy Word of God. We expect to be met on our terms, and like those whom Paul warned Timothy about, we look to have our own desires met (2 Timothy 4:3). Even in our prayer and fasting, we may have sought our own pleasures (Isaiah 58:3).
Now, this is not to say that we should not turn to Scripture when we have questions, hurts, or are seeking wisdom. This is what Scripture is for! But if Scripture is primarily about satisfying momentary hunger pangs rather than about communion with the Lord, we need to check our heart-posture to see if we are approaching God rightly.
What, then, should be the posture of our hearts before the Lord as we come to him in Scripture? If not as impatient, greedy consumers, then what?
Like the psalmist, we should come to the Scriptures as a deer that pants for flowing streams, as the soul who thirsts for the presence of God (Psalm 42:1-2). Or, in the words of Sandra McCracken, as those who are excited to truly feast one day in the house of Zion.
In Psalm 119:36, the psalmist cries, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!”, reminding us that the posture of our hearts matters greatly when we come to the Word of God. And there, in the Word, our greatest needs, longings, and hopes are realized on the Lord’s terms, in more glorious ways than we could ever imagine.
This is why I propose, that when we come to spend time in the Word of God, we come as feasters rather than as consumers. Feasters—ones who come to dine with the Lord, to commune with him, to sit joyfully, thankfully, expectantly, patiently, in the presence of God.
Feasters delight in the Bread of Life, Jesus himself, trusting that the Lord will meet us when we draw near to him (James 4:8). For as Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
This posture of trust and expectancy allows us to come freely to the Lord without a self-directed, consumerist agenda of what we need or should “get out of” our time with him. It rejects the consumer’s bent toward impatience and selfish greed. As feasters, we can trust that our greatest needs and longings are and will be satisfied by God himself, who meets us with himself, who gives us of himself. As we come to God’s Word, let us taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8)