Cornerstone

“The Bible has so very much to teach us if we choose to seek and receive it. The question is: Do we avail ourselves of what the Bible has to offer?”

I am retired now, but when I was teaching, my students depended on me for guidance concerning their education. I was doing the giving and teaching, and they were receiving, at least those who chose to avail themselves of what was being offered to them. 

In the summer of 2011, I left New York with my daughter by car. She was my navigator, and I was totally dependent on her for getting us to Los Angeles. It was in my best interest to follow her guidance…such as, get gas here because the next gas station is 200 miles away, etc. Wisdom dictates paying attention to what is to your benefit, and using the tools and resources at your disposal to do so.

“From Dan to Beersheba…” are you familiar with that phrase, and the context?  Location-wise, Dan was in the north and Beersheba was in the south, and roughly references the northern/southern span of Canaan, the promised land. Being familiar with where towns and cities are in ancient times, and perhaps having backstories about places in those times, has been huge for my appreciation of following the travels of the Israelites in the Old Testament. When Scripture makes reference that they traveled from Mt. Sinai to the Desert of Zin, I can “follow” them easily in their travels because I know where those places are on the map.

Genesis 12:8 says “…(Abraham) moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.” Do you know where those cities are on the ancient maps? He was born in Ur, and died in Hebron...where are those on the map? It’s nice to know when the Bible says a city is north of another city and west of another - you have your axes, and there you are! 

Before becoming familiar with these maps in the back of my study Bible, I had no sense of direction, or distance, from one place to another. Now with some degree of familiarity, it is often easier to read because I have one less component to process. Knowing locations, some attending archaeology, and the cultures of the ancient times, have also been very helpful in understanding the behavior and sin of the Israelites on their journey into the promised land.

But reading the Bible is not simply an academic exercise. Nor should it be obligatory: “Okay, I read a chapter this morning, prayed, so now I’ve fulfilled my spiritual quota for today.” When we read, understanding the historical locations and context, and we remember that the God of the universe is speaking through these details, it comes alive! 

Imagine a lovely glass jar of olive oil with your favorite chopped herb in the oil, infusing it. When you use that infused oil, it makes your dish so much more savory and aromatic…can you taste it? That’s a taste (no pun intended) of what devoting time in God’s Word will do for your spiritual life. He will be “infused” in you, so to speak. The more the herbs infuse the oil…you get the idea. Let the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, infuse you!

But, again, to allow the Word of God to infuse you, you must do more than simply read it for what it means to you. We must understand what God meant when he inspired it. And there’s more to that than just geography, or words on its pages.

Going back to my days as a teacher, or even just as a user of the English language, how a word is spelled establishes facts about it, no matter how people vary its pronunciation or its usage. For instance, with the word “tomato”, you can think of two pronunciations using the short “a” sound, and the long “a” sound in saying the word. Or think about the single letter phonogram: “t”. The letter “t” has only one sound, as in Tom. But yet how do most people say these words: “beautiful, mettle, rattle, patio, Peter, etc.” The online dictionary incorrectly pronounces each of those words spelled with a “t” in it, with a “d” sound, not the “t” sound that it should be said with. Remember “t” has one sound only, no matter where it appears in the spelling of any word. When someone says a word and I’m not sure what they’re saying, I ask for the spelling. That clears up the matter immediately as to what word they are using. The correct spelling of such word is exact, no mistakes, not the pronunciation of its user! 

The point here is that we must stick to the inerrant Word of God, where there is no turning, or making it mean what we want, or what has become commonplace usage or practice. Scripture is clearcut, and not to be left to possible erroneous thoughts, applications, or usage. 

The Bible has so very much to teach us if we choose to seek and receive it. The question is: Do we avail ourselves of what the Bible has to offer? I pray that you will.

Eileen Austin

Eileen is a member of Cornerstone and serves the church by co-leading a community group.

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