Wednesday, December 07, 2016

"Closed Book"

Revelation 5.4-5 “The Message”

“I wept and wept and wept that no one was found able to open the scroll, able to read it. One of the Elders said, ‘Don’t weep. Look — the Lion from Tribe Judah, the Root of David’s Tree, has conquered. He can open the scroll, can rip through the seven seals.’”
“Read the Bible” is cheap advice. Offering this solution to a suffering soul is almost shameful. It’s easy to say and costs the say-er nothing. Counsel of this kind offers no enduring hope and effectively drives a wedge between the seeker and giver of advice, which, of course, may be the latter’s un-admitted intention, insofar as he really cares little for the plight of his suffering brother.

“Read the Bible” may really mean “Don’t come to me with your petty problems. I’m far too busy right now for you. Go figure out life on your own and leave me alone.” But, of course, “Read the Bible” gets the advice-giver off the hook without feeling badly about a failed counseling session. Besides, it sounds much more polite and spiritual.

There is a reason why “Read the Bible” doesn’t work. The book is sealed. Nobody gets it! It’s impossible to grasp its meaning without help.[1] Our pain is too profound and the Bible is too distant, too aloof and cryptic. Somehow we know the words of the Bible can help but we can’t get at them on our own. The (meaning of the words in the) book is locked and sealed. Like medication in a human-proof container, no one can open the book and get the help they need. This is why so many people don’t bother to read the Bible. Its meaning eludes them. Bible reading feels like a waste of time. It’s a discipline that may be good for them but without immediate self-improvement results, they soon give up the practice. As one man said, “I got lost in the ‘begats,’ so I quit”.

Here’s more effective advice… “Get to know Jesus”! He is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”. He alone can “open the scroll” and “rip through the… seals”. Jesus is able and willing to open the book and reveal its meaning to you and everyone you know.

“Don’t weep.” Look to Jesus. He can open the book, break the seal, and ‘crack the code.’ He is “the Word [who] became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1.14). Jesus can open the Bible and pour its life-giving water into your thirsty soul.

The very fine drawing "An Open Book" was posted on the BBC website by Catherine (age 17) of Bedfordshire, England in November 2007 (

[1] I do not intend to suggest that the Bible isn’t clear. I subscribe to the Reformation principle of the ‘perspicuity’ (clarity) of Scripture. Its meaning is transparent, clear, lucid, and visible to believers. The Bible is not obscure, ambiguous, or confusing. The Reformers were combating a politically motivated policy which allowed a corrupt ecclesiastical system to profit by leveraging the laity's Bible superstition. This false teaching insisted that Scripture’s truth was available only to clergy who alone were privileged to interpret the Bible to the masses. 
     However, the reformers also believed that the Holy Scriptures could not be truly understood apart from faith in Christ and the illuminating action of the Holy Spirit, which is the point of my post. According to the historic Westminster Confession (I.6, c.a. 1643): “… we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word.” Those who are so illuminated may certainly grasp the meaning of the Bible as the Holy Spirit imparts understanding. We need to know Jesus Christ if we expect to benefit from His Word.

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