The Bond Between Theological Study and Theological Delight

As we read through the Bible, we come across passages that we have read before except that, by God’s grace, some greet us afresh.  For me, this has been the case with Psalm 111 over the past few months.  It, and particularly a single verse within it, has laid hold of my heart and surfaced time and again to spur me into wonder.  While the whole Psalm is quite beautiful, it is verse 2 that has captured my attention and affection.  It goes like this:

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.”

A single bonded thought I offer from this verse: delight in the works of God motivates the study of the same, and the study of the works of God deepens delight in the same.  Or theological delight incarnates in theological study, and theological study feeds theological delight.

The two are inseparable.  Knowledge of God is not an end in itself.  It must enter the heart and terminate in affections appropriate to the knowledge of the truth.  Likewise, true delight in God is pursued in the study of God.  As we behold Him, we can’t but love and adore Him and His great works.

If we complain of joylessness, perhaps it is because we have wandered away from studying the Scriptures and the God who reveals Himself to us in them.  Little delight may be the symptom of little study.  What we need is a fresh delight in God, and this must turn us to the Scriptures wherein He has revealed Himself to us in the history and work of creation and redemption.

On the flip side, study that does not aim at delight is an errant study.  So we can study until we are blue in the face with the knowledge of God, but if it is not translated into delight, if pleasure in God is not the goal of it, then our study is hollow, missing its blood and marrow.  The study of God and His works are meant to result in pleasure and praise.  Insofar as it does not, our study is incomplete.

Now, a word to those with little time.  It would seem that little time means little study, which means little delight. While it is true that a person who has more time to study will, most likely, reap the benefits of that extended study, study needs to be nuanced beyond nose-in-book ideals.  In other words, while the study and practice of the Scriptures will be primary and the most indispensable parts of your pursuit of delight in God, study is more nuanced than that.  And understanding this opens up a world of possibilities to those who do not have eight hours every day to read and study the Scriptures.

A few thoughts here:

1.  As you read the Scriptures, take the verse that jumps at you and let it fill your thoughts throughout the day.  Have a scrap piece of paper and jot down all the insights that arise from that verse or group of verses.

2. Memorize the Scriptures.  If you memorize, you can take it with you.  You can have the kids in the car and be studying the works of the Lord in this way.

3.  If you have small windows of time, be sure to set the dial of your study to delight in God.  Let that 5 minutes produce praise and thanksgiving to God.

4. Give up the notion of study as that which only happens behind a desk.  Go outside with your two year-old and examine the trees and squirrels and ants, the sun and moon and stars, and let these things lead you into adoration for the Creator, your Redeemer — and to the evangelization of your two year-old.  Just for balance against misconception here, though, get behind a desk and search the Scriptures!  How we are to understand the elements of creation, yes even the ants, is subject to the Word of God.

5.  Give up a compartmentalized worldview that says you must fit Bible study into a pocket of minutes or even a pocket of your life that does not transcend and pervade every minute and pocket of life.  We were created with the capacity for infinite joy.  Only God can satisfy this capacity.  We have been saved such that God not only indwells us by His Spirit, but that God should reorient our view of the world, reorient the use of our time, rearrange our priorities, and absolutely consume all of our hearts, souls, minds, and exertions.  We must allow the way we view all things to be colored by the biblical vision of God, of Christ, of grace, of the gospel, of glory.  As we put our five minutes to practice in this way, we have our hearts continually set upon God and His Word, and delight in Him is ever near to us.

Sum: even as delight in God should never be set aside, neither should the study of God be left behind.  Study is not about time, mainly.  It is more nuanced than that.  It is more exacting than that.  It is more pervasive than that.  While it begins in the Word of God, it is to stay with us throughout the course and activities of all our days.

At issue, then, is true study and true delight in God.  If we languish in study, it is because the root of delight has dried up.  And if the root has dried up, it is because it has ceased to be nourished by the steady stream of God’s Word.  The Christian armed with the Bible is like a tree planted by streams of water.  As the roots stretch out for the water, so delight will strain for the Word of God.  And as the roots are fed, so they will grow and deepen.  Delight will increase.  The pursuit of delight in God will exercise itself in biblical study, and this exercise, aimed at delight, will yield ever-deepening delight indeed.  The two are inseparably bonded by God.

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