Is your Bible too tame?
Have you ever heard a lion roar… in the wild?
I have… and it’s not something I’ll easily forget. I was in a minibus with a group of Moore College students, enjoying a do-it-yourself-safari at Pilanesburg National Park. We’d stopped to try and photograph a lion. No mean feat in the long grass plains! We could just glimpse the ears of a trio of lionesses. Some of us were leaning out of open windows, eagerly trying to get a better shot. Even when, a till-that-moment-unseen lion, momentarily emerged, literally metres from our bus, we felt safe. But then, another car pulled up beside us and the driver got out. We called out to warn her that there were lions close by. She clearly thought, this bunch of Aussies didn’t have a clue - and perhaps our happy voices reflected, we had no inkling of the imminent danger, once again concealed in the grass. She took one step away from her car to take a closer look, and that’s when it happened - we all heard it - and felt it - the powerful roar of a lion! It’s bone-chilling, louder and scarier than you expect. A few of us were left physically trembling.
I didn’t get a photo of a lion that day but I did leave with a proper respect for lions! They aren’t the lethargic creatures found in our zoos. They’re the top of the food chain, the king of the jungle - for a reason!
My close encounter did remind me of another lion, Aslan, from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Mr. Beaver says of Aslan,
“He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”
In the books, Aslan is a type for Christ (and also God) and I wonder if one of the Biblical images Lewis drew from was Hosea 11:10, where the LORD is described as a roaring lion, whose roar brings his children back trembling.
As Christians, we believe that the Bible is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) that is, what the Bible says, God says. How do you approach the Bible, then? With trembling? More often then I care to admit, the latest popular novel grabs my attention instead; as I stay up late, devouring just one more page. Or do you find yourself restlessly waiting for the Bible study to finish, so you can get to morning tea, where the real fellowship happens? One insightful friend said we treat the Bible like bran: good for us but a bit bland; sometimes hard to swallow; and something we can definitely get away with skipping a fair bit of the time - who eats bran everyday, right?
There are many reasons why we might have this mismatch between our lofty belief about the Bible and our everyday experience. I want to mention just one. Have you ever thought that reading the Bible is like hearing the roar of a wild lion? No? That’s the problem!
When that lion roared we heard it - and wisely heeded it. That driver scrambled back inside her car as fast as humanly possible - and we pulled our heads back in, rolled up the windows and forgot all about cameras and angles. This is much more in tune with the Biblical understanding of hearing (or reading) God’s word. Whether it’s God speaking to Adam in the garden, or Moses reading the ten commandments to the Israelites - listening to his word is not a passive activity for God’s own people; it involves heeding or obeying it. When we get this, that’s when we feel the sharp cut of the “two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).
Can you remember the last time you changed something in your life because of what you read in the Bible?
For sure, reading the Bible can sometimes seem like dull work as we rightly try to understand the meaning of words in their Biblical context. But when we remember whose words we’re reading - the one who said, "Let there be light”, and there was - it’s not a tame activity because God isn’t tame! For in reading God’s word, it’s not so much us who are weighing it, rather, through his word, God weighs us. Roar!
These are the ones I look on with favour:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word. - Isaiah 66:2