(Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog)
We need to eat food to sustain our physical life and to keep ourselves healthy. But just because we have to eat doesn’t mean it’s a tedious chore. In fact, eating is enjoyable to us, especially when the food is tasty.
Similarly, the Bible tells us that God’s Word sustains us and keeps us spiritually healthy. But how do we feel about reading it? Is our time in God’s Word a dry, tedious duty we feel like we have to fulfill? Or is it a time of enjoyment and nourishment? God desires that our time in His Word would not be a duty, but a delight.
God tastes sweet and good
God doesn’t want us to just know Him in our mind. Many verses throughout the Bible indicate God actually wants us to taste Him in our heart through His Word.
For instance, Psalms 119:103 says:
“How sweet are Your words to my taste!
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
And 1 Peter 2:2-3 says:
“As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Since God’s words come out of His very being, they carry the flavour of God. The above verses tell us that the flavour of God in His Word is sweet and good, and many other verses in the Bible reveal that God can be enjoyed in His Word. So if the Word is tasteless to us, the problem isn’t the Word itself; it must be the way we come to it.
How we come to a feast
Let’s say someone is invited to a feast. When he arrives, he sees many tasty and delicious dishes, but he hasn’t come to the feast to eat. Instead, he has come to study the food and gather information about each dish.
Obviously, this guest wouldn’t enjoy the feast very much—not because the food isn’t delicious, but because he has come with the wrong intention. He should have come with the intention of eating, tasting, and enjoying each dish. No matter how much he learns about the food, he can’t taste it, since he isn’t eating it.
The Word of God is a real feast prepared for us by God. So how do we come to it with the intention of enjoying Him?
1. We should come to the Bible with our heart turned to and hungry for God.
Our heart is the gateway of our whole being. If our heart is turned away from the Lord, we can’t see Him or taste Him in His Word. We need to come to the Word with a warm and open heart.
Praying a little before we even open our Bible is a good way to turn our hearts to the Lord: “Lord Jesus, I love You. I turn from other things to You. I come to You in Your Word not out of duty, but because I love You. I’m hungry for You, Lord. I open my heart up to You.”
2. We should come to the Bible to eat Christ by using our spirit.
If we approach the Bible as if it were a textbook, we’ll miss receiving life from God’s Word. We may get some objective knowledge about God or learn something interesting, but we won’t taste the Lord’s goodness or sweetness. As we illustrated previously, we taste food by eating it, not by studying it.
We must realise that God’s Word is our spiritual food. The Lord Jesus told us in John 6 that He is the living bread for us to eat, and that we must eat Him in order to live by Him. Of course, He didn’t mean that we should eat His physical flesh; in verse 63, He said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
Since His words are spirit and life, we must use our human spirit to touch the Spirit in the Word in order to receive life. Only our spirit, not our mind, can contact the life-giving Spirit.
As we come to read the Bible, we can pray, “Lord Jesus, thank You that Your words are spirit and life. I turn to my spirit right now to contact You as the Spirit in the Word. Feed me, Lord, with Yourself. May Your Word be the bread of life to me.”
3. We should come to the Bible focused not on ourselves, but on our wonderful Lord and all that He is.
If we read the Bible mainly to get help on how to behave, how to live a good life, or how to improve ourselves, we’ll miss tasting and eating the Lord. Physically speaking, food changes us metabolically and makes us grow. Similarly, we are truly changed and even spontaneously transformed into the image of Christ not by improving our behaviour outwardly, but by receiving spiritual nourishment inwardly as we eat and enjoy Christ in His Word.
A simple prayer can help us focus on Christ in His Word: “Lord Jesus, I focus on You. I want to see and enjoy You in Your Word. You’re so wonderful! Show me more of Yourself, Lord.”
Even short prayers can help us turn our hearts to the Lord Jesus, eat Him as food in the Word, and focus on Him. They can make all the difference in our experience of God in His Word.
Continuing to enjoy tasting God in His Word
When we taste how sweet and how good God is in His Word, we’ll gladly come back for more because we’ve experienced a joy beyond words. Our daily time in the Word won’t be a dull or dry chore to us. Instead, the words of Jeremiah 15:16 will be our testimony:
“Your words were found and I ate them, and Your word became to me the gladness and joy of my heart.”