The musical ‘The King and I’ features a song written in 1951 by Oscar Hammerstein II called ‘Getting to Know You’. A pretty English teacher is singing, “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.”
When I met my wife, that’s how I felt. I wanted to know more about her. And I was a bit nervous in case she didn’t like me.
We spent hours talking together. We would listen to each other and tell each other about ourselves. We haven’t stopped talking, and now we know each other better than anyone else.
We also know each other well because we have so many shared experiences. We have lived with each other through many things.
I want to suggest to you that a love story is what we need to teach us about God. God is in love with us. He wants to know us better and he hopes we like him. From our side, we want to know God better. We hope God likes us. So what do we do?
How can we get to know God better?
Another way we get to know a person better is to talk to their family and friends. This is an important way to get to know God better as well. We talk with people who know him.
We can also learn a lot about people from what they do and how they do it. We are able to learn about authors from their writings. We are able to learn about painters and sculptors from their art. We can learn about God from his creation. This is why the Bible says we have no excuse for not knowing God.
Romans 1:20 – “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”
If you want to know about a famous person, dead or alive, the usual way would be to read their biography or autobiography. I’m ever so grateful that God has given us his biography.
Matthew 22:29 – ‘Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.”’
In our reading this morning Jesus told the Jewish leaders (John 5:39), “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”
We can know God and Jesus from reading the Bible.
The purpose of reading the Bible, Jesus is telling the Jewish leaders, is to know him.
God has given us the Bible so that we can know him better. And so that we can know Jesus better, and thus receive eternal life.
The Bible is an ancient book, but its contents still tell us what we need to know in order to understand God. The Bible’s message is not old and irrelevant, it is modern and vital for coming close to God. Without the words of the Bible we are in the same danger as the people of Matthew 22, who Jesus said had gone in the wrong direction because they did not know the Scriptures.
We all have a duty to search the Scriptures. Seeking God in the Scriptures is an important part of getting to know God and getting to know Jesus.
Please start by understanding what kind of writings these are. The Scriptures are not a novel. They are holy, an outpouring from God to tell us about himself. They are a love letter to us.
They are a revelation of God and of ourselves, showing us how we are fallen. We find in these words just how blind we are, how mistaken in our understandings, how hopeless. We find in these writings hope also as they tell us about the great gift of salvation.
When you read the Bible, bear these things in mind. Seek in the words you read an understanding of salvation and of your fallen state. Seek Jesus in the testimony of the prophets. Listen to the words, for they are living and speaking to us today.
I want to suggest more than one way to read the Bible.
The first way is to grab one of our Bible reading plans. If you can manage it, choose the one where you read 10 chapters and day and blast straight through the Bible. With this method it is a simple matter of finding a quiet place where you can focus. Pray first, then just read. Don’t stop and think or take notes. Read fast. You’ll get the big picture. You’ll see an overview and see the way different parts relate to each other.
The second way is to read more slowly and meditatively. Always pray first, asking God to open your eyes and mind to his words and his message. Then relax and read.
George Whitfield gives us this advice: “Fancy yourselves, therefore, when you are searching the scriptures, especially when you are reading the New Testament, to be with Mary sitting at the feet of the holy Jesus; and be as willing to learn what God shall teach you, as Samuel was, when he said, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth’.”
Our attitude has to be humble, because we are letting the Scriptures speak to us. We allow our minds to wander, though not too far, as we imagine what is was like to be there. We imagine what it would be to be with Jesus walking on a dusty road. We ponder what it would be like to have a table and chairs made by Jesus, and then to find out people are saying he is the Messiah.
As we read like this we will hear God speaking into our souls by it, and consequently we will be built up in the knowledge and fear of him.
Search the scriptures, with a sincere intention to put in practice what you read.
In Matthew 13, Jesus explains to his disciples why he speaks in parables.
“To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
Then Jesus explains that “their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes.”
When we read, we need to read with a heart to seek and know God. We read because we want to follow Jesus. That means we are reading because we want to do what he asks. We want to know what to do.
How many people read the Bible to prove a favourite point of view. How many read in order to show the Bible is wrong? How many read for wrong motives or with hard hearts? These people will never understand. Our prayer when we read the Bible must include a plea for strength to do what we learn.
Apply what you read to yourself. What I mean is that when it says we are saved by faith, read it with your name. Read that you personally are saved by your personal faith in Jesus. Read with your heart as well as your mind. If Paul writes how Jesus died for him, let your heart say Jesus died for you.
There is more to say but no more time to say it. Pray while you read. Pray to be like this or that. Pray to have this or that experience. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be a powerful guide. Without the help of the spirit, without an eager and humble heart, the Scripture will not come alive for you.
God really wants you to get to know him, and constant reading of the Bible is one important way. Let’s spend more time each day in this live giving activity. God gave us his word so we could come to him and know him.