The spiritual essence of Scripture

We can expect to find new inspiration every time we read the Bible, no matter how many times we may have read and pondered a specific story. 

Those keen moments when a familiar Bible verse or story unexpectedly takes on new meaning can feel like a brisk and invigorating wind across my face. Or perhaps as David felt when he sang, “By my God have I leaped over a wall” (II Samuel 22:30). Or as two of Jesus’ disciples felt at Emmaus, their hearts burning within them (Luke 24:32). I feel new. Exhilarated. 

This might be the kind of necessary spiritual stirring Christ Jesus recognized when he said to his disciples, “Having ears, hear ye not?” (Mark 8:18). He was not referring to their or our physical ears. Jesus spoke rather of the need to listen for God’s voice within—to spiritually hear, and to be alert to whatever would distract from this spiritual perception that enables one to be and do good, which includes healing the sick. I like to think of Jesus saying, in effect, during his temptation in the wilderness, “Get out of here, Satan; I’m listening to my Father-Mother God—the only God.”

Our study of the Scriptures must include an expectation that we will receive the inspiration needed at that moment.

Mary Baker Eddy, herself a careful listener, sought Scripture’s spiritual essence, and encouraged the same of anyone who wanted to live the Science she taught and do the works that Jesus did. Eddy wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The Scriptures are very sacred. Our aim must be to have them understood spiritually, for only by this understanding can truth be gained” (p. 547). Yet her delight in, and demonstrated conviction of, the power of the Bible’s spiritual message didn’t mean that she wasn’t aware of popular thought about the Bible that took a literal, and sometimes dogmatic, perspective. Science and Health also prophetically states, “There will be greater mental opposition to the spiritual, scientific meaning of the Scriptures than there has ever been since the Christian era began” (p. 534).

As I’ve pondered Scripture, I’ve found that it has a perpetually fresh message, and that our study of its pages must include an expectation that we will receive the inspiration needed at that moment—an openness to God’s purpose. I’ve felt humble enough to declare, even aloud, “Show me, Father-Mother God, whatever will further the Christ-mission to reveal good being greater than evil; health triumphing over disease; Love’s, God’s, love winning the battle over hate and sensuality and fear.”

We can expect to find new inspiration every time we read the Bible, no matter how many times we may have read and pondered a specific story. As an example, recently the story of David and Goliath in the Old Testament (see I Samuel 17) stretched my thinking to go beneath the surface details, where I found unexpected views. David became for me not just a courageous doer but a deep listener. 

You may recall that David took five smooth stones and faced a giant—but the story’s succinct and sparse telling nearly obscures the fact that it was David’s preparedness leading up to that point that enabled his spiritual courage in the face of everyone’s terror. As I thought more about what took place that day, I felt David’s outrage—that the God he had grown to love, and who he knew loved him, could be defied by some supposed other power! How dare this Goliath claim he was greater than Spirit, God, who provided for His people again and again; who had companioned David all those lonely nights as he shepherded his flock; who had protected David as he sang praise to his God, watching over him and those lambs, alone in a wilderness that included lions and bears. 

Seems to me that David knew love. Or perhaps his very isolation had taught him to love and listen to his God. He trusted God’s loving presence. God’s loving guidance kept David watchful. Ready. Inspired. Courageous. And on that Goliath-day, he was filled with love, not for his own power but for God’s. 

Here’s what struck me more deeply, more emphatically, about how those days and nights had anchored David: It was not the number of stones he had put into his bag but the number of times that David had leaned on God that put him at the ready. He could have dismissed the love and loyalty he’d felt for God, rejected the good he knew, and listened instead to the noise and fear of battle. He could have listened to people-predictions rather than divine inspiration. Yet as a result of those days and nights of forced solitude, David gave back to God what he’d been given and remained faithful.

Inspiration received through studying the Bible with a listening heart cultivates a deep trust in God and a joyous abandon.

At King Saul’s request, David willingly tried the soldier’s armor offered to him. But ultimately he said, “I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them.” David had, however, proved God. And he stood fast for his God, and for himself and his people. Weren’t David’s acts actually saying, “Thank you, my God, my very Father-Mother”?

David demonstrated the power of consistent, quiet listening for God’s guidance. He also refused to accept that bullying evil, whatever the type, could take from him or his people the very God that is good. He’d learned to know God, and this gave him a deep readiness and ability to listen for divine direction. It gave him the courage that resulted in victory.

David’s triumph over this supposed challenger to God’s omnipotence compelled me to take a greater mental stand in my defense of God as the great I AM—the loving reality for me, my neighborhood, and my country. How dare any “giant” pretend more greatness than God!

Inspiration such as this, received through studying the Bible with a listening heart, in conjunction with Science and Health, cultivates a deep trust in God and a joyous abandon. As we listen, with spiritual sense, we hear divine Love’s graceful song, guarding us and compelling us to courageously right wrongs—in the wilderness or on a battlefield, in pain or in fear. And Love brings tangible assurance of God’s ever-present gift of intelligent companioning. Steady. Daily. Constant. Exhilarating.

Search Scripture for its spiritual essence! Do this for the good of our neighbors and the world. We are able to lean on God, to eagerly hear and do. And yes, to leap over all kinds of walls. 

The Bible reports that at a later point in his life, David “danced before the Lord with all his might” (II Samuel 6:14). The thought of David dancing with joy to his loved God delights my heart and subdues worries and earthly yearnings, because that same God is mine—is yours—to love with joyous abandon, trust, and courage. To listen to, as Scripture reveals.

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