by Ken Green
“Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7).
The 17-18th century Scottish novelist, playwright, and poet, Sir Walter Scott wrote of the Bible:
“The most learned, acute and diligent student cannot, in the longest life, obtain an entire knowledge of this one volume. The more deeply he works the mine, the richer and more abundant he finds the ore; new light continually beams from this source of heavenly knowledge, to direct the conduct and illustrate the work of God and the ways of men; and he will at last leave the world confessing that the more he studied the Scriptures, the fuller conviction he had of his own ignorance and of their inestimable value.”
But I have run across some who proudly claim that they have never changed their position on this or that issue. Well, they may be right on the subject at hand or they may not be, but never moving from one’s initial understanding does not prove anything. Growth involves change and anything approximating perfection will involve a lot of change. On my Facebook page, I included this statement as something of a personal motto: “The only thing worse than a young preacher who thinks he knows it all is an old preacher who hasn't learned better.” I say this, not to disparage young preachers because we’ve all been there, but to castigate old preachers who are still that ignorant.
It had to be over twenty years ago that another preacher, quite younger than I, asked if I was still “writing sermons.” The very question unsettled me. I was and am “still writing sermons.” I have been with the church where I am for over 27 years and have repeated sermons a few times, but not often.
It’s better to drink from a stream that’s moving than one that’s stagnant. And cowboys know not to drink downstream from the herd. I remember my late, beloved friend, Robert Jackson saying many years ago, “I can tell when a preacher quits studying.” Robert was still studying the word until he left us at 86. Homer Hailey was still digging into the Scriptures the last time I visited with him in his mid-90s.
The Bible has a great deal to say about the need to meditate on God’s word. As we meditate, excogitate, and ruminate, we experience a deepening of insight and apprehension. There are surface truths that every sincere seeker can readily receive. But there are profound matters which are not easily grasped and implications not soon apparent. Such knowledge is like a seed that needs to grow into a mature plant. Such development requires pondering truth and dwelling on it. It involves the recognition that we have biases and presuppositions and it demands the effort to lay these aside in our study and examine and then reexamine. It calls for the humility to listen to what others think. I found long ago that I can learn more from those with whom I disagree than those with whom I agree. People who are way off base usually know some truth that I don’t know. Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then.
We love to systematize, organize and compartmentalize. Theologians write their systematic theologies; Baptists have their Four Spiritual Laws; millennialists have their dispensational charts. We have our “five steps of salvation” and “five acts of worship” and “three ways to establish divine authority.” It doesn’t really take long for someone of average intelligence to memorize the systems, the proof texts to back them up, and other passages to answer the gainsayers. We put this passage in this box and that passage in that box. But sometimes, over time, as we ponder and question and dig we discover that we have some things in the wrong boxes. I suppose it’s natural for us to reason this way, but if such is truly how to fathom the essence of the word, one wonders why Jesus didn’t do it like this.
Mary, the mother of our Lord, treasured the things she experienced and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:51). She needed time to meditate on what she had seen and heard and consider what it might mean. Mature knowledge does not come quickly or easily. It takes time to penetrate profound matters and make them our own.
“Mind” and “heart” are used pretty much synonymously in the New Testament. Sometimes the context may lead us to conclude that the one has to do more with the intellectual and the other with the emotional. But the two are inextricably linked. Our emotions are triggered by the information or knowledge or belief which enters our minds. As we think with our English words, the mind and the heart are both important. With the mind we analyze data. In the heart, it takes root and grows. Within our souls, we ponder. The heart does not supply us with new information but leads us to a deeper acquaintance with it and helps us grasp the significance of what we believe.