I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad. Psalm 119:96
I dislike getting new glasses. All my life I have used corrective lenses. Every couple of years or so it seems I need a stronger prescription. Because I hate appointments, and because I am a tad cheap, I am always reluctant to go to the eye doctor.
But after I get the new pair of glasses and put them on, the world comes into clearer focus. Greens are brighter. Lines are sharper. Details suddenly appear that I had never observed before. The world seems newer, fresher and more interesting again. I like getting new glasses.
When we see clearly
Reading the Word of God, after a certain passage of time, is like getting a stronger prescription. The Word of God never changes, but because we are always changing we need to revisit the passages we think we know so well.
Looking at a rose garden without my glasses on is quite a dull experience. Splotches of red thrown into clumps of green above a little brown patch of dirt is pretty much all I see. But with my glasses on I see the beautiful layered waves of red rippling from the heart of each rose, the rusty sharp thorns spading each stem, the camouflage of greens in each bouquet of leaves.
Even the dirt is detailed. Half-submerged stones, crawling ants, bits of mulch, a warty toad, all come into focus. Without the right prescription, the beauty of the garden lies quite far beyond my reach.
New eyes to see
Seeing the Scriptures operates much the same way. Through experience, the Holy Spirit illuminates various portions of the Word, causing us to see. Rather than giving us a new book every other decade, He chooses instead to give us new eyes – eyes with greater capacity for detail and further depth of insight.
Apollos had his prescription changed when he visited Ephesus. An eloquent preacher in his own right and mighty in the Scriptures, Apollos was a leader and guide to many, preaching and teaching the kingdom of God in so far as he knew it.
When Apollos “happened” to come to Ephesus and began speaking boldly in the synagogue, Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained the way of God to him “more accurately” (Acts 18:24). Even though Apollos had “spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord,” (Acts 18:25), there was still room for this teacher to learn the way of God “more perfectly” (KJV). Priscilla and Aquila were happy to show him the way.
What humility and what a teachable spirit Apollos must have had to be willing to be taught by his very own students.
Seeing what we want
There is an old saying which goes something like this: you see what you look for. When my children attend the local carnival in my city, they see games and candy and prizes and fun. When I look around at the same carnival I see gimmicks and rip-offs and strangers and con-artists. Inexperience has clouded my children’s vision; experience has coloured mine. We are both looking at the same things but we are seeing things very differently.
When we look at the Scriptures, depending on our point of view, we may see the blessings and promises given to those who believe. Yet, looking at those same passages from a different point of view, we may see the difficulties, trials and hardships outlined for those who would follow Christ. Both are true.
Some of it we register now; some of it we will register later. If you have ever attended a Bible study with a new, excited believer present alongside a seasoned and battered but mature believer you will understand immediately what I am talking about.
Shallow and deep
I am impressed by the deep and shallow Word of God. It has been said by many over the centuries that the Bible “is like a river broad and deep, shallow enough for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough for the elephant to swim.” Ironic as it sounds, my children claim to understand the message of the Bible perfectly well while I continue to explore its endless depths.
No worries, as the years pile up, experience will open their eyes more and more, and they too will discover the water rising up to their knees at first, then past their shoulders, then over their heads completely. They too will realize that seeing the stars with the naked eye is one thing but it is quite another to look through a telescope peering into deep space.
A change of prescription
Over time, seasons pass and situations change. This brings about a change of prescription. Just as our bodies change through puberty getting us ready for the next phase of life, so, too, our minds and hearts change as we cycle through the seasons of life. Once we were single; now we are married.
Once we were followers; now we are the leaders of our families and possibly leaders in our churches. Once we were healthy; now we are sick. Certain passages of the Bible irrelevant to us yesterday suddenly become vital to our survival today. Truths we never saw before now seem to jump off the page.
The writer of Psalm 119 certainly loved the Word of God. It is not surprising that his praise of the depths and riches of it constitutes the longest of the Psalms. I suppose he could have continued writing another 176 verses extolling its virtues, comforts and power – the Word of God is that deep. The writer of Psalm 119 knew something of it but he longed to know more. Do we?