I often hear parents talk about their concerns that their children are not getting anything out of the church service – particularly the teaching part of it. I would dispute that contention, and I would argue that the content of “getting anything out of it” may be too narrowly focused … and all of this is a larger topic for another time.
I only mention it incidentally to introduce my main thought today, which is one I’ve often had when in reflection upon my childhood and youth. You’ve likely heard me tell very varied stories of a powerful Christian heritage on one hand, yet with some significant weaknesses and deficiencies on the other. And that spectrum is true.
I’ll focus today on what was good and powerful, though not particularly planned strategically by my parents. My folks were pretty ordinary – the son of a farmer and the daughter of a barber, each with an educational attainment of an associate degree from a two-year business college. But they always had an interest in reading and growing in their knowledge of Scripture.
We never missed church, where the whole “covenant family” was together – a theological value insisted upon by the pastor, who would not allow even an infant nursery to exist. And we went to Bible conference camp meetings most summer weekends, and sometimes to other local churches on a Sunday evening when they had a well-known speaker. Christian radio was a regular part of life, and the living room was filled with multiple shelves of commentaries and other teaching literature.
Sermons, teachings, and readings were all discussed quite openly and freely. I don’t think I was very often drawn into the conversation, but it surrounded me. And if some liberal or theologically diverse pastor would write something in the newspaper or for whatever reason be in the news, my parents would be shaking their heads in amazement at the errors being stated.
What strikes me in retrospect is that I was able to make theologically-sound judgments at a quite young age – about beliefs other kids would have from their family/church. I was able to quietly know what was right and wrong from a biblical viewpoint – not because I was formally taught it, but much more because it was pervasive in my environment.
Today’s passage contains a quick listing of the good benefits that naturally accrue to the person who is highly cognizant of God’s Word in a pervasive way. Look at these benefits: a trustworthy and reliable foundation to make even a simple person wise, joy to the heart and soul, and direction in life that is timelessly true.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.
What a tremendously valuable resource this is! Those who do not know the Lord and are unaware of valuing his Word are simply lost in the woods without realizing it. Even as a child, I could see this was true in the futile lives of classmates with families who had no such connection.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Though I’m extolling the virtues and benefits I gained in my home (a place which was a very positive experience in the big picture), there were some real deficits. There was a touch of legalism – though somewhat selective in topic; and certainly unjust prejudices were not corrected by all of the Scripture intake. But even in the best of circumstances in homes, families, and individual lives, there are going to be sins even of a willful nature. Beyond that, we all have a capacity for sins from an inability to see dark faults in those places where the trees of truth are hidden by the forest of personal human weaknesses. David concludes in what is a timeless prayer from the timeless Scriptures …
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Knowing Scripture, and surrounding your life with God’s Word and the teaching of it … this is a big deal … big enough even to be a part of our church vision statement. Whoa – that’s big!