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Scripture Saturation

Scripture Saturation

Speed wins the blue ribbon for being the premier virtue of modernity. People will pay high premiums to accelerate the pace of life when using their cell phone, ordering their food, and traveling abroad. Fast is fashionable. The all-consuming lust for speed, however, caters to instant gratification and undermines weighty pursuits. It carries a hidden cost, a price tag that few would be willing to pay in many situations. And we know it. Who would urge a surgeon to cut corners during a critical surgery, or a spouse to abbreviate their words about a life-altering decision, or an engineer to truncate designs for a skyscraper? Likewise, we understand that gaining proficiency in a skill requires sustained concentration over time. A classical cellist, a professor of mathematics, and an expert stone mason can only develop mastery through countless hours of painstaking labor.

Despite the obvious need to slow down on important matters, the unrelenting demand to ‘hurry up’ continues to berate us. And that impulse shapes our approach to life. When applied to our spiritual walk, the consequences prove catastrophic. What is more important than care for the soul? And what is more indispensable to biblical piety than time in the Word? Speed is incompatible with devoting ourselves to study of the Scriptures. The number of minutes in a day has remained the same since the beginning of the world. Trendy timing-saving techniques simply reallocate where we invest our minutes. God requires us to give an account for this expenditure – and its return in dividends.

God calls the Christian to be saturated with Scripture. That means soaking ourselves in the Bible, not scurrying over it. Whereas a plot of ground will shed most of a torrential downpour, the same sod will drink in several days of gentle rain, thereby drenching every porous crevice deep below the surface. Scripture saturation entails devoting significant time to focused study, with the aim of mastery, and carrying God’s Word with us throughout the day.

The following points of practical counsel aim to help believers immerse themselves in the Bible. Alternating different approaches during different seasons will bring out a rich diversity in what we glean from Scripture. We need to read deeply (small chunks in detail) and widely (large sections in their entirety). Both approaches require time; they defy the incessant nag to rush.

1. Pray before you read.

“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Ps. 119:18). Pray as you read – in the face of God’s presence – and “receive with meekness the engrafted word” (Jas. 1:21). Then allow the text to serve as a springboard to guide and enrich your supplications, as a means of soaking further in the text. Insights will come out of the passage as you employ the wording to shape the content of your prayer. Finally, carry Christ, revealed in that portion, with you throughout the day in your praying without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17).

2. Pick one verse from your daily reading and chew on it all day long.

Make this a habit. What does it reveal about God, Christ, gospel, law? What promises, warnings, exhortations, comforts, convictions, doctrines does it teach? What particular sins does it expose in me? What light does it cast on my present circumstances? How does it apply to my thinking, emoting, conscience, practice, relationships?

3. Read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting and take time to note the themes and sub-themes throughout.

What are the recurring words and concepts? Are there close connections to other books of the Bible? What was the historical context?

4. Pick one book of the Bible and read it slowly over several days or weeks, pausing to study verses and chapters in-depth until you attain a thorough grasp of its message.

Be sure to ask “What does it mean?” before you ask, “What does it mean for me?” You could use a commentary, while focusing on the text, if that would help.

5. Pick a topic and explore it from Genesis to Revelation, seeking to extract all that God has revealed on that matter.

Do this over a predetermined season little by little each day. To make it more manageable, explore one theme throughout the whole book of Psalms (e.g., the kingship of Christ, conviction of sin, adoption, Christian joy, election, holiness of God, etc.).

6. You cannot reach saturation without retention.

God’s truth must lodge in your soul rather than simply pass through you. Memorization makes it stick in your mind. So commit a section or chapter to memory and focus your mental energies on meditation. Then supplement that with reading elsewhere in Scripture. Often your meditation will cast light on what you read elsewhere, and what you read elsewhere will aid your meditation.

7. Meditation consists of more than mental rumination. It also engages the mouth.

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night …” (Joshua 1:8). The Psalter opens with instructions to delight in the Word through meditating on it (Ps. 1:2). Singing the Psalms throughout the day fulfills these directives and enables the Word of Christ to dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16).

8. Since writing often crystallizes your thoughts, chronicle your reflections and meditations on your daily Scripture reading with a journal.

This provides the additional benefit of aiding review. You can go back over and over again and profit from what God was teaching you that day. I first watched my Dad do this year after year throughout my childhood.

9. Go to bed with your Bible. Wake up with your Bible.

Murdoch Campbell, a 20th century highland Free Church minister, would lie down every night and drift off to sleep mulling over a stanza from the metrical Psalter. When he roused to consciousness in the morning, he would immediately latch onto another text to fill his first waking thoughts. These bookends can sometimes bring the benefit of permeating a person’s dreams with spiritual reflections – a notable windfall when we recall that we spend roughly one-third of every twenty-four hours asleep.

Scripture saturation clashes with a sound-bite-society, and the Lord permits no peace treaty for ending the conflict. Shortcuts do not exist. This requires time, concentration and deliberate pursuit. May the Lord makes us, like Apollos, “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24), following the example of the Bereans, who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11).

Robert D. McCurley
Robert D. McCurley
Rev. Robert McCurley has been the pastor of Greenville Presbyterian Church (FCC) in Taylors, SC for over 11 years. He has served as moderator for the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) in 2017, is an editor of The Master’s Trumpet, and also serves on the publication committee for Grange Press. Reverend McCurley is married and has five children.