Every once in a while I come across something that drastically alters my thinking. And I love it, because I hate being stagnant, believing that I’ve got it all figured out. I’ve heard somewhere that the moment we stop growing is the same moment that we start dying (the Dan King paraphrase). When that thing alters my thinking about how I read the Bible, then it’s life-changing factor is magnified exponentially.
That’s what happened to me when I picked up Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. The whole premise of the book is the idea that Christians shouldn’t read the Holy Scriptures the same way we would any other book. It’s very nature is different, and should be received differently. Peterson uses texts from Ezekiel and this one from Revelation as the foundation for his ideas on spiritual reading:
The voice out of Heaven spoke to me again: “Go, take the book held open in the hand of the Angel astride sea and earth.” I went up to the Angel and said, “Give me the little book.” He said, “Take it, then eat it. It will taste sweet like honey, but turn sour in your stomach.” I took the little book from the Angel’s hand and it was sweet honey in my mouth, but when I swallowed, my stomach curdled. Then I was told, “You must go back and prophesy again over many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” (Revelation 10:8-11, The Message)
In other words, eat this book. Don’t just read the words with your eyes. Devour it. Digest it. Make it part of your entire physical being. And then go…
Peterson is brilliant in how he discusses the idea of spiritual reading. He tells personal stories, informs us of historical findings, and presents a Scriptural case for spiritual reading that should inspire Bible readers at all levels to change the way they read the texts. Even as he talks about the nature of the Koine Greek used to write the New Testament, Peterson uses a conversational language that makes it easy for everyone to read and understand his message.
His many years of service as a pastor and Bible teacher has equipped him to have this conversation. Much of what he shares in the book leads us into how and why he wrote The Message paraphrase of the Bible. The goal of much of his life’s work has been to make reading (and living) the Bible accessible to the average reader… as it was intended when it was written.
Even as I read through parts of the Gospel of John this morning, I do it differently thanks to Peterson. I’m no longer just trying to get the words of Jesus in my head. Rather, I’m eating them as I did my breakfast moments earlier. I swallow the words, and let them feed every cell in my body. The words nourish me, and give me the strength to become more like Christ (the Living Word).
They say you are what you eat. So just as the Angel told John, eat this book.