Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture by John Piper
“This is a book about how to use the Scripture in the pursuit of what the Scriptures were designed to accomplish.” Approaching a fairy tale like a cookbook or a ransom note as a love letter might be entertaining, but doing so skews the original intention of the author. This is obviously reading badly. But have you ever considered how we should treat Scripture differently than, say, our newsfeeds? Pastor John’s longtime love affair with the glory of God radiates as he methodically describes what it means for human beings to encounter the divine Word. This work is hefty but accessible, a wonderful resource for anyone who longs to be transformed into the image of the Son by beholding His face in the pages of Scripture.
Some of my favorite quotes include:
The ultimate aim of reading the Bible is to be a glad part of the glorious purpose of God, namely, that His infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.
We do not magnify [Christ] the way a microscope magnifies. We magnify Him the way a telescope magnifies. A microscope makes tiny things look bigger than they are. Telescopes make huge things, which already look tiny, appear more like what they really are.
Satan may draw a person from Bible reading to an entertaining video, with the result that any thought of Christ’s worth and beauty is quickly lost in the flash of fire and skin.
To be impressed with the material universe and not be impressed with God is like being amazed at Buck Hill in Minnesota and bored at the Rockies of Colorado. If God wore a coat with pockets, He would carry the universe in one of them like a peanut. To ponder the meaning of that peanut, without reference to God’s majesty, is the work of a fool.
The manger and the cross were not sensational. Neither are grammar and syntax. But that is how God chose to reveal Himself. A poor Jewish peasant and a prepositional phrase have this in common: they are both human and both ordinary. That the poor peasant was God and the prepositional phrase is the Word of God do not change this fact.
That is the nature of joy in the glory of an infinitely beautiful and infinitely resourceful Christ. It has an outward impulse. Its nature is to expand. It seeks to enlarge itself with the joy that others have in God.
The glory of the triune God is not an item to see alongside, and distinct from, other items. It is an all-encompassing and all-pervading reality. It is over all and in all and under all. If there is a list of life issues, the glory of God is not one of them. Rather, God’s glory is the paper and the ink and the light on the sheet and the meaning of the words.
Spending time with Pastor John will always yield rich depth; my biggest takeaway from this book was how to think about the Old Testament covenant in light of the New Testament covenant. Though I’ve never really considered the law as glorious, it’s a major way God chose to reveal both His goodness and His greatness over a huge chunk of redemptive history. John writes,
But by comparison with the glory of the gospel, the glory of the Mosaic covenant has virtually vanished. By comparison with the 20-watt bulbs of television and bank accounts and vocational success, the glory of the Mosaic covenant—yes, the Mosaic covenant—shines like a supernova. Be careful that you don’t diminish the glory of the gospel by diminishing the glory of Sinai, which vanishes in relation to the glory of the gospel. The point is not that candles go out when Jesus comes. The point is that supernovas vanish before the gospel, as if they were candles. But they are not nothing. When we read the Old Testament, we should probably put on safety glasses—unless we are blind.
Ten journaling questions inspired by the text:
- How have pretenses of self-sufficiency kept me from seeing and savoring the glory of God in Scripture?
- Where do I need to call my heart to pay attention to what’s true and beautiful?
- As Jesus frees me from selfishness, how can I seek to extend my joy into the lives of others?
- What are some sweet denials the Lord has performed on my behalf (things I wanted that wouldn’t have been good for me)?
- How can I prepare to encounter God when I encounter His Word?
- Where is the Spirit pulling me away from lifeless, sapless, graceless, artificial declarations of divine truth? How?
- If the inner life is known by its outer life, what are my fruits pointing out about my roots?
- How has a fear of being perplexed at not having answers kept me from asking questions, rendering my reading comfortably shallow and powerless?
- What kinds of sacrificial risks am I taking that can point the lost to a worthy God?
- Where does my love of sin prevent accurate reading of the Word? How can I realign my desires rightly?