Chewing on the Bible

When I was a child, there was occasionally a frightening and disgusting dish placed on the table before me.  No, it wasn’t meat loaf.  Nor was it Brussels sprouts.  It was fish.  Fish presented a moral dilemma for me.  Like many boys, I loved to grab my rod and reel, dig up a few worms, and walk down to the local lake.  I’d hook no trophy mounts, but I could usually fill a stringer in a couple of hours.  The issue then became what to do with them.  If I took home my catch, we’d have to clean them.  Then we’d have to cook them.  Then—Lord have mercy—we’d have to eat them.

My parents, with very good intentions, had warned me of the danger of fish bones.  Over and over, they’d caution me that I needed to chew eat bite thoroughly before I swallowed, because, if I swallowed a fish bone, I’d choke on it and die.  Ok, maybe those weren’t their exact words, but that was the dire impression I received.  So every bite I chewed and chewed and still chewed more, until the inside of my mouth felt like I’d taken a drink from a dirty aquarium.  Then, fearing that this might be my last moment on earth, I’d swallow the masticated mess, praying that no bones had escaped by tongue’s detection.  The only pleasure in this meal was knowing that I’d lived through it.

In later years, I was to discover another food that I was also urged to chew and chew and still chew more.  But unlike fish, there was actual pleasure in the prolonged chewing of this food.  For the longer it remained in my mouth, the better it tasted, the more pronounced became its flavor, the more nourishment I received from each bite.  This food is the bread on which Jesus survived during his forty days of temptation in the wilderness.  It is the food that comes directly into our mouths from the very mouth of God.

There is certainly good to be gained from reading extensive portions of Scripture.  Perusing a whole narrative, or even a short book, like Ruth, is beneficial.  But sometimes we bite off more than we can chew.  Of even greater benefit (at least, in my opinion), is the taking of a single bite of Scripture—perhaps a verse or two, or even a phrase within a verse—and savoring it.  Chew on it.  Chew on it some more.  Repeat each word slowly, pausing over each one, exploring its depths, its nuances, its flavor and feel and taste.  Then move on to the next and do the same.  Then mix all these words together and discover new delights.  Only after prolonged meditative chewing should you swallow and move on to the next verse.

Indeed, that’s what I’m endeavoring to do this year.  I will take a verse a day and make that my meditative meal.  I will not so much read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest (as a common prayer phrases it), as read, chew, chew some more, and still chew more, and then inwardly digest what I’ve learned.

Perhaps you too, dear reader, wish to join me at the table. 



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5 thoughts on “Chewing on the Bible

  1. Sam Pakan on said:

    Set a place for me.

  2. When reading the Bible, I often have the same problem my two year old has while eating, like you said, he bites off more than he can chew and wants to shove everything in his mouth all at once. Most of the food ends up all over his face, the table, or the floor. I am always telling him, “John, small, slow bites.”

    But where do you start when the spread is all so delicious? How do you choose? Is it what you’re in the mood for? What you’re craving? Where you’re lacking nutrients? If I was sitting in on a class of yours my question would be “How do you pick one verse???”

    I thought I was the only one terrified of choking and dying on fish bones as a child, thanks to warnings of my dear parents.

    • Rebekah,
      How do you choose? As you say, when the spread is so delicious, and so diverse, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are some thoughts:
      1. Choose a verse that matches your needs/feelings at the moment. There is some value to this, but also a risk. The value is, of course, that God will use His words to give you strength in your time of weakness, hope when you’re despairing, etc. The risk, however, in choosing verses that match “where we’re at” is that WE become doctors who self-diagnose and self-medicate. Sometimes the very message we need to hear from God’s word comes from a verse we would never have chosen on our own.
      2. Another option is to choose a book of the Bible and work our way through selected verses in those chapters, perhaps a verse per chapter each day. Something like that. That way we follow a systematic plan that not only exposes us to verses we may never meditate on otherwise, but also gives us a greater grasp of the entire book of the Bible.
      3. If the church you attend has a planned order of Scripture readings for each Sunday, you might choose verses from those readings to meditate upon either leading up to that Sunday or in the week following it. That will also enrich your understanding of those readings when you hear them read in church and preached on.
      4. You could also use a devotional guide and reflect upon whichever verse(s) are the topic for the devotion that day. Chances are, the benefit you derive from “chewing” upon those verses will be much greater than what you read in the devotional!

      I hope those suggestions help. May Christ bless your meditation upon His Word!

      • Thank you for your response and your thoughts. I like the idea of going with one book to focus on. It seems to be the best way from getting too side tracked. I read Isaiah a while back and loved it so much, I want to go back and really chew on it this time. Realistically, one verse is really just the right amount at this point in my life. The church readings are good too, I don’t always get to hear them during church depending on how it is going with my small kids, but I like how you get a little taste of everything with the Sunday readings.

        Again, thanks for your inspiring posts and for always pointing your readers to Christ.

  3. Celeste on said:

    You can’t imagine how much I’m laughing after having read the first paragraphs of this, Chad! My mother warned me too about choking on fish bones, so I chewed and chewed and chewed some more – then, wondered if I’d choke as I swallowed. Despite this, I love fish!

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