ILLUMINATION OF THE BIBLE
OPEN MY EYES LORD!
THE BIBLE & ILLUMINATION – To illuminate means to have something brightened with light and made clear to the eyes. Figuratively, illumination can mean to be be enlightened spiritually. Simply put, illumination in the spiritual sense is “turning on the light.” The Source of spiritual illumination is the Father, the Channel is the Holy Spirit and the supreme Goal is that He shine "in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2Cor 4:6-note) While some might say this is a bit too mystical, it is thoroughly Biblical. Indeed, illumination is something we should pray for even as Paul prayed for the saints at Ephesus asking that “the eyes of (their) heart (the core of one's being) be enlightened, so that (they) may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and what is the surpassing (Gk - exceedingly extraordinary) greatness of His power (dunamis - inherent supernatural power to to live a supernatural life = “Resurrection power” - Eph 1:20-note) toward us who believe.” (Eph 1:18-19-note) Paul was not praying for new revelation, but for spiritual illumination of truth they already knew. And that is our desperate need, every time we open the Book we should beg God: “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your Law." (Ps 119:18-note). As D L Moody said, Spirit led “study of God’s Word brings peace to the heart. In it, we find a light for every darkness, life in death, the promise of our Lord’s return, and the assurance of everlasting glory.” This begs a question - Every time you open the Book, do you ask the Author to open your heart to receive the truth? If you do, you can rest assured that with God's Word as your map and His Spirit as your compass, you are sure to stay on course. "Oh, that Thy words, like the beams of the sun, may enter through the window of my understanding, and dispel the darkness of my mind!" (Spurgeon) "I scanned the Scriptures thoughtlessly—My haste had closed my ear; Then prayerfully I read once more—This time my heart could hear." (Gustafson)
The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit and the Holy Word operate together. As Puritan Stephen Charnock wrote "The Word is the chariot of the Spirit, the Spirit the Guider of the Word." Jesus promised His disciples that “when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” (Jn 16:13) Hallelujah, He has come and now indwells all His children, Paul explaining that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Ro 8:9-note) Paul also taught that "the natural (unregenerate) man cannot accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1Cor 2:14-note) In contrast believers have received "the Spirit Who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." (1Cor 2:12-note) John wrote that we "have an anointing from the Holy One" (1Jn 2:20-note), going on to explain that "the anointing which you received from Him abides in you (the indwelling Spirit 1Cor 6:19), and you have no need for anyone to teach you." (1Jn 2:27-note) John is not saying we don't need teachers (Eph 4:11-note; Acts 13:1), but wants us to understand that each believer is capable and responsible to study the Word for themselves, because the Spirit Who inspired the Scriptures, has anointed and indwelt every believer. As Alexander Maclaren said "He who has the Holy Spirit in his heart and the Scriptures in his hands has all he needs." O blessed holy book, the Bible, for there is no other book wherein the Author Who wrote it is always present with you, ever ready to explain what He wrote! Spurgeon agrees that "If you do not understand a book by a departed writer you are unable to ask him his meaning, but the Spirit, Who inspired Holy Scripture, lives forever, and He delights to open the Word to those who seek His instruction.”
Spurgeon reminds us that "God, by His Spirit, brings old truth home to the heart, gives new light to our eyes, and causes the Word to exercise new power over us." Warren Wiersbe adds that "Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit, and we must depend on Him to teach us new truths and to remind us of truths we may have forgotten (Jn 14:26b). When (we are) “in the Spirit,” (Rev 1:10-note) the Word comes forth with power and penetration. We experience what the little girl in London meant when she said to her mother, “Mother, is Mr. Spurgeon speaking to me?” The Word becomes personal....The blessing doesn’t come because we hear the Word; it comes because we do the Word. Anything else is pure deception. (Jas 1:22-note)" Indeed, it is better to live one verse of the Bible, than to recite an entire chapter. As Jesus taught “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Jn 13:17)
Order or Chaos? - Tony Evans observes that "In revelation, God discloses His truth. Through inspiration, He sees that it is recorded for us. And by the illumination of His Spirit, He enables us to understand and apply it. When you get all of this working in your life, you’re going to grow as a follower of Christ! (1Pe 2:2-note, 2Pe 3:18-note) In Genesis 1:2 the Spirit hovered over “the surface of the waters.” In Genesis 1:3 God said, “Let there be light.” Light was not present until the Spirit of God hovered. Why is that important? When the Spirit of God hovers and the Word of God speaks, order comes out of chaos. That’s what happened in creation. The earth was “formless and void” before the Spirit and the light came (Ge 1:2). Does your life ever feel formless and void? Ever feel empty, chaotic in your life? Guess how you move from chaos to order? You do so when the holy Word is mixed with the hovering Spirit. That’s not just reading your Bible. That’s asking God to illumine what you read and submitting your heart to it. Then God's Spirit brings order out of chaos." The psalmist echoes this truth writing "The unfolding (unveiling giving understanding) of Thy Words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple." (Ps 119:130) The Spirit’s illumining work is not to change the sense of the Scriptures, but to restore us to our senses!
Illuminated Bibles? - In a sermon on the Holy Spirit, Spurgeon asked “Do any of you have an illuminated Bible? "No," says one, "I have a morocco Bible,” or “I have a marginal reference Bible." Ah! that is all very well, but have you an illuminated Bible? "Yes, I have a large family Bible with pictures in it." Yes, but have you an illuminated Bible? "I don't understand what you mean by an illuminated Bible." Well, it is the Christian man who has an illuminated Bible. He does not buy it illuminated originally, but when he reads it – “A glory gilds the sacred page, Majestic like the sun, Which gives a light to every page, It gives, but burrows (hides) none.” “There is nothing like reading an illuminated Bible, beloved. You may read to all eternity, and never learn anything by it, unless it is illuminated by the Spirit; and then the words shine forth like stars. The book seems made of gold leaf; every single letter glitters like a diamond. Oh! it is a blessed thing to read an illuminated Bible lit up by the radiance of the Holy Spirit. Hast thou read the Bible and studied it, my brother, and yet have thine eyes been unenlightened? Go and say, “O Lord, gild (overlay with gold) the Bible for me. I want an expounded Bible. Illuminate it; shine upon it; for I cannot read it to profit, unless Thou enlighten me.” Blind men may read the Bible with their fingers, but blind souls cannot. We want a light to read the Bible by; there is no reading it in the dark. Thus the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, by suggesting ideas, by directing our thoughts, and by illuminating the Scriptures when we read them.” (Read The Holy Spirit Your Teacher) "Open my eyes, that I may see, Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me; Place in my hands the wonderful key, That shall unclasp, and set me free." (Scott)
Parakeet or Paraclete? - Jesus promised His disciples (and us) “the Helper (Gk - Paraclete), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name and He will teach you all things.” (Jn 14:26) M R DeHaan tells the story of visiting a retired pastor who had a parakeet named Gibby who would say things like “Gibby is the prettiest bird in all the world” without any understanding of what he was actually saying. Many Christians go through the motions of Bible reading without the slightest idea of the true meaning of the text. It is better to read one verse in prayerful dependence on your “Paraclete (Helper), than to rattle off a whole book from memory like a parakeet! We would all do well to ask the question Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch “Do (I) understand what (I) am reading?” (Acts 8:30) – “Ever-present, truest Friend; Ever near Thine aid to lend; Guide us as we search the Word, Make it both our shield and sword.”
Problem With the Signal? - Tony Evans writes that "Before cable television came into my neighborhood, I used a television antenna. I had a workman come out one time because I was having problems with my reception. He said, “Your signal is strong, but your antenna is not pointed in the right direction.” The Word of God is strong. There’s no problem with the “signal.” But our heart’s antenna is often not pointed in the right direction. A lot of us are fiddling with our lives trying to fix them when the problem is that our spiritual antenna is not pointed toward God. Therefore, we cannot pick up the Spirit’s signal."
John Piper - Our approach to the Bible should be like a miser in the gold rush, or a fiancée who has lost her engagement ring somewhere in the house. She ransacks the house. That is the way we seek for God in the Bible....Praying cannot replace reading. Praying may turn reading into seeing. But if we don’t read, we will not see. The Holy Spirit is sent to glorify Jesus, and the glory of Jesus is portrayed in the Word. Read. Rejoice that you can read....Spiritual apprehension is a gift of God....Don’t replace thinking with praying. Think and pray. Pray and think. (2 Timothy 2:7-note)
Travesty of Information without Illumination! - A seminary professor visiting the Holy Lands met a man who claimed to have memorized the entire Old Testament in Hebrew! Needless to say, the astonished professor asked for a demonstration. "Where shall we begin"? asked the man. The professor who was an avid student of the psalms replied "Psalm 1." So for two hours the man effortlessly and flawlessly recited the Psalms from memory as the professor sat in stunned silence. When the demonstration was over, the professor discovered something even more astonishing about the man-he was an atheist! Here was a man who intellectually could go through the Scriptures, but without the Spirit's illumination the Scriptures never once went through him! Richard Lenski commented that "For all spiritual things, our thinking abilities, however keen and sharp, are not sufficient. The Lord must control, guide, enlighten our understanding.” Many books can inform, but only a Spirit illuminated Bible can transform! (2Cor 3:18-note)
Intellect and Illumination - Paul understood our need to couple intellect and illumination exhorting Timothy to "Consider (seek to intellectually grasp the meaning = Our Responsibility) what I say, for the Lord (the Spirit) will give you understanding (God's Promised Provision) in everything." (2Ti 2:7-note) John Piper explains that "So many people swerve off the road to one side of this verse or the other. Some stress, “Think over what I say.” They emphasize the indispensable role of reason and thinking. And they minimize the decisive supernatural role of the Spirit in making the mind able to see and embrace the truth. Others stress the second half of the verse: “for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” They emphasize the futility of reason without the Spirit's illumining work. But Paul will not be divided that way. (We must) embrace both human thinking and divine illumination. For Paul, it was not either-or but both-and. If God does not open our eyes, we will not see the wonder of the Word. We are not naturally able to see spiritual beauty. When we read the Bible without the help of the Holy Spirit, the glory of God in the teachings and events of the Bible is like the sun shining in the face of a blind man. (We must be) desperate for God and hungry for God, and this must set us to pleading and crying out to God for His help in reading the Bible. We must pray for it—“Open my eyes.” (Ps 119:18-note) And if we would stay alive in God and be real and authentic and intense in our love for Him, we must be desperate to have this enabling every day. So pray, pray, pray." May we daily be like the psalmist who declared "I rise before dawn and cry for help. I wait for Your Words. O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." (Ps 119:147, 97)
Tender Heart - Without a heart for God, we cannot hear God's Word. Proper understanding of spiritual truth is not dependent on a keen intellect but on a tender heart, a heart that is "humble and contrite of spirit, and which trembles at My Word." (Isa 66:2) We don’t as much need physical eyes to read the Bible, as we need the spiritual eyes of our heart enlightened to love the Author. The story is told of a poor, blind French girl who obtained a Braille copy of Mark and learned to read it with her fingers. But eventually her fingers became so calloused she could no longer distinguish letters and words. In desperation for the Word, she cut the calluses in an attempt to restore the sense of touch, but sadly the scarring had the opposite effect. Faced with the reality that she must give up her beloved Book, with weeping she pressed the Braille copy of Mark to her lips, lamenting “Farewell, farewell, sweet Word of my Heavenly Father!” To her surprise, she discovered that her lips were even more sensitive to touch than her fingers had been! And from that moment on she "read" the Bible with her lips, and doubtless offered praises like the psalmist who cried "Let my lips utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes." (Ps 119:171)
May our prayer ever be...Open My Eyes, That I May See - Play this hymn by Clara H Scott
Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp, and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see:
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Ev’rything false will disappear.
Open my mouth, and let me bear
Gladly the warm truth ev’rywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.
C H Spurgeon gives a great illustration of our desperate, constant need of the Holy Spirit to open our natural eyes to supernatural truth...
The Spirit guiding into all truth - Truth may be compared to some cave or grotto, with wondrous stalactites hanging from the roof, and others starting from the floor; a cavern glittering with spar and abounding in marvels. Before entering the cavern you inquire for a guide, who comes with his lighted flambeau. He conducts you down to a considerable depth, and you find yourself in the midst of the cave. He leads you through different chambers. Here he points you to a little stream rushing from amid the rocks, and indicates its rise and progress; there he points to some peculiar rock and tells you its name, then takes you into a large natural hall, tells you how many persons once feasted in it, and so on. Truth is a grand series of caverns, it is our glory to have so great and wise a Conductor as the Holy Spirit. Imagine that we are coming to the darkness of it. He is a light shining in the midst of us to guide us. And by the light He shows us wondrous things. He teaches us by suggestion, direction, and illumination.
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