Coop's Column - Spirit at Work: Illuminator
In order for God’s Word to achieve its Divinely intended purpose and effect, such an “Aha! That’s me!” response must happen within the hearts of those who read and hear it.
The event is as clear today in my mind’s treasure of memories as when it happened almost forty years ago. Our first-born—and yes, remarkably precocious!—daughter Karen toddled toward the full-length mirror hanging on our closet door. Standing before it, she stared intently at the image of the little girl looking back at her. Then, with a look of excitement and satisfied joy only a child’s face can display, she pointed her finger and exclaimed: “That’s Karen!”
In order for God’s Word to achieve its Divinely intended purpose and effect, such an “Aha! That’s me!” response must happen within the hearts of those who read and hear it. Without that response, one has not heard God speaking. Scripture’s testimony will be flat and unimportant; its string of words and sentences will matter very little to one’s own life and destiny. “Those who are without the Spirit do not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. Such things are foolishness to them; they cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
But when that “Aha!” happens—when the brilliant and penetrating light of Jesus’ resurrection Spirit floods in upon one’s spirit and illumines it—then amazing things begin to occur. The eyes of one’s heart become focused and trained to see in Scripture deep and eternal truths springing directly from God’s own mind and heart. One’s spiritual ears become cupped and attuned to hear the Lord’s voice. One becomes eager to trust the Lord’s promises and to obey his commands. Only then can a person become fully human and fully alive spiritually, and receive that fresh and daily supply of strength which is vital to living as God intends.
Given how necessary God’s Spirit is to one’s ability to hear and read Scripture aright, the psalmist pleads, “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things in your law,” (Ps. 119:18). That prayer underscores two important, incontrovertible facts:
- God’s Word—God’s declared will, God’s “law”—does contain promises and commands that are glorious to behold. Its power to change human lives is profound. It can guide one along the path toward becoming Christ-like. Heeding Scripture’s words, God’s children can enrich themselves, can bless others, and can bring delight to their Lord. Hence the psalmist has deep awe and respect for God’s Word. He calls it “wonderful.”
- Not one of us is able, on our own and without Divine help, to mine Scripture’s vast riches or to enjoy its beauties. Our vision is too dim and blurred. Hence, the psalmist’s plea: “Open my eyes ….”
Given these two hard-as-nails facts—how wonderful the truths contained in God’s Word, and how weak our ability on our own to learn them—God’s people must pray regularly for the Spirit to help them read and hear God’s Word for all that it’s worth. During those times of solitude and quietness that they dedicate to meditate upon God’s Word, they must “seek God’s face” (cf Ps. 27:4). They must begin their time of personal devotions by declaring dependence upon God’s Spirit—with something like the words used by the psalmist to rouse his mind and heart to attentiveness: “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my expectation is upon him” (Ps. 62:1).
Christians (must) also declare that dependence when they’re congregated as Christ’s Body and gathered on Sunday morning to read God’s Word and hear it proclaimed. Christ’s Body, the Church, needs Christ’s Spirit to become alive—to be able to respond. His Spirit must flood her communal life with light so that she can read that Word aright. The Spirit must clean out her ears to hear what he longs to say to her. Thus, in a worship service, before the Bible is read, before the preacher proclaims, and before the congregation turns its ear to listen, collectively the entire Body of Christ directs to God a “Prayer for the Spirit’s Illumination.”
One too few times—always one too few—have we pleaded for God’s Holy Spirit to be present as we take up the Word. Whether we’re studying and meditating upon that Word personally, or whether we’re congregated on Sunday morning to listen to the Word together, the presence of God’s Breath is vital to our hearing that Word.
And also to obeying it.
For your gift of God the Spirit, power to make our lives anew, Pledge of life and hope of glory, Savior we would worship you. Crowning gift of resurrection sent from your ascended throne, Fullness of the very Godhead, come to make your life our own. He, himself the living Author, wakes to life the sacred Word, Reads with us its holy pages and reveals our risen Lord. He it is who works within us, teaching rebel hearts to pray, He whose holy intercessions rise for us both night and day.
(Hymn text by Margaret Clarkson, 1959)