What do you think of when you hear the word orbit?
Of course you know that our moon has one. And you know that the earth, along with the other planets of our solar system, follow their own orbits around the sun. Each of those planets has their own moon(s) that trace an orbit around them. And you’re aware that all the other planets and their moons do similarly. These are stellar orbits. They occur on a macro-scale.
Some of you also think of the orbits taking place at a micro-scale. Right this instant there are electrons chasing an orbit around their proton in every cell of everything we know as reality. You and I can’t see these orbits with our natural vision, but we now know that they exist—indeed, have existed from the beginning—and continue on in the reality of their orbits even when we are unaware of them. These are sub-atomic orbits.
But now we are being told by scientists that there are other orbits taking place on a super-macro scale. There is evidence to suggest that entire galaxies move together in orbits around a common center. It staggers the imagination! These are inter-galactic orbits.
What do Jupiter, the electrons in the atoms of your eye and our solar system all share in common? Orbits. As vastly different as those orbits are, they are all alike in that they have a determined course they chart around nucleus. As greatly as they differ in their speed, span and splendor, each of these circle rhythmically and consistently around and around and around.
Interesting. But what’s the point? Simply this – Just as there are consistent, God-created movements at every level of physical creation, so there are divinely inspired, God-breathed movements at every level of Scripture. And because this is true, we need to read the Scriptures with an eye to all those levels of movement.
Too often we train our eyes to expect and thus to see God’s Word at only one level. Perhaps we have established the discipline of reading a chapter of the Bible each day. Wonderful! We may tend, then, to look for a particular verse that we feel has something to say to us. We have probably learned to look for the divinely inspired message at the level of the sentence. Or maybe we’ve learned to think also about how sentences string together and add context and meaning to one another—we’re reading each paragraph for its meaning. Or perhaps even further we try to comprehend how all those paragraphs relate to one another and we find the message, not only of a sentence or a paragraph, but of a chapter (or sub-section) of a book of Scripture.
Are you starting to see the different divinely-inspired levels of Scripture? But it goes both smaller and larger than that! First the larger scale – have you ever tried to see how the Lord has given movement and meaning in how the chapters (or sub-sections) of a whole book fit together to make up one message? Or how all the books of one particular author (like Paul or Peter) fit together and complement one another? Did this just happen? Or did God breathe out this level of meaning as well? Indeed, He did! Even consider what God is saying to us in the two testaments of the Bible—Old and New. God did this as well. But think also of the more infinitesimal—God breathed out every word of Scripture. So we need also to examine the parts of the sentence—each and every word is there because of God’s intention. Indeed, the very tense of the verbs and the number of the nouns carry meaning for us.
Please understand – as we look at all these levels of Scripture we are looking only for what God Himself breathed into the text. We’re not looking for creativity on our part, but at the revelation on God’s part. We are only looking for what God actually put into the text of the Bible. Yet too often we miss a great deal of this because we’ve trained ourselves to only look for God’s message at one level.
Here are some exercises for you. Use them to train yourself to “see” more faithfully what God is saying to us at every level of Scripture.
Words – What does Galatians 3:16 teach us about the importance of each and every word of Scripture and its form? Why does the Apostle make the distinction in this verse?
Chapters – What does Isaiah’s twice-repeated refrain (“There is no peace for the wicked,” 48:22; 57:21) teach us about the message of the second half of Isaiah (chapters 40-66)? Did you notice that these two statements divide Isaiah 40-66 into three symmetrical divisions of nine chapters each? Why do you suppose that is? What is the unique message of each of those sections? How do those three fit together into one entire message for Isaiah 40-66? How then does that compare with the message of the first half of Isaiah (1-39)?
Books – Watchman Nee, in his classic exposition of Ephesians, reduced the entire message of that letter to three words: Sit, Walk, Stand. Can you find from the text of Ephesians why this is a faithful representation of Paul’s intent? Here are a few clues: 1:20; 2:6; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15; 6:11, 13, 14.
These are just for starters. As you read and study God’s Word, ask the Author Himself to open the eyes of your heart to see what He has revealed at every level of Scripture and to hear what He says with a view to obedience. Remember, the point of God’s Word is not to give us trinkets of information for the satisfaction of our intellect. No, He spoke to us in written form that we might obey Him, be conformed to His image and give our lives to the fulfillment of His great purpose—brining glory to Himself in every arena of created reality!