39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me. (John 5:39)
4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' (Matthew 4:4)
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)
Why study the Bible? As followers of Christ we should know how Jesus viewed and used the Old Testament. Jesus quoted the Old Testament 78 times and of these at least 26 times (another 34 referrals) to the first four books of the Bible. Altogether there are 695 quotes of the Old Testament in the New Testament, and another 3,400 referrals (Roger Nicole, Expositors Bible Commentary, Zonderbvan 1979 p. 667). He called the Old Testament "the scriptures" (John 5:39- the word "scriptures" literally means "writings"); "the word of God" (Matthew 4:4; Jn 17:17 et al.); the "wisdom of God" (Lk. 11:49); "truth" (Jn. 17:17) as well as "the law and the prophets". He said he came to fulfill the law not to break it (Matthew 5:17- more on this tomorrow). He quoted memorized verses (He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 in Matthew 4:4 above, and answered each temptation with a quote from the Old Testament as authoritative).
In other words, Jesus- who grew up in a carpenter shop- knew the scriptures of the Old Testament well enough to quote them extensively. He quoted the Old Testament to settle doubts, temptations, and arguments. To our Lord it was authoritative truth to be not only read but followed. He studied them diligently but also creatively. He did not accept what the scholars and pharisees of his day said alone, but often wowed his followers and enemies alike with his keen insight and creativity in interpreting the scriptures. Yet he did not seek, in his creativity to disbelieve or disobey the scriptures of the Old Testament (Mt. 5:16-18).
Jesus was deeply aware that he was teaching his disciples and followers by his example. He taught them to memorize a prayer- the Lord's Prayer (in typical rabbinic fashion); He said, after he washed their feet, Now that I your teacher and Lord have done this- you should too (Jn. 13); He said to "do this in remembrance of me" in speaking of the Lord's Supper. But He also used the scriptures of the Old Testament extensively and encouraged his followers to know it and follow it too. So his followers learned and quoted extensively the Old Testament. Paul quoted it 110 times.
In our day of great skepticism, people feel they can toss out scripture as unimportant, or that we disagree with it. This was almost the opposite of how Jesus viewed scripture. He sought to follow the God- His Father- that is found in the Word of God. Calvin used to say however, that we cannot argue someone into belief in the scripture. Rather it is the Holy Spirit who makes the scriptures come alive.
Prayer: Lord, grant me insight to trust your leading and follow your way. Give me grave to listen to you speak to me in scripture.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9qt1gFRVEI (Amy Grant singing "Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet")