Posted by: alisonwalley | 9 May 2010

Bird-watching and the Bible

I haven’t posted for a bit – laziness on my part probably, especially as I finished the last post with ‘more in my next…’. I was going to post last Sunday but went to an election hustings instead. However, that’s another story. Let’s talk about birds instead.

This is not going to be a post on birds in the Bible, although I could mention the swallow that makes her nest “near your altar, Lord Almighty” (Psalm 84:3) or the sparrows who don’t fall to the ground without God knowing about it (Matthew 10:29). No, I want to pick up another idea.

When my husband and I started bird-watching we always had one finger in the bird guide. Apart from the easy birds like robin, blackbird, sparrow, we didn’t know whether what we were looking at was a rarity or something incredibly common. (I actually got into bird-watching by realising that all ducks are not mallards.) Now, we need a book to check birds we don’t see very often and for the rare ones. I’m not a very good bird-watcher, but when there’s something strange, I know it’s different. How? Because I know the common birds, the ones we see all the time.

I can’t help thinking that this principle applies in our Christian lives, and applies to how well we know our Bibles. How do you know whether what a fellow Christian, whether a conference speaker, a minister in the pulpit or just someone in your church you’re having a discussion with, is actually saying what’s in line with the Bible? Isn’t it by knowing what is actually in the Bible?

It’s easy to get locked into favourite passages or even favourite verses. But if you look at the whole picture, you see things better in context. The Bible hangs together. A single verse isn’t enough to build a whole doctrine on, but if lots of passages are saying the same thing, you can be sure it’s a) true and b) important. The New Testament gives the key to interpreting the Old, and Christ is the key to it all. Wow. Lots of stuff here which would take a long time to unpack!

If you know what the common birds are, you can spot the ones that are different or out of place. If you know the common themes of the Bible, you can see when others are missing or distorting the point. Better, the more we know our Bibles the more we start to grasp the idea of how big, how wonderful God is and what an amazing salvation he brought for us in Christ.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counsellor?”

“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33–36)

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