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“Dude!” and other profound theological insights over the years

December 24, 2008

I took up my second-oldest Bible from my shelf this week: the second Bible I ever read through, and the first and only one in which I lavished my wondrously ingenuous comments in the margins and underlined things I deemed “significant.”

At the time, it seemed important to mark every chapter. For example, at Isaiah 37:36, where the angel of the Lord smites 185,000 Assyrians in their sleep, my margin note reads, “Dude!”

Some of my observations were more perceptive; some less. But I picked up this Bible again because I sometimes like to change translations at the beginning of the year as I start over at Genesis and Matthew and read through the Old and New Testaments in a year. Some books I read several times, but each book gets read at least once every year, always revealing new connections and trove with each fresh reading.

My marginalia are naive and embarrassing, as well as distracting. But they also rekindle my first love of the Word. I recall the struggle to acquire a doctrinal theology absent any competent teaching. I don’t remember specifically praying for something better, but God delivered us, circuitously, to our present church and its solid expository preaching.

It would be hard to confront the amplitude of the learning curve from my mark-up reading to the present without the evidence, in my own hand, in these prodigiously cluttered margins.

It is embarrassing to be a beginner, and to have been a beginner–but why should it be? Some people never move on to the intermediate lane. I’ve had only one Bible-marking pencil in my life.

For the past several years, I have had the blessings of superb expository preaching, of Reformed commentaries on our shelves, of indexed collections of Reformed sermons expositing on particular texts, and many other books. I have taken classes in New Testament Greek and other subjects at Western Reformed Seminary. God has provided a feast in my midst, and I have partaken. And I have read the Bible many times since marking up my old NASB.

I will keep this humbling collection of notes to remind me that I once considered whether the United States was the stronghold of Ariel; there are also some quotes I preserved from dear J. Vernon McGee, whom I dubbed “commuter-millennial.”

I think what it all comes down to is what I read this morning (and, incredibly, did not dutifully underline previously!) at 1 John 2:8, “…the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.”


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