When my wife and I settle in for a movie, she looks over at me and says “You put the words in, right?”
I know what she means. Like me, she likes the closed-captioned feature so we can read along with the action. For some, this is the most asinine thing in the world that anybody could do. To them, it ruins the movie. It distracts.
But we both—being a couple now going on 28 years—consider this a basic part of the experience together. We both dig the fact that, as our eyes do that impossibly quick scene/subtitle interplay, we do not miss a single nuance of the whole shebang. We end the movie feeling like we “got it.”
I see the interplay between the Scriptures and God’s providential speaking and acting through our daily narratives much the same way. I love to read and meditate on His word but the scriptures are subtitles to what He is doing all around me. I read for meaning and clarification. I read for relationship. I hate watching movies and missing dialogue. It makes me feel like I haven’t really learned the character at all. So it is with the scriptures. They are written so as to expound on Christ more fully and deeply and intimately—indeed they testify of Him!
What follows is taken from Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. He extrapolates on the Word of God being alive: how it enables us to catch every nuance by not missing a single syllable of dialogue, for what benefit would that be? He has the very words of eternal life!
I often say the ink is not dry to those who hear and obey His word because His Spirit breathes upon such scriptures and keeps them fresh and consonant to sanctify us. He gives them life. So don’t miss a word. Turn off the mute button and turn on the subtitles.
The Bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather. The Voice of God, however, is alive and free as the sovereign God is free. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The life is in the speaking words. God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God’s word in the universe. It is the present Voice which makes the written Word all-powerful. Otherwise it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a book…
The Bible will never be a living Book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in His universe. To jump from a dead, impersonal world to a dogmatic Bible is too much for most people. They may admit that they should accept the Bible as the Word of God, and they may try to think of it as such, but they find it impossible to believe that the words there on the page are actually for them. A man may say, “These words are addressed to me,” and yet in his heart not feel and know that they are. He is the victim of a divided psychology. He tries to think of God as mute everywhere else and vocal only in a book.
I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words.
I think a new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking. The prophets habitually said, “Thus saith the Lord.” They meant their hearers to understand that God’s speaking is in the continuous present…
–A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Chapter 6: The Speaking Voice