The By-paths of the Bible
In the fields of nature, God hides some of the most lovely things in out-of-the-way nooks, where human feet are not apt to go. Some of the rarest flowers of earth, for instance, grow on overhanging crags, or in the crevices of cold gray rocks where we would scarcely expect to find any trace of life.
It is the same in the Word of God. Not a few people
once thought that in many parts of the Old Testament no spiritual food could be
gathered. Especially was it widely and popularly supposed that in the books of
the Kings and the Chronicles there was nothing to be found but
long lists of unpronounceable names and a mass of dry historical records. But
unless our eyes have been shut and our hearts cold, we have found hidden among
dry chronicles and hard names . . .
many a precious bit of the Word of God,
many a bright gem of sacred truth,
many a rich disclosure of divine love, and
many a valuable record of Christian experience.
It seems as if God wanted to encourage and stimulate close, minute, diligent, thorough and loving study of the Holy Scriptures—and to do this he has put many of the very best things of his Word in some obscure and rarely visited nooks, and along what appear to be uninviting by-paths to reward those who press with enthusiastic eagerness into all ways in quest of even the smallest bit of divine truth.
There is no better illustration of this than the sixteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It is one chapter that many people easily justify themselves in skipping when reading the Bible in course, at least it is one in which few expect to find any spiritual provision. It is thought to be a dry, bare field, with neither grass, nor flower, or fruit. Most of us come to the gate supposing that there is nothing within to feed hungry hearts, and speedily turn away from it. It is only a list of hard names of people of whom we never heard before, and in whom we have not the slightest interest. Many, therefore, never read it all, and many others merely stumble along among the unfamiliar names as a man stumbles along a rocky path, not looking for anything beautiful or helpful. But this chapter is really full of rich little garden spots.
A hillside on an old farm is described as being so full of rocks that one would think there could not be found in it anywhere, from end to end, a tuft of green grass, or a foot of pasturage where even a single sheep could feed. Yet, in truth, a whole flock of sheep did find abundance of soft lush grass and fed royally there when they were led to that hillside. In among the rocks, between them in the narrow interstices, there were little bits of rich soil, sometimes only a few feet in area; but in all the old farm there was no other such fine pasturage found as in these obscure nooks. All day long the sheep would creep in and out among the rocks, winding through these narrow garden strips and feeding abundantly.
Such a hillside is this sixteenth chapter at Romans. It may seem bare and sterile to the careless glance, but in among these ancient names and old-time salutations, are spots of rich pasturage where hungry hearts may gather many a sweet mouthful of precious food. He who goes through it with the prayer that God would open his eyes and show him wondrous things out of this part of his Word, will find among its proper names many a precious bit of divine truth.
The truth is, most of us have but very small Bibles; most of us seek pasture in but a few well-trodden fields. There are whole sections of the Scriptures which are little more than unknown country to most Christians. This is true very largely of the prophetic books, especially of the minor prophets. But in this neglect, we are sore losers. No part of the Bible is desert—no part is even sterile.
If there are portions which appear bare on the surface, they contain rich mineral wealth which we can find by digging down through the rugged crust. At least it is certain that there is not one chapter of the Bible without its tufts of grass or its ingots of gold.
Yet the best things in the holy book, like all best things, must be sought for, and sought for eagerly. Careless, superficial reading will never find much that is very precious or helpful. God has hidden away in obscure nooks, in unattractive chapters—many of the finest things in his Word; and we can get them only by pressing our quest into every bypath and into all crannies.