THE WORD BEING GOD HIMSELF AS OUR FOOD
Matthew 4:4 says, “But He answered and said, It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.’” According to this verse, the word spoken by God is not only the breath of God but also bread as food to feed us. Because we have a body, we need physical food, but besides the body we also have a spirit, so we need spiritual food. The spiritual food is God Himself, and the way to appropriate God Himself is by His word. God is Spirit, and the word spoken by Him is the Spirit as His breath. Moreover, God is in this word as food to us. Therefore, we need to take the word of God, not as mere knowledge, instruction, or teachings, but as food, not as the “menu” but as the “dinner.” When we go to a restaurant, we do not go for the menu or pay the most attention to the menu. Regrettably, though, many times we come to the Bible for the “menu,” not for the food. We have to learn to come to the Lord to read His word for the food, not for the knowledge.
Jeremiah 15:16a says, “Your words were found and I ate them, / And Your word became to me / The gladness and joy of my heart.” If we do not know how to eat the word, how can we enjoy it; how can we have the gladness and joy in our heart for the word and with the word? We have to know how to eat the word. When we find the Lord’s words, we should not only know them but eat them, so that they become both the gladness and the joy. Gladness and joy imply singing; we have joy within and singing as our rejoicing without.
In the first stage of my Christian life, for about seven years, I was taught very much not only to study but also to search and research the word by exercising my mentality to take the knowledge in letter from the word. I was not taught how to eat the word and apply it by exercising my spirit, and I never heard of people doing this. After this stage, by the mercy of the Lord, I came to know a different way to deal with the word. It is to exercise the spirit to apply the word in our spirit, that is, to eat the word.
THE BIBLE BEING A BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE TO BRING DEATH OR A BOOK OF LIFE TO GIVE LIFE
Many people have been reading and studying the word for years, but I am not speaking about the old way of taking the word. What I am speaking is a new way that the brothers and sisters among us have been helped to realize. Some of us, though, may not know it very well, or we may know it partly but not in an adequate way. I would like to make this clear to you so that we can be brought into the proper way to apply the word of the Lord daily. In the garden of Eden there were two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Without the revelation of the Scriptures we could never realize that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is something negative, bringing death to us. However, the Bible tells us clearly that this tree brings death. This is confirmed by 2 Corinthians 3:6, which says that the letter kills. The letter here is mere knowledge, the knowledge in letters. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. When we take the tree of life, we have life, but when we touch the tree of knowledge, we find death. The one Bible can be two kinds of books to us, a book of knowledge or a book of life. If it is a book of knowledge to us, it will kill us; it will bring death.
How can this book be a book of knowledge, and how can it be a book of life? I will tell you the secret. If we take this book merely by exercising our mentality to read, study, memorize, and keep it in our mind, it is one hundred percent a book of knowledge to us. But there is another way to contact this book and apply it. It is not only to exercise our mind but even more to exercise our spirit. Of course, we have to read it. We have to use our eyes, that is, our body. When we exercise our eyes as members of our body to read the word, spontaneously the mind of the soul understands it. However, this is not all. After this, we have to exercise our spirit. When we exercise our spirit to contact the word and apply it, the Bible becomes a book of life. Whether this Bible is a book of knowledge or a book of life to us depends on whether we exercise our mind or our spirit to contact it. If we exercise only our mind, this book becomes a book of knowledge. Then it will not help us; on the contrary, it will kill us. However, if we exercise our spirit to contact the Bible, spontaneously it will be a book of life to constantly nourish us.
John 5:39 and 40 says, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that testify concerning Me. Yet you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” The Jews, especially the scribes and Pharisees, spent much time to research the Scriptures. However, they would not come to the Lord Jesus. This means that they contacted only the written word by exercising their mind to understand it; they would not exercise their spirit to come to contact the Lord. Therefore, the Scriptures became a book of knowledge to kill them. The Jewish scribes and Pharisees knew the Scriptures, but they were killed by the Scriptures. They did not have life to constantly nourish them because they were using the wrong organ. They used only their mentality without exercising their spirit.
Let us apply this principle. Whenever we come to read the word, we first must realize that the Bible must be a book of life, not a book of knowledge. It must not be knowledge but spiritual food. Second, when we come to read the Bible we should not have the intention to get mere knowledge. Rather, we must have the intention to get some spiritual food. Yes, the Bible is written and printed in black and white. Yet, we must realize that it is not an ordinary writing; it is something breathed out of God Himself. It is the breath of God as the Spirit to be food to us. Therefore, we come to the Bible not with the intention to gain some knowledge but with the desire to be fed. We should not say that we already know these things. We may know them, but we may not practice them. We must thoroughly, clearly realize that the Bible is food to us rather than knowledge, so we come to it not for knowledge but to be fed.
(Practical Lessons on the Experience of Life, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)