Seeing Scripture in a fresh way reminds me of how Long’s Peak always captures my attention. Time and again I couldn’t resist pausing my work to gaze out my office window at the majestic sight. The towering 14,000-foot mountain always took my breath away—Long’s Peak. I couldn’t imagine a more captivating daily view. Why would anyone want another?
Although ten miles from my home office in Estes Park, Colorado, the Peak cast a silhouette that nearly filled my window’s frame. I could have sketched its shape from memory if you had asked. But if I had shown that artwork to someone who lived fifty miles away in the Grand Lake area, on the opposite side of Long’s Peak, and asked them to identify the mountain in my drawing, they might not have recognized its shape. Why? From their vantage point that massive mountain looked different. Same mountain, with a completely different profile.
My wife and I once climbed to the top of Long’s Peak. For novices like us it proved a real challenge. At one o’clock in the morning we started up the nine-mile trail from the trailhead 9,500 feet above sea level. By dawn we had hiked above tree line and could watch the rising sun pull back the blanket of darkness from the eastern plains to the city of Denver, which was waking below us fifty miles away.
At that point, we still had a four-mile trek remaining to the top—across huge boulders, through the famous keyhole, up several steep ascents, and pressed against rock walls as we inched our way along narrow ledges. The whole time we kept looking up toward the peak. But the sight didn’t look like the view I had from my office window. This mountain transformed from a gorgeous picture postcard to a gigantic, granite threat.
We eventually reached the top and then journeyed back down, in what probably remains the world’s record for the slowest trek up and down the mountain—nineteen hours! But after that ordeal if you had asked me to describe Long’s Peak, no drawing would have captured how I saw that mountain. From my new viewpoint Long’s was not a shape in my window, but an experience, a hardship, a fear, a victory, and a relief.
That Long’s Peak experience illustrates the value of seeing things from several vantage points. Not just mountains, but anything important can look different depending on your perspective. That is no less true for any Scripture passage you encounter. You have to move around to look at it from different angles to see its full splendor.
In my three-book series, Fresh Eyes from David C Cook, I demonstrate numerous techniques that help people approach Scripture passages from new angles.
Here are three ways to see Scripture in a fresh way.
1. Consider what’s not there. Whenever you encounter a list in Scripture, like the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), it’s enlightening to notice not only what is included but what is surprisingly missing. That unexpected angle raises all sorts of interesting questions and reflections. For instance, why in the Fruit of the Spirit isn’t courage on the list? Or honesty? Or gratitude? Are not these traits also important as we live the Christian life? What might explain why they are not among the fruit of the Spirit? While speculation must be handled wisely, such questions still offer insight.
2. See it from another angle. Another change in vantage point comes through the “Scrabble Time” technique, which involves moving words and phrases the way you scramble the letters in Scrabble to discover new words to spell. This is never to create new truths, but to highlight the truths already given. So for example, try reading aloud the famous verse Psalm 111:10 (ESV): “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Then, do it again. This time rearrange the three key words fear, beginning, and wisdom. Start the verse with, “The beginning … .” and then finish the rest of the verse. Emphasize that shifted portion vocally to minimize the chance you’ll mentally emphasize fear or wisdom simply because you always have before. You’ll read, “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” Suddenly you find yourself considering the significance of the fear of the Lord being at the starting point of a person gaining wisdom.
3. Contemplate a different context. Look at the word neighbor in Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor” from an angle other than someone who is near you geographically? For instance, in my chapter on “The Importance of Well-Built Septic Tanks” in Fresh Eyes on Famous Bible Sayings we look at “neighbors” as being people who are chronologically near you—meaning, people you may never meet but who will follow after you next year or in the next generation. Who are they? And how do you love them?
When you approach every Scripture passage prayerfully as a text worth examining from many angles, you will find that there will always be a mountain—a holy mountain—of insights to discover in the presence of God.