Friday, April 11, 2014

Repetition is the Key

     During my training in college to be a teacher, our old professor Dr. McCloud often told us that one of the keys to successful teaching is repetition.  If there is some major point we want to make, we need to go over it many times in order to make certain the students grasped the importance of this point.  He is right!  I know that because I had teachers work with me who taught me useful things like:  "i before e except after c".  When it comes to spelling, this helps a good deal.  Then, there was the old calendar rhyme to help us remember how many days were in each month:  "Thirty days hath September, April, June and November...."  I still use that rhyme when I cannot remember how many days there are in a certain month.  Teaching is not the only profession that uses repetition though.
     Our son is a firefighter/EMT and he is constantly training and going over his skills.  Why?  The department may not have a fire every day, but they need to be ready when they do.  If you know your skills backwards and forwards, you are less likely to be injured.  Safety is crucial and repetition of skill sets keeps them prepared.  The same is true in our Christian faith.
     In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:15:  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."  If we want to be a workman for the Lord, we must learn how to handle the Word of truth.  The best way to do this is by reading it over and over again.  God's Word is living and inspired.  Its truths are timeless and each time we pick it up to read it, the Holy Spirit applies some new understanding that we might not have seen the last time we read it.
     Believe it or not, I have had people tell me that they have read the Bible through once and that is enough.  If they need to review something, they will look it up but they do not see a need to continue reading it from cover to cover.  Sadly, they will miss some of the important details that deepen our faith and prepare us for the challenges that come from the world.  They will also miss some important repetitions in the Bible and that help us grow closer to the Lord.
     First, there are repetitions in the account of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The four Gospels give us a picture of our Savior and each one does so from a unique perspective even though some of the details are repeated in all four.  Matthew, the former tax collector, writes his account of the Lord's life to a Jewish audience.  Mark wrote his account for a Roman audience and as a young man, he was influenced by Peter.  Then, Luke, a physician, wrote a very detailed account for a Greek audience.  He interviewed eyewitnesses to provide a complete picture.  Finally, John wrote more about the discourses and teachings of our Lord.  This gives us a more rounded view of the Lord.  So why were there four specific accounts given with some repetition?  Jesus said in John 5:31:  "If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true."  In other words, the Lord pointed out to us that a single person's witness was not enough to verify the truth.  However, when many testify to the miracles, healings and teaching of Jesus, it provides credible testimony to the events.  All the Gospels carry the one message that Jesus Christ came to die for our sins and rose to break the power of death.
     Another series of repetitions in the Bible come in the form of stories.  These can be single events that are contained and recorded in several places.  An example is the story of King Hezekiah and his reign.  This appears in II Kings 18-20, II Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 36-39.  The repetition provides a way of tying books together but also, we must remember that each book of the Bible is a complete story in itself.  God provides the emphasis on the lives and events which He wants His people to know and repetition is an effective way of bringing home this information.
     Finally, the Bible contains repeated statements, ideas and words.  Again, all of this is done for emphasis.  Jesus often used the words "Truly, truly" many times when He wanted to emphasize what He was saying.  In some translations, these words are substituted with the words "most assuredly" which lacks some of the punch that "truly, truly" gives.  When we see this used by Jesus, we know it is very important.  
     When it comes to repetition of ideas, we have only to look to the Apostle Paul who wrote many letters to the churches.  His letter to the churches of Ephesus and Colosse while addressed to different congregations covered similar topics even though their themes were different.  When we read these two letters, we can see the same ideas presented in a new light in each one.  This helps us to understand what Paul is saying.
     As we continue to read the Word of God with all due diligence, we will retain the truth.  The repetition we find helps us to better know God's character, His holiness and His plan for our redemption and salvation.  We cannot handle a Word we do not know, and we cannot do battle against the ideas of this world unless we are prepared.  Just as a firefighter/EMT needs to repeat his training and skills over and over to remain ready, we also must sharpen our skills by continually studying God's Word.  After all, we have the Holy Spirit to teach us and lead us into all truth.  However, we have to be in the God's Word for the Holy Spirit to do this.  Let us not be satisfied to read through the Bible once in our lifetime.  Instead let us read it over and over that the repetition provided will soak deep into our hearts.  Then, when the challenges of life come, we will be ready.  Selah!

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