Layer by Layer

The practice of art restoration is fascinating. Normal decay, neglect, pollution, and the ravages of time take their toll on paintings, making them dull and even hard to see. Trained restorers can bring a painting back to life by slowly and carefully cleaning and removing layers of dirt and grime in order to reveal the details and colors of the artwork underneath.

     The restorer must be careful in their work. Using the wrong solvent to remove varnish might also remove the paint. It can take up to six months to restore just one inch of a painting. 

     Scripture study works in much the same way. A trained instructor can help us uncover layers of meaning by revealing the history, culture, and conditions of the time that the Scripture was written, giving clarity and understanding. 

     This is the work of the Holy Spirit when we read a Bible passage. How many times do you sit down to read something you’ve heard and read a hundred times and suddenly you hear something new? This happens all the time to me. Daily Bible study is imperative for bringing the fresh word of God into our lives. Like a master restorer, God reveals meaning and nuance to us with each reading. 

     And sometimes, it hurts. Sometimes that fresh reading brings a new word of conviction or rebuke that must be dealt with in our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that every Scripture is useful for teaching, revealing mistakes, correcting, and for training character. 

     When we are convicted by the Holy Spirit that it is time to repent, it would be good to remember what the people of Israel experienced when the Law was read once again after a long silence. When they heard God’s instruction and understood it, it caused them to weep. But the Levites and the priests who taught them instructed them to not be sad, but to rejoice. They were told that joy of the Lord was their strength (verse 10). A second chance was at hand. The day was proclaimed to be holy, and weeping and grieving were to cease. God’s word had been revealed and all who heard it could see and understand it clearly.

Nehemiah 8:7-12

The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah[a]—helped the people to understand the Instruction while the people remained in their places. They read aloud from the scroll, the Instruction from God, explaining and interpreting it so the people could understand what they heard.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all of the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Don’t mourn or weep.” They said this because all the people wept when they heard the words of the Instruction.

1“Go, eat rich food, and drink something sweet,” he said to them, “and send portions of this to any who have nothing ready! This day is holy to our Lord. Don’t be sad, because the joy from the Lord is your strength!”

11 The Levites also calmed all of the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy. Don’t be sad!” 12 Then all of the people went to eat and to drink, to send portions, and to have a great celebration, because they understood what had been said to them.

     We who read the Word that was God in Christ Jesus have even more reason to rejoice. While our sin is great and causes us to weep, his salvation is even greater, bringing us joy. Every time we sit down and study God’s word, we are given an opportunity for a new beginning, and that indeed is a cause for celebration.     

Having heard the word revealed, the people chose to rejoice and feasting and sharing commenced. So too should it be for us today, as we celebrate the Scripture made new in our lives and go forth to reveal it to others. God is the master painter! May his work be revealed in us.

God’s Artwork by Michelle Robertson

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