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(Photo: Unsplash.com/Rod Long)

Snacks help nourish us in the midst of a busy day, quickly swallowing — sometimes hardly even tasting — a quick bite as we rush from one obligation to the next. It nourishes us temporarily: just enough to get us through between more substantive meals. But when we busy ourselves so much that we forego meals altogether and replace them with snacks, we soon become malnourished, in need of more substantial food.

The physical food we eat nourishes our body. But what nourishes our souls?

God has given us spiritual food in abundance: He has revealed Himself to us through the Scriptures, the Word of God which provides the spiritual food that our souls crave. In the same way that we need a healthy diet of physical food to nourish our bodies, we also need a healthy diet of spiritual food to nourish our souls.

Feasting is a common theme throughout the Gospels — from the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and the Last Supper to Jesus' parable of the Great Banquet and His declaration, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have the Word of God recorded in the Bible and are invited to feast on it for our nourishment.

But for many Christians, the food that was designed for feasting has been reduced to snacks – Bible verses absorbed through inspirational graphics on social media, snippets of Scripture texted to our phones each morning and verse-a-day Bible studies. While these spiritual snacks may have their purpose, they are nothing close to the daily bread that can truly satisfy us. At best, these bite-size snacks sustain us between meals; at worst, the snacks become the meal itself, leaving us severely malnourished.

Reducing the Bible to bite-size chunks is settling for a morsel when God offers us a banquet. Feasting on Scripture is reading and studying the Bible as an indispensable aspect of the day: just as we organize our day around our physical meals, we find nourishment by reorienting our day around feasting on Scripture — what the psalmist describes as meditating on it day and night — instead of fitting Scripture in with the time that's left over.

We may have something to learn from two communities, the Siwu and Nyagbo language groups, in the African country of Ghana who hunger and thirst for the Word of God, but, until recently, have not had access to Scripture in the language they know best. Wycliffe Bible Translators has been partnering with these communities to translate the Scriptures into their languages.

For Siwu and Nyagbo Christians, the dominant language in the region and churches is Ewe, but in their homes and families, they speak Siwu and Nyagbo. As the Scriptures have been translated into their languages — a Siwu New Testament with an Old Testament translation project underway, and now portions of a Nyagbo New Testament — they have begun to feast on the Word of God. It's transformed their lives, families and communities. They don't take the portions of Scripture they have for granted and are eager for the rest of the Bible to nourish them in the language that speaks to their hearts.

Unlike these communities in Ghana, we have all of the Bible in our language. Yet we often neglect immersing ourselves in Scripture: content with our favorite Bible verses, we frequently overlook the verse next door. But for each of our favorite verses, how can we fully understand their depth when we don't continue studying further? Recite the words of John 3:16 to yourself, and then consider how much more robust they become when going further into the words right next door in John 3:17, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

Over-emphasizing significant passages is not problematic — but under-emphasizing the rest of the Bible is. Feasting on Scripture, however, is becoming immersed in consistent and in-depth study of the Bible, allowing the entire Word of God to take root in our souls and providing the nourishment that we need.

May we be like the Siwu and the Nyagbo, who don't take the Scriptures for granted but hunger and thirst for the rest of the Bible, finding nourishment by becoming immersed in the Scriptures. Instead of quickly consuming, perhaps barely even tasting God's Word, accept God's invitation to join the feast. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Bishop Claude Alexander is Senior Pastor at The Park Church in Charlotte, NC and is the Board Vice Chair of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people around the world translate the Bible into a language and form they can clearly understand. Visit Wycliffe.org to learn more, and Wycliffe.org/feast for more information about "Feasting on Scripture."
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