Getting the Kernel!
Charles Naylor, 1920
One afternoon a mother with her children about her knees sat cracking nuts. The older children picked out the kernels for themselves — but the mother stopped now and then to pick out some for the smaller children, who watched with eager eyes and ate the kernels with keen relish. Presently a nut fell to the floor. The smallest child picked it up; and as his mother went on cracking others, he held it up to her and in his baby language asked to have it cracked. He knew that there was something good inside of it. The shell was dry and hard. He might bite on it all he pleased — but the delicious kernel he could not get, until the shell was broken.
The Scriptures are just like that nut. If we wish to enjoy their richness and sweetness — then we must, so to speak, get them cracked, and thus obtain the kernel, the inner hidden meaning, which will enrich the soul. But many are content to know so little of what is really contained in the Word!
How full of meaning, how rich, how wonderful, is a single expression of Scripture! One single phrase may contain enough, if you get the "kernel" of it, to make your soul bubble over with joy all day! A single word may give you strength to fight victoriously through a sore conflict.
The trouble is, that people do not take the time to get an understanding. They are too ready to think that they cannot understand. Learn to take a sentence, a clause, or a word — and meditate on it. The more you think of it, the longer you consider it — the richer and fuller it will become.
To illustrate my meaning, I will take a familiar text and try to show you what I mean by getting the kernel out. "The Lord is my shepherd." I have often heard people quote this text, when I knew it meant little to them. But suppose we study it a little and place emphasis on each part in turn. Every word has its "kernel" of meaning, every word is full of richness and soul-satisfaction, if we can but get it out.
"THE Lord is my shepherd" — not just any lord, for there are "lords many." It signifies one definite, particular Lord — not one of a number of equal lords — but one standing out separate and distinct from all others — the one above all others. This is THE Lord who is "my shepherd." When rightly considered, this one little common word as here used, contains a world of meaning. We could profitably study it for hours. There is a whole sermon in it!
"The LORD is my shepherd." It is not a man nor even an angel who is my shepherd; it is the 'Lord', the almighty One — he who created all things, who stretched out the heavens, who upholds all by his might; the Lord who speaks — and it is done; the Lord who wills — and it comes to pass; the Lord who is unchangeable, unfailing, glorious in strength, perfect in wisdom and understanding.
Baal is not my shepherd — but he . . .
who sits upon the throne of the heavens,
whose face is as the lightning,
whose words are as the rolling thunders,
whose love is more tender than a mother's,
whose touch is as soft as the kiss of a sunbeam,
whose eye is tender with pity, and
whose heart is a fountain of compassion!
This is the Lord, my shepherd!
"The Lord IS my shepherd." Yes, he IS. There was no questioning with the Psalmist — it was to him a positive reality. He did not doubt it in the least. He was as sure of it — as he was of his own existence. But he was not any more sure than we can be. Repeat the text over a few times with strong emphasis on the 'IS'. This will help you get the kernel out of it. If you are a little doubtful, keep going over it until the "is" really means IS to you.
"The Lord is MY shepherd." Yes, he is MY shepherd. It is I, for whom he is caring. It is I, over whom he is watching. It is I, who can safely trust him. I may see him looking with favor on others, helping, blessing, and strengthening them — but he is 'my' shepherd, so I may with confidence look for him to give me the same kind of treatment that he gives his other sheep. The shepherd has made promises. He is 'my' shepherd — therefore I belong to him, and have all claims upon him that any of his other sheep have.
"The Lord is my SHEPHERD." To others he may be a judge, austere and stern. Some see him as a tyrant, some see him as one to be feared — but he is my 'shepherd'. Being my shepherd and the "good shepherd" — he will care for me. He will care for my safety. He will keep me in his fold from the ravenous beasts — he will protect me. Into pastures green, he will lead me. By the still water, I shall rest secure. He is "my shepherd."
This brings out only to a small degree the richness of the text — but it illustrates the manner in which we should study the Scriptures if we are to get the "kernel". But we should carefully avoid every tendency to read into any text, what it does not teach. It is all right to read a chapter or a number of chapters — but you will get more soul-food by taking a little and studying it well.
Study each word carefully by itself and in relation to the other words of the sentence. Follow this method of study until it becomes a habit, and it will unlock to you rich storehouses of heavenly truth! Your soul will find a feast wherever you go in the Sacred Book. There is in every scripture, a "kernel." Do not be content until you get it out!