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On Closer Inspection...

October 01, 2015

Three aspects of a backyard adventure that apply when we consider magnifying the Lord.

By Karen Barrett

My husband and I live next door to four of our grandchildren. A year or so ago when the oldest two, Barrett and Lily, were at our house visiting, they found a magnifying glass tucked away in my desk drawer. They were curious about what it was, so I took them outside to the backyard and introduced them to the wonders of inspecting our environment close up.

We studied a hydrangea leaf, scrutinized the root of a dandelion (yes, we do have a few of those in our yard), and examined the fine filament of a spider web that stretched from our deck post to a nearby lilac bush. They decided that the deckle edge of a pinecone scale looked like tiny teeth. Flower blossoms that seemed “ordinary” at a casual glance proved to be stunningly intricate and beautiful when magnified—so that’s what the bees were diving into when they disappeared inside a flower!

Barrett and Lily were fascinated. From that afternoon on, the two of them knocked frequently on our door and asked to “borrow” the magnifying glass in order to check out some new discovery in the backyard. They’ve found that the tiniest of items, when observed through the glass, become awesome. Minute details are suddenly visible, and new wonders appear. I can’t count how many times they have summoned me excitedly, “Grandma, come and look! You have to see this!”

Recently I read the Psalmist David’s words in a passage which is frequently acclaimed as one of the most beloved compositions in the Book of Psalms: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3). The word magnify in David’s exhortation immediately made me think of my grandkids and their backyard nature studies. I began to ponder: Exactly what did the Psalmist mean when he said we were to “magnify” the Lord? How can we do that?

A bit of online research led me to a sermon by a noted evangelist of the late 1800s who used Psalm 34:3 as his primary text. He explained that to magnify God means to “greaten” Him. That explanation fits with the original Hebrew word translated magnify, which means “to make large.”

This is not to suggest that we can make God greater than He is, any more than a flower enlarges when my grandchildren view it through a magnifying glass. Rather, it is our perspective that changes—a close study reveals details we never saw before, and then our natural response is to extol God—or “greaten” Him—based upon that new revelation.

As I considered my grandchildren’s discovery process, I identified three key aspects that were consistent in each of their adventures in magnification: the decision to look, the process of looking, and the results of looking. Perhaps the same three aspects apply as we consider magnifying the Lord through the study of His Word.

The decision to look

When Barrett and Lily see an object in our backyard that captures their attention, they come and ask for the magnifying glass so they can engage in a closer inspection—they make a decision that spending time in concentrated observation is what they want to do. It isn’t boredom that brings the two of them to our back door. They have a variety of interesting objects in the backyard that could occupy them. There is a slide and a trampoline, a playhouse, chickens and bees to watch, tomato vines and pumpkin plants to water, dirt to dig in and blueberries to savor, pinecones to pick up and toss into the fire pit (or put in a sack for Papa, who pays a penny a piece for any pinecones pulled out of the grass). The fact is, they want to scrutinize what they have found. They are interested in what they will discover, and other diversions are not as important.

Do we want to learn more about God through His Word? When our attention is caught by a passage we read or hear someone refer to, are we eager to learn more? Are we willing to set aside regular time for thorough Bible study . . . or are we distracted by the “slides and playhouses” in the backyards of our minds? Life can be so full of other activities that we fail to take time for detailed study. One way we can magnify God is by making a decision to take time for His Word. When we delve deeply into His revelation of Himself, we are sure to find new and previously undiscovered beauty there.

The process of looking

When our grandchildren are intent upon viewing some fascinating bit of nature through the magnifying glass, they get up close and personal with that object. They learned very quickly that peering through the glass at arm’s length is ineffective; in order to get the object in focus, they have to hold the magnifying glass close to it, and then get close to the glass!

It is when we get close to God through prayer, and take time to carefully inspect His Word, that we make discoveries about Him or see Him in a new way.

The same principle applies to our study of God’s Word. Quick and casual reading—equivalent to a glance through the magnifying glance from a distance—is simply ineffective when it comes to learning new truths or acquiring a deeper understanding of God and His ways. It is when we get close to God through prayer, and take time to carefully inspect His Word, that we make discoveries about Him or see Him in a new way. When we get Him into focus, He seems bigger, more awesome, and more able. God is no different. He hasn’t changed, but our perspective has!

The results of looking

Barrett and Lily’s interest in all things magnified began with their first close-up glimpse of the crisscrossed capillaries of a hydrangea leaf. The lace-like network branching out from a slender stem fascinated them, and immediately stimulated a desire to look at everything in our yard through the glass.

Haven’t you found the same thing to be true when you made a “discovery” about God? Perhaps a verse you had read many times was suddenly illuminated. Maybe delving into the original meaning of a word brought a perspective that you had never thought of before, or a concept explained in a sermon or Bible study captured your attention. Whatever the starting point, something stimulated your interest in digging deeper and finding out more. Follow through with your exploration! The possibilities for learning more about God are unlimited.

In Psalm 34, David was magnifying God because he realized that it was God who had delivered him. It is easy to imagine that as the Psalmist drew near to God and rejoiced in that deliverance, the magnificent reality of God’s concern for him just seemed to grow and grow. He recognized in a deeper manner than ever before that God is good and the one who trusts in Him truly is blessed.

As a result, with eloquent words he extolled God for being mindful of the righteous, hearing his prayers, and comforting those who are suffering from broken hearts. He recognized that the God who commanded the world into existence was concerned with his everyday needs, and so he magnified Him with song and public testimony.

Today, let’s purpose to focus ever more intently on our amazing God. Like David, our natural response to a new or deeper revelation of God should be to exclaim in wonder, to share our discoveries, and to call others to come and see—in short, to magnify Him!
About the author

Karen Barrett is Senior Editor at the Apostolic Faith Church World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon.