I’ve been re-reading a book lately called, “Writing in the Margins” by Lisa Nichols Hickman (which I cannot recommend highly enough!). It is a book about learning to write in the margins of our Bibles to study, to connect with God and to also connect our story to God’s story. All throughout the book are stories about people who wrote in the margins of their Bibles. One of them is the great musician, Johann Sebastian Bach. Here is a bit of what I read:
In the Bible, next to 1 Chronicles 25, Bach penned, “This chapter is the true foundation of all God-pleasing church music.”Beside 2 Chronicles 5:12-13 he wrote, “In devotional music, God is always present with his Grace.”Exodus 15:20 is marked, “First prelude for two choirs to be sung to the glory of God.”Next to Psalm 119:158, he wrote a “nota bene” or a “good word” to himself to take note so that he would truly hear and absorb the truth of the text, “I see the despiser and it grieves me that they do not keep your word.”And he noted 1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV), “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”Bach also wrote in his Bible: “My hymn sounds like this: Give to God the glory which is due to the one true living God, the only glory, praise and honor in heaven and on earth.” In these annotations we see Bach looked to the sacred word of the text, in his scriptural disciplines, to find both inspiration and a sold foundation for all his life’s work.In Bach’s annotations we see the markings of a great mind and musician at work. For this, Bach looked to the sacred word of text in his scriptural practice to find direction for his anger, momentum for his music, absolution for his sin and dictums to guide his life.What we see in Bach’s Bible is that back-and-forth between insight and life work, the verse of the Bible, and the vocation of our lives.