Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Reading the Bible

I'm a reader by nature. I really enjoy nothing more than sitting down with a good book and getting away from the worries and concerns of real life. The scary thing is that for people like me reading lots of books can become an idol that gets in the way of actually reading the Word. Isn't it funny how the enemy can even deceive you into thinking that reading a lot of books about the Bible is close enough to reading the Bible?

Not so. The text has to be read and absorbed in its context. Our cookie cutter approach to reading the text is devastating to our biblical literacy. We would never sit down with John Grisham and start reading in chapter 3, paragraph 2, sentence 4. If we did that, we would most likely not understand the characters very well that the author had been developing. We would not understand the references to earlier parts of the story that we had not read. And we would definitely not catch the subtle clues that were pointing us toward the resolution of the story. How, then, do we expect to read the Bible this way? I use to say that the problem with believers in our churches was their lack of application of the text. I have always said that people know that David killed Goliath, but they don't know what difference that makes in their lives. This is still true, but the real tragedy is that not that people are missing the application, but that they are really missing the meaning. The David and Goliath narrative sits in the middle of a long narrative about the life of David (and even larger than that, the narrative about the kingdom of Israel and the throne). What is the author of 1 and 2 Samuel doing with the David and Goliath story and how does this effect our interpretation of it?

We have got to begin to read whole books at a time if we are going to begin to understand what God is saying to us through the plot structure of the Scripture. For readers of lots of things other than the Bible, this will be a difficult task. Let's get busy reading God's Word and less busy reading about it.

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