I have seen a lot of new year resolutions to read through the Bible this year….and that is a good thing. But I want to qualify that statement. I think it is good depending on how you read through the Bible. Not that other ways are bad, but I think there is a way that I feel, in my own opinion is very beneficial for us as believers in Jesus Christ.
And that is to read through the Bible this year without analyzing it to death at each point, but allowing the narrative of the text to speak for itself as you read through it. Meaning: Read through it as a story, a true story nonetheless, and not simply as a theological or biblical textbook. I think we miss a lot when we do that. I think we miss a lot when we spend most of our time in the footnotes looking at translations and definitions and the calculation exchange of ancient measurements.
This does not mean you don’t stop and ask any questions, or make any notes, but sit down, read your bible and enjoy it. And don’t misinterpret me. Please study your Bible, but what I am asking as well, is that you read it, and let it speak to you, and hear the parts that we often overlook when all we usually do with the Bible is open it up for answers. And when we find those answers, we don’t read the other parts.
I think most of us spend a lot of time in Bible studies which are great, and reading theology books and textbooks, but we rarely just read the bible like a story. And when this happens I think we lose our wonder and amazement at the work of God. We miss the tragedy and triumph of what it means to be human. And I think we miss the humor a lot of the time.
One of the best things that I have ever done, was to one time in three and half months, read the Bible from cover to cover. When I finished doing that I felt like I had never understood the Bible in such a profound was as I did then. To step back after reading and see the ebb and flow of history, the sin of man and the grace of God so clearly…it was eye opening.
As a pastor and former seminary student I have read through all the parts of the Bible, but I was never required to read it from front to cover as you would a story. And that changed my perception of this divinely inspired text.
This morning I was reading in Genesis, and I was reading through Genesis 11:1-9. Now this text can be looked at on many levels, and there is a ton to talk about. But one thing stood out, and that is the humor of the author of the text. The humor of God as well.
It is the story of the Tower of Babel and here is the part I found humorous:
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.
They wanted to make a name for themselves so they decided to build a tower to the heavens. But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. Now that is funny. So much for their attempt to build into the heavens. It was so small that the LORD had to come down and see.
OT scholar Gerhard Von Rad in his commentary on Genesis says this:
“And the Lord came down!” We should not apologetically weaken this very ancient way of speaking, when the Yahwist without embarrassment has let it stand. The God of the whole world and of mankind is meant here. On the Yahwistic idiom, Procksch comments correctly: “Yahweh must draw near, not because he is nearsighted, but because he dwells at such a tremendous height and their work is so tiny. God’s movement must therefore be understood as a remarkable satire on man’s doing.” pp. 149
Don’t you love my hypocrisy about encouraging you to read the Bible daily as a story, and then using an OT scholar’s commentary to comment. Great.
But hopefully this new year, do you not only study the Bible, but you read the Bible as a story, and allow that story open your eyes to wonders, humor, joy, tragedy and more that has always been there, but that we often overlook. That is transforming.