It is commonplace for readers of the Bible to eventually become bogged down, disinterested, disenchanted, and dare I say…bored. The reasoning for this, in my estimation, is that when we read the Bible we simply do not understand what we are reading. Sure, we know and love passages like John 3:16 and the like, but when we get to the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles we lose sight of the glories of God, of His magnificent sovereign arm in history, and we lose sight of the Old Testament’s goal of pointing to Christ.
There are a couple other reasons that I think we have difficulty reading God’s word. A major factor is that we don’t read. I mean we do not truly read much of anything anymore. Our day is made up of small bits of literature as we Google-search the next “interesting” idea. Our day is filled with unedifying information as we troll through Wikipedia looking up the history of Taco Bell (yup, I did that today). Our day is filled with 60 character updates on Twitter, inane drama and emotional blather on Facebook, a few meager paragraphs from some blogs, and an unending stream of pointless memes. We read single sentence news reports as they scroll the bottom of the television screen, and read dozens of truncated text messages each day. People do not sit down to read anymore. When was the last time you sat for an hour and read the same thing? When was the last time you sat for an hour and navigated Google, Facebook, Twitter, email, and your favorite blogs with the television on? Exactly.
Another reason, one that sort of surrounds these other two, is that we are at war. Believe it, or not, there is an organized rebellion against God, and these malignant forces will do anything to get us away from Him, and that includes distracting us from the one source by which we gain knowledge of Him, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Satan and his demons are masterful at getting us to look away, they are evil, spiteful, and out to ruin us because we are made in His image and saved by the grace of His Son. We often think, well, I have twenty minutes of free time I might as well check Facebook. Have you ever considered why we turn to Facebook (or any other such distraction) when we think we have “free” time? I say, “free” time, because the time we have is a continual grace from God and it should be treated as such. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy the mundane every now and then just as much as the next person, and sometimes it is okay to sit and watch your favorite show for an hour. However, watching your favorite show for an hour once a week is much different from running to your email, or Facebook, multiple times a day. I promise you that it does not matter how hard it was for so-and-so to get out of bed this morning.
I was reading 1 Timothy today and God gave me some words to add to this conversation (imagine that!). Paul writes to Timothy, “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance” (1 Timothy 4:7-9). Let’s break that down.
Paul tells Timothy to have nothing to do with worldly fables. I take this to mean, “worthless stories,” that is, stories that do not help edify, stories that do not point to Christ, stories that are meaningless. 50 Shades of Grey comes to mind. On the other hand, there are good stories. Stories that show us Jesus. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, The Chiveis Trilogy, and many others are all stories written for the purpose of showing the grand story of God. I would not consider these worthless, but valuable. More to the point, we have the Bible, which is by every degree fit for edification and showing us the majesty of Jesus Christ. I promise, the more you get to know your Bible, the more you will realize that the stories contained within are better than anything else published, or made in Hollywood. Above all other genres, authors, and various forms of literature, the Bible should be the most read book in our life.
Paul also tells Timothy that we are to discipline ourselves for godliness. This means that it will not be easy. When was the last time you thought of discipline as easy? Think of all those resolutions you made a couple weeks ago (diet, exercise, reading the Bible?), and how many of them you have already broken because you lack discipline. Notice also that Paul says that godliness is profitable, not only for this life (read Proverbs), but also for the next life, our life in glory with the risen Jesus.
The purpose of our godly discipline, therefore, is for profit now, and later, and all the forces arrayed against God are striving with us to remove us from this discipline.
I have a suggestion. Keep going. Sure, you don’t understand Leviticus. Who does the first time they read it? Read it again. And again. Sure, you don’t understand the Prophets, but who does after only a couple readings? I am convinced that the way we come to understand the Bible more fully can be done by two things: First, pray before and after you read. Ask for illumination and edification, and thank God for His word. Second, keep going. If you do these two things, then one day you will see the connection between the Spirit of God hovering over the deep in Genesis 1:2 and the Spirit of God hovering over Mary at the conception of Christ, Luke 1:35. Keep going and you will see the promise of illumination in Isaiah 9:2 and a fulfillment of this promise in Acts 9:3. Keep going and you will see the beautiful relationship between Leviticus and Hebrews, Revelation and…everything that comes before it! Keep going and you will see that the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles are meant to show us God’s sovereign gracious will as He preserves for Himself a line of descendants from Adam to Christ, despite the sin and infidelity of the people.
There are resources to help us understand the Bible as we read it, and I have a few suggestions. The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook and The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary are both good resources. Other one-volume commentaries on the entire Bible that I recommend without reservation are The New Bible Commentary and the one-volume Zondervan Bible Commentary.
Pray. Keep going until you wear out the binding of your Bible and see the glories of our God.