Last week, I finished reading the Bible for the first time. The whole thing. Every chapter. Despite being a Christian for most of my life, I never read it all the way through. In fact, there was a time when I would flip through the pages of the Old Testament, scan the passages, and think, “Uh-uh. No way. The New Testament, maybe, but there’s no way I’m ever going to understand this stuff so why bother?”
After all, that’s why God made ministers, right? To read the Bible so we don’t have to.
Too many Christians are comfortable sitting in a church pew and allowing their minister to read and interpret snippets of the Bible for them. There are several problems with this approach. First, you’re getting a (flawed) human’s perspective on God’s Word. Sure, there are wonderful ministers who do an amazing job interpreting the Bible. I am blessed to be in a church with a minister who is a fantastic expositional teacher. Right now, we are going through the Book of James, chapter by chapter, line by line. We usually get through 10-15 verses each Sunday. Maybe that sounds boring but it’s not. It’s so interesting diving into God’s Word and learning to understand it within the context of Jewish tradition and history.
But there are many false teachers who bend and construe God’s Word to fit their own agendas. How are we, as Christians, to recognize these false teachers (and their false teachings) if we have no idea what God’s Word says?
The other big problem with allowing a minister to interpret the Bible for you, instead of reading it for yourself, is that you miss that daily communion with God. As I worked my way through the Bible–which took me well over two years–I realized that, each time I read a new passage, God revealed something else to me. Reading the Bible became a series of “A-ha!” moments. If I read the same passage the next day, something else would jump out at me.
Yes, some of the Books of the Bible are more difficult than others (hello, Leviticus). Or, take the last few chapters of Exodus, for example. Do I really need to know the exact dimensions of the tabernacle? Or the specific gemstones used on the priest’s breastpiece? How does that help me in my daily Christian walk? Can’t I just skip them?
The answer is no. God included those pages for a reason. Why? To show us that everything needed to be perfect with the tabernacle for it to be worthy of God’s inhabitation. The elaborate descriptions and instructions regarding the tabernacle and the altar and the courtyard and the priestly garments help us to see how woefully unworthy we are to be in God’s presence.
And–by the same token–those descriptions should also make us feel abundantly blessed. Did you know that, in Jesus’ day, a thick curtain separated God’s dwelling place in the temple (the Holy of Holies) from the rest of the temple complex? Only priests could gain access to that space, and only on certain days of the year, and only when following God’s strict instructions as laid out in the Old Testament. To enter the presence of God without adhering to these rules meant risking death (Exodus 16:2).
However, at the exact moment of Christ’s death on the cross, an earthquake shook the ground and the curtain in the temple was ripped in two. Did you hear that? Ripped. In. Two. I’ve been a Christian my whole life and I NEVER knew that. If you don’t believe me, grab your Bible and turn to Matthew 27:51. Read it for yourself. This passage shows us how abundantly blessed we are. God physically ripped down the curtain that once separated us from Him. Now, coming into God’s presence, which once would’ve been punishable by death if done incorrectly or inappropriately, is now a privilege for all believers. We are allowed access only through the perfect sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
As a writer, I’m amazed that the Bible–a book composed by dozens of authors over the course of thousands of years–is so perfect. Even the most talented authors in the world have inconsistencies, plot holes, timeline errors,…etc, in their books. But everything in the Bible lines up beautifully to form a complete, harmonious story. There are no plot holes. No inconsistencies. Something like that could only be the result of divine inspiration. No human mind could accomplish it.
If you’re a Christian and you’ve never read the Bible, don’t feel bad. It took me almost thirty-eight years to do it. It’s never too late to start. I recommend getting a good Study Bible (I have the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible and love it). Then dive right in. Commit to one or two chapters a day. If you have a Study Bible and you’re confused about anything, read the study notes at the bottom. But don’t be pulled off track by the notes. Just concentrate on reading God’s Word and he will reveal to you more than the notes ever could.
It will feel like work at first. You’ll wait until the end of the day. You’ll look for every excuse not to do it. But keep going. God will open your eyes. He will help you to understand. And you will be blessed.
As the saying goes . . . if not today . . . when?