About 35-40 authors
Covering everything from Creation to Final Redemption
About 3 different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek)
Various professions from the writers: Shepherds, prophets, fishermen, and herdsmen.
A wide range of topics and genres. Prophecy, poetry, history, apocalyptic and more.
Depth that is almost beyond understanding. As St Augustine said, “the bible is shallow enough for a child to wade and deep enough for an elephant to swim.”
All with one central theme
He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
The Word of God has brought down rulers and raised up the impoverished. It has been banned and celebrated. It is the most important book in human history but what do we do with it? 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to rightly divide the word of truth.
Colossians 3:16 says “Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
I would answer the question of “what do we do with it” is this. We get into the Word of God, so the Word of God gets into us. The Word of God teaches us all about Christ and Salvation. It instructs us on righteousness and sanctification. It reveals truth and error. It is alive and it is active. The Word of God gives us access into the stream of God’s presence which is always there but sometimes hidden to us because God desires us to seek Him. If we want to encounter Jesus, if we want to put Jesus first, Scripture reading is an amazing way to enter the stream of God’s presence.
Why do we read it?
Four brief reasons.
- It is the Word of God. The Bible is everything we need to know regarding God and salvation.
- John 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
- If we want to know God, if we want to know how to live a life that pleases Him, we must know what He has said?
- It is accurate and reliable. The Word of God has been studied, tested, and verified more than any other book in history.
- There are over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts cataloged, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages[i]
- Some of the oldest pieces date to about 125 AD.
- Because sometimes God is quiet when we pray and worship. But His Word, His record always speaks.
- In times of war, soldiers would write letters to their sweethearts. When they could not hear the voice of the one, they love they could go back and read what their beloved wrote.
- Because it tells us who we are. The Bible, in addition to telling us what we need to know about God, and what we need to know about Jesus, tells us who we are.
- Outside of Christ you are lost and dead in your sins.In Christ, you are part of His body and live.
- But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
We read the Word of God because it is everything we need to know about God, about us, and about the Messiah.
We must desire to read the Word of God. In marriage is it about devotion or service? Is it about love or provision? Is it about fulfilling needs or providing affection? The truth is it is about all of that. The same action can be done with different motivations and that produces different results. I can do the dishes or clean the house, so my bride does not have to because I love her, and I know she has a lot going on. Or I clean the house because I want to show her, I do things and I do it better than her anyway. The result is the house is clean, but the true result is my love either feels appreciated and loved or insecure because I made her feel that I don’t like the way she cleans. We can read the Word of God out of duty or out of reverence and love.
So how do we read it?
Understand there are 2 basic ways of reading Scripture for the believer. You can read the Bible for information, and I have. But we are talking about interacting with the text not writing a report about it.
Devotionally & Instructionally – Generally people fall into one of two camps when it comes to Scripture. They either fall too heavily into devotion and look at the Bible as a source of inspiration or they fall too heavily into instruction where the Bible is wisdom. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
You can read the Bible devotionally which means you are devoting yourself to a time of prayer, transformation, receiving, correction, worship, healing, or communion with God.
Reading the Bible instructionally is to read the Bible with a different set of questions. It is to ask what I am supposed to know about this and what do I do with it? Devotion can and does often overlap. When we need help, when we are confused, when we are seeking wisdom from Jesus we turn to the Word of God and read. Sometimes to see what He has said and done in other situations. Either way the point is this; To make Jesus first by turning our attention and desires towards Him.
Romans 12:2 says
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
To read the Bible is to place yourself in the hands of God and say, “transform me, Lord.” To read the Bible devotionally or instructionally is to read with an attitude and heart of Shema! Shema is Hebrew for Listen, but it is more than listen it is Listen and Obey.
The idea comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
It is to say I might not like what I read, I might not agree with what I read, I might not fully understand what I read, but I am willing to be molded by you Lord.
Whether Devotionally or Instructionally I think these are two great tools you can use. These tools are just that tools. There is no magic formula. We must remember that the focus, the goal is Christ. Union, submission, and fellowship with Him. When we as followers of the Messiah read the Word of God we are reading because we want to place Jesus First and see Him first. We want to be with Him and more like Him.
We read it together
As we mentioned we are part of the body so one thing we can do is read it together. We read and study the Bible together in community. In Christ, you are part of His body and live.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 1 Peter 2:9
Understand Hyperbolic Discounting.
The larger or further away the goal the harder it is to achieve it.
If you have never read the Bible or barely read it the challenge of reading the entire thing straight through can be such a great challenge you may fail, then feel defeated, then stop reading.
Break It Up
Instead, break it up. Read a smaller book, and break that book up into chapters. Read sections. The Bible was not written with chapters and verses so while each book or section might be a cohesive thought it was generally not broken up the way we have it today. So, take chunks if you need to. If you are good at reading, then read whole books at a time.
- You can learn what different genres there are.
- You can read it with a notebook to write things down.
- You can highlight and write in it?
Information that Drives Devotion and Instruction
When we read the Bible, we have to understand a few things.
- Not everything written was written to you
- It might be written for your information, for your understanding, for you to know history, or for God’s character but it does not mean it was written for you to do something.
- Some things are prescriptive and some things are descriptive
- Not everything in the Bible that is a promise is a promise to you
- Not everything is a promise
We need to understand a few things as best as we can. I have heard people tell me “I don’t need to know all that stuff; the Holy Spirit will teach me.” True enough but God also gave you a brain and I think He expects you to use it.
I want to give you two tools that are amazing and can take your Scripture reading that capture the essence of what it means to read instructionally and devotionally. They are different but once you have been doing them for a little while they begin to bleed together and create something new and beautiful.
You can learn The basic Interpretive Journey (Duvall and Hays) which involves five steps:
- Step 1: Grasping the Text in Their Town
- Question: What did the text mean to the biblical audience?
- Step 2: Measuring the Width of the River to Cross
- Question: What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
- Step 3: Crossing the Principlizing Bridge
- Question: What is the theological principle in this text?
- Step 4: Consult the Biblical Map
- Question: How does our theological principle fit with the rest of the Bible?
- Step 5: Grasping the Text in Our Town
- Question: How should individual Christians today live out the theological principles?
Second is Lectio Divina:
This method of reading is quite different but very valuable. Christopher Jamison, former Abbot of Worth Abbey said of Scripture and reading this way ““the text is seen as a gift to be received, not a problem to be dissected….. let the text come to you” The goal is to interact with God through His Holy Word.
In school, I struggled with reading the Bible devotionally this way because all of my time was spent reading to write papers. Reading for instruction, learning the authors, dates, main points, and so on. I read because I was required to read and because I needed to be able to produce a result. This method throws that out the window and asks God to make the Bible come alive for you. To do this is to take it slow.
- Select a Scripture passage upon which to reflect. …
- Read the passage — preferably out loud — two or three times. …
- Meditate on the word or phrase that stood out to you. …
- Respond to God who has been speaking to you. …
- Still yourself and rest in the loving embrace of your Maker.
Again, the main point of this endeavor is to seek God and enter into His presence. To place Jesus first in all we do and seek Him above all else.
Just a thought,