Reading the Bible

In February Grace Redeemer Church did our second public reading of the entire Bible.  As with last year, no doubt some people were reading parts of the Bible with which they were unfamiliar, or parts that they had not read in a long time, or parts with which they were familiar, but for which they now gained a fresh understanding and appreciation.  Yes, the Word of God is living and active (Heb 4:12); the Word accomplishes what God desires (Isa 55:11); the Word of God stands forever (Isa 40:8).

As we read through God’s inspired Word, some chapters were difficult.  Some of the chapters contained long lists of very unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce names (for example, Genesis 10, Ezra 2, Nehemiah 7, and the first nine chapters of I Chronicles).  Other chapters set forth some dense theological wrestling, such as Romans 910.  The strange visions found in Ezekiel can be hard to understand.  The detailed prophecy of Daniel 11 can be confusing.  And some chapters relate very distasteful events, such as Judges 19.

I think perhaps the hardest chapter to read is Numbers 7; not the hardest to understand, but the hardest to read.  First, it’s a long chapter: 89 verses.  Second, it contains some of those difficult names.  But what really makes it hard to read is that it is so repetitive.  After a while, the repetition can become mind numbing, and the words lose their meaning.  But, remember that God has a purpose for every one of these chapters.

Brothers and sisters, reading the Bible is an activity that should be as customary and important to us as eating.  You wouldn’t deprive yourself of physical food; why should you deprive yourself of spiritual food?  As Jesus told Satan, quoting Deuteronomy, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) God has provided and preserved for us this banquet of spiritual nourishment, and to our great shame we often would rather go hungry.

How should we read and hear the Word?  Westminster Shorter Catechism 90 tells us “we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love; lay it up in our hearts; and practice it in our lives” (for a fuller explanation, see Larger Catechism 157).  Bible reading and comprehension is a skill that must be learned, practiced, and used.  But you can do it!  What someone once said about the gospel of John is true of the Bible as a whole: it is a river in which an elephant can drown, and in which a young child can safely wade.

Francis Chan relates how a friend of his gathered other friends to read the entire Bible aloud over a 72-hour period (sound familiar?).  He concludes,

“They did in three days what most professing Christians in America won’t do in their lifetimes.”
The living, gracious, covenant God, your creator and redeemer, has given you a book to tell you who He is, who you are, and how you are to worship and serve Him.  And this book, from the first page to the last, points to the Savior, Jesus Christ (see Luke 24:27, 44-45; John 5:39, 46).  Will you not take and read it, receive it with faith that it is the Word of God, love God all the more, treasure up this Word in your heart, and practice it in your life?  With the psalmist, may we say “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” (Psalm 119:16)

Steve Hoogerhyde  is an Elder at GRC. He frequently teachers adult Sunday School classes and helps with Children’s Ministry.