The Bible. The Bible. These two words evoke a book which weighs nearly as much as a small rhinoceros: a book with hundreds and hundreds of pages packed with tiny lettering. The Bible is fraught with dull footnotes. The Bible is full of weird names like Hakkatan, Abimelech and Mephibosheth.
The Bible is also the most powerful book ever written.
It’s the bestselling book in history. Along with Greco-Roman mythology, it’s one of the foundations of Western literature. It has influenced thinkers, artists, musicians and writers for two thousand years: Michelangelo, Bach, Dante, Da Vinci, Handel, Newton, Chaucer and Pascal, to name but a few. The Bible has shaped societies around the world. Some of the founding principles of the United States of America were taken from Scripture.
The Bible is an important book, and that’s looking at it from a secular perspective!
For Christians, it’s infinitely more important—it’s the Word of God.
I’ll be the first to admit that reading Scripture is hard. I’ll also be the first to affirm that it’s totally worth it.
When I began reading the Bible, I made three great mistakes.
First Mistake: I thought of the Bible as just a religious obligation. I read it simply because that was what Christians did.
Second Mistake: I failed to understand how the story of the Bible fits together. The Bible is one story. Each part connects to every other part. (Except for the book of Job. It sort of comes out of nowhere.) In Sunday School, I learned the famous stories: Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath and the rest. What I didn’t learn is that they’re all part of a much greater story.
Third Mistake: I didn’t recognize the indirect lessons of Scripture. Sure, there are a lot of direct lessons like You shall not kill, but most of the Bible doesn’t consist of straightforward commandments. There are histories and genealogies and poems, not to mention a lot of ancient laws that don’t apply to us anymore. I thought these things were worthless because they didn’t relate directly to my life.
What I didn’t understand was that they related indirectly.
In a reader skips the slow chapters in a novel, he’ll have an inadequate grasp of the story. It’s the same with Scripture. If we skip the boring parts, we’ll end up with an incomplete understanding of who God is, what he has done and what he wants us to do.
Reading Scripture can be hard, and it would take much more than one blog post to address all of the difficulties that can arise. That’s why Study Bibles and other resources are awesome. They fill in the gaps, interpret the difficult verses and generally make reading the Bible easier.
What’s the best way to read the Bible?
It’s a matter of choice. Some people write down their reflections in a journal. Others make notes in their Bibles. Some people read Scripture every day. Others read it several times a week.
For a beginning reader, I recommend finding a good Study Bible and starting with the New Testament, then reading the Old Testament, then rereading the New Testament. The New Testament probably has more practical lessons for Christians, but the Old Testament influenced the New Testament so much that it’s important for Christians to be familiar with both.
I humbly offer three pieces of advice to anyone reading the Bible.
First, take it slow and steady. A chapter every day is better than seven chapters once a week. Readers risk burning out if they read too much at one sitting, and it’s easiest to absorb Scripture in small doses. Find a reading plan that works for you.
Second, don’t panic. The Bible can be hard to read, and that’s okay. Just take it a little at a time.
Third, don’t be afraid to engage issues that seem confusing or strange. God loves it when we ask questions, and the Bible is a book that has confused people for millennia. Don’t be concerned if something doesn’t seem to make sense. Pray about it, find a good Bible resource or talk it over with someone.
The Bible is my favorite book. When I began reading it, however, I didn’t like it. Scripture seemed boring and distant.
Then little things began to click: a psalm here, a proverb there; a command from Jesus here, a warning from Paul there. I was sometimes convicted. I was sometimes encouraged. Bit by bit, I learned.
Apart from prayer and the good examples of other people, I don’t think anything has helped me grow so much—as a person, as a writer and as a follower of Christ—as the Bible.
Hard to read? Sometimes. Worth it? Totally.