This past Sunday, January 30, we continued on in our series What are you Seeking? With a talk entitled Seeking God through the Bible.
As we have noted before the Bible is overwhelmingly the bestselling book of all time. Year after year it outsells all other books. Not only is it the bestselling book year after year, it is also the most shoplifted book year after year. Culturally there is a deep and abiding curiosity about the Bible.
So there are some compelling cultural reasons to read the Bible, but as I noted there are also some things that make it tough. For one it is a really long book, and not only is it really long, but it is also a collection of many different types of literature. The types of literature range from: genealogical lists to hot Hebrew erotic poetry; from existential philosophy to imprecatory (calling down curses on your enemy – lines like dash their heads against rocks) poetry; from chronicles of history to apocalyptic visions. Beyond this many of us were at some point given the advice to start at the very beginning and read straight through, and in reality this is probably not the best approach. What's more, there is the issue of using a tough to understand translation like the King James Version. (I know many people love the poetry of the king James, but it is tough going and as I pointed out if you have at times an immature sense of humor – as I do – some of the words are just going to be too funny to go on – I resisted the temptation, and I assure you it was a strong temptation to read about the wood that the altar was made of – trust me it sounds really funny to people like me with an immature sense of humor) These factors can make many of us want to quit.
But at the same time, there are some really compelling reasons to forge ahead. The Bible itself says that those who meditate on the Bible will prosper. I would like to prosper; I would like to really experience life, so I need to find a way to encounter God in the Bible.
I suggested a way of approaching the Bible, based on Mark 4:1-20. This passage is the parable of the sower and its interpretation. This is a really familiar parable. Recently, I was really helped in how I approached this story by Charles Park, who is a pastor of a Vineyard in New York city. He said think who Jesus was talking to. He is talking to farmers and he is in effect saying, “Hey Listen, I have something really important to tell you. Some seeds do better than others. The ones that land on concrete really do not do well at all, the ones in the weeds a little better, but still not so good, same with the seed that gets scorched by the sun, but then there are some seeds that find good soil and really do quite well.”
After that talk he ends up alone other than the twelve and a few others. Previous to this, there has been such a big crowd that he had to get into a boat. Well that talk cleared out the crowd, and those who have stuck around, are scratching their heads and saying, “What was that all about?” So they ask Jesus, and Jesus says, “to you has been given the secret of the Kingdom.”
Now the fascinating thing to me is that Jesus tells them this before they have the interpretation, so it would seem that the secret can not be the interpretation. So what is the secret? I think the secret is Jesus himself! The secret is that they have stuck with him and been bold enough to ask him, “What is going on?” They have stuck with Jesus. They are in relationship (you may have noticed that this is the theme we have returned to a number of times this series).
I think this can really point us forward as we read, study and wrestle with this amazing book called the Bible. The point of the Bible is not merely to give us information. It is not just to make us smarter. The ultimate goal is to point us to Jesus. Jesus himself would indicate that we have missed the point if we read the Bible, but don’t end up in relationship with Him.
I did give a couple of what I hope are practical suggestions like: don’t start by trying to read cover to cover; but instead start with one of the gospels like the gospel of Mark, and then maybe go onto the book of Acts; get a good translation; use the acronym SOAP (Scripture; Observation; Application; Prayer).
Any suggestion though is irrelevant if we do not at the end of our study/reading/ wrestling end up encountering Jesus. If we don't encounter Jesus, we have missed the point.
So sisters and brothers may you encounter Jesus as you read and study this amazing book.