The Bible and why reading it matters
I am going to shoot straight from the hip – no pious platitudes; no wooly sentimentality and no inflicting onto folk reading this my particular take on some of the more and many contentious areas.
I have been privileged that from an early age I have been exposed to those who knew and loved the Bible. I remember as a 7 or 8 year old being taught in Sunday School the chorus: “The best book to read is the Bible. The best book to read is the Bible. If you read it every day, it will help you on your way. The best book to read is the Bible”. Later in my teens, I became associated with the Plymouth Brethren. One thing the PBs instilled in me is a love for the Bible and desire to understand it better. While I have often failed to apply what I know, it has seemed to me a matter of much importance.
Fifty years on, it is still the best book, I still read it every day and it does help me on my way. While many acknowledge I know the Bible well, I lament I do not know it well enough. And every day I do study the Bible, even sections I know very well, I discover new things. I sometimes imagine that I am in a room of young people and exhorting them on things they should attend to starting there and then, and able to do so with the benefit of the wisdom of old age. Near the top of that list is get to know the Bible, but always with humility. While I prefer to use the KJV, what matters is reading carefully, meditating prayerfully, comparing wisely and applying practically. While some sections may seem more relevant than others (I generally suggest start with the Gospels) all sixty six books, Genesis to Revelation, warrant study to get full understanding. Even in the most unlikely sections there is gold to be found.
“It is the story of how God was seeking a bride for his son. Each book is different from every other book. I am trying to give you the keys for you to unlock the key itself”. That is how David Pawson introduces his Unlocking the Bible talks (see here). At the beginning of his book, “A Pathway into the Bible” (check out here for my review of this book), Stuart Kimber quotes William Tyndale: “I marvel greatly, dearly beloved in Christ, that any man would ever contend or speak against having the scripture available in every language, for every man”. Tyndale played an important part in seeing this desire realized and considered it important enough to do so at the cost of his life. A third helpful online resource is the Bible Project series on each book of the Bible (see here). All these, besides being helpful aids (among much else that is available) for any wanting to better understand the Bible, is what I have often used in the last few months when going thoroughly through each book of the Bible in order to write my book “Prophets of the Bible”. Two other resources, I have found particularly useful is the BibleGateway online Bible in several different versions and also an online audio version. My point is, we are without excuse. The Bible is to be read with all the help we need. It is a matter of discipline and application.
Undoubtedly, we live in a time that people are largely ignorant of the contents of the Bible, and sadly we note the consequences. Those that have some knowledge often disagree on interpretation and application. While knowledge of the Bible is no guarantee against embracing false teaching or living in a way that is at odds with how the God of the Bible would have us live, too often ignorance of the Bible is a factor for people living in what is NOT the way God would have us live. I am not going to persuade those reading this which is the right interpretation and I recognize even the best of scholars and saints differ at times, but I am going to encourage you to search the scriptures. Many metaphors can be used to describe the Word of God that is inherent in the Bible: gold, hammer, fire, light, sword etc., and the very images these conjure up should enthuse us to want to study. The most important reason is it leads us to the knowledge needed for having that all important personal relationship with the God of the Bible and knowing the way which we all of us need to go.
If you want a goal, why not read the Bible through at least once every year, and when possible commit sections of it to memory. It is the only set of books that I can say is divinely inspired and while there will be parts you may struggle with (I still do) it covers the whole plethora of human experience from how humankind began to how it will end, and is our best guide to living in a turbulent world.