Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Friday, February 5, 2016

How Do You Read Your Bible?

As we see the detail in the Law and ordinances in Exodus and Leviticus and read over some of the rituals and statutes, it can be hard to retain a big-picture perspective on the Bible. We can find ourselves asking "What do these things have to do with me?" Worse yet, as some might accuse, "These verses have no bearing on a time or in a culture like the one I live in."

A common error that's easy to make when reading the Scriptures is in approaching them as if they are written about me, a code of conduct leading to a better Christian life. Some prefer to think of the Scriptures as a personal message God has for them, one that is meant to assure them and comfort them, leading them into a deeper, more profound life.

While there's enough truth in all this to make it sound accurate, we have to understand that the Bible is about God and His self-revelation to His creation (1 Sam 2:27, Ps 98:2,

Is 40:5, John 1:31). It depicts His character and nature, reveals His glory in how He redeems His own and portrays the consequences for those who rebel against Him. The Bible is God's story, tracing the progress of redemptive history from the beginning of all creation, through the end of time.

None of this leaves us, as followers of Christ, out in the cold. The great blessing God intends for us as believers is that we become the beneficiaries of His self-revelation, as ever-transforming vessels that demonstrate His glory (Is 43:7). God takes the totally depraved natures we have as human beings and transforms us into holy people (1 Ths 5:21), making us one with Himself (Jn 17:20-23). It is a truly incredible miracle, done by an all-powerful, sovereign God, which is exactly the point of the Bible.

The Bible is God's story, not ours.

This necessitates a change in how we read the Bible. We have to approach the Scriptures differently. Instead of reading to see what they say about me, I have to read them to see what they say about God.

So, as we read some of the seemingly tedious passages that are found in Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Leviticus, we can search them for what they tell us about our great God.

These ordinances deal, in a pragmatic way, with how the character and nature of God manifests itself in the lives of His people. They reveal His justice, His holiness, the consequences of idolatry, envy, covetousness, etc. These passages take the Ten Commandments and expand their application to cover various aspects of daily, communal living. 

To those who would accuse these passages of being
meaningless to a 21st century culture, we would say, "The Ten Commandments give us the structure of holiness. The various laws, ordinances and rituals gives us the application. They are examples to follow and set the tone for how we live our lives in relationship to a holy God. While some of them seem ancient, they are not meant to be an exhaustive set of rules for a particular ancient culture. They are intended to be guidelines that can be reinterpreted and applied in all cultures and eras." 

This does not mean the meaning of the laws change. The details and circumstances may change but the underlying principals do not. The truth that under-girds the ordinances and statutes is constant and unchanging, just like God.

For this very reason, if you read the statutes and ordinances carefully, you'll see that the principals they portray are the basis for virtually all the civil laws of modern society. We derive basic civil principals like "The punishment should fit the crime (an eye for an eye)" for example.

Every page, every verse of the Bible will tell us something about God. The beauty of this is that the more we know about God, as believers, the closer we get to Him and the richer our lives become. The more we make it about Him, the better we know ourselves.

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