Quick note: Even if this post isn’t for you specifically, if you’ve ever struggled to help other believers get into the Bible, you’ll probably love all the links in this post.
A lack of Bible literacy today
I was just looking at a LifeWay survey that concluded Americans are fond of the Bible, though most don’t actually read it. This isn’t exactly shocking news, of course. I mean, I was wrestling with trying to get church members to read their Bibles back when I was a pastor fifteen years ago.
However, I think it’s a bit unfair to simply ask, “Do you read the Bible?” and never ask, “Has anyone ever taught you how to read your Bible?” After all, reading the Bible isn’t like reading James Patterson or Nora Roberts. The Bible isn’t mere entertainment—it’s not a novel—and so, you can’t approach it like one.
That’s not to say the Bible is any less engaging than George R. R. Martin. I mean, do you honestly think people will be reading the Game of Thrones series in another 2,000 years? And even if they did, do you think they’d find anything new? I doubt it. I think anything that can be said about his books will have been said long before that.
Yet two millennia later (and even longer if you start with the oldest books of the Bible), people are not only studying the Bible, but still discovering mind-blowing revelations in it! Here’s just one example. Yes, this video is a bit long (17 minutes) but if you watch it, I can almost guarantee it’ll totally turn your brain inside-out!
For the record, I showed the above video to a Hebrew scholar friend of mine, and he completely agreed with the interpretation. (He’s never seen those patterns before, but he wholeheartedly agreed with them.) And if that video rocked your socks off, then good news! I’ve actually posted that video before, along with a few others in this post.
You can’t just read it like a novel
Anyway, back to what I was saying… The Bible isn’t a mere book. On the contrary, Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
I especially like this comparison to a double-edged sword, a sword that cuts both ways. Because, yes, even though you can draw much more out of the Bible than you can an easy-to-read, entertaining work of fiction, you have to invest more of yourself into it. For many believers, the Bible isn’t going to immediately open itself up to you. You’re probably gonna have to put in some real effort first.
I suspect many believers who’ve struggled to get into the Bible probably approached it more like a novel and less like a conversation. But that’s needless struggle. Since the Author is always with us whenever we try to read the Bible, we need to avail ourselves of his insight into his own work. I mean this quite literally. Whenever you read a verse that doesn’t click, ask him about it.
Use good Bible resources
But don’t get lazy and insist that he give every answer to you directly when he’s already spoken volumes to other brothers and sisters for your sake. That’s like the joke about the guy who kept praying for God to rescue him from the flood, but drowned because he didn’t recognize the answer to his own prayer.* The whole reason God gives a revelation to any one person is so it will be shared with the whole Body!
What I’m saying is: don’t just struggle through the Bible on your own. Make use of other resources that will help you understand it. Speaking of which, if you want to know one of my favorite resources, check out the videos from The Bible Project. In fact, here’s their series called Introduction to the Bible. If you’ve ever wanted to get into the Bible more, these are a must-watch!
Okay, one more great resource, then I’ll quit. This is one of my favorite books to use as an introduction to the Bible. It’s called 30 Days to Understanding the Bible in 15 Minutes a Day! by Max Anders. In fact, I used to teach a whole series on this book, back when I was a Sunday School teacher.
The Kindle version is only $3 (and, no, you don’t have to buy a Kindle reader to read Kindle books**) and used versions of the print edition are only $2, plus shipping. I’m not sure if the Kindle version is as good as the print or not. There were a lot of illustrations in the print version; I hope they’re in the Kindle version too. But here’s the link for anyone who’s interested.
*Here’s the joke I mentioned above:
A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help.
Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”
The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s okay, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”
So the rowboat went on.
Then a motorboat came by. "The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”
To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”
To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”
To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat, and a helicopter. What more did you expect???”
My point being: If you pray for God to give you insight into the Bible, but don’t ever make use of the insights he gave to other brothers and sisters for your sake, you’re doing the exact same thing as the guy on the rooftop! Instead, use books, videos, podcasts, commentaries, study groups—whatever works—to help you get into the Bible.
**Reading Kindle books without a Kindle Reader
You don’t have to buy a Kindle reader to read Kindle books. Amazon makes free Kindle reader apps for all devices: computers, tablets, and phones. And they make them for iOS, Android, PC, and Mac. You can find all their download options on this page.
Hope you guys found this post helpful. Even if you didn't need these resources for yourself, I hope you'll be able to use them with friends!