We started this series by reminding ourselves of the need to read, but to also read in obedient dependence. When we read, God works in us. This is the attitude that we should have as we approach Bible reading. At the same time, as readers we don’t read in isolation. Some treat the Bible as merely historical account. Others treat it as an encyclopedia, or our “spiritual Google”, coming with a specific question in order to get a specific answer. Still, at other times, we expect some mystical answer “about the future”.
The Bible, in all its richness, speaks to our past, present and future all together. It contains facts about the past, practical wisdom for our current situation, and points us to a hope that lies ahead. Within the pages of this book that contains timeless truths and the words of God, as readers, we are brought into God’s system and view of things. Scripture shows us God’s great cosmic plan for all time and as readers, we are called to read with the past, present and future in mind.
The past: Looking to the cross
As we’ve seen in the previous blog post, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells one story. The Jesus Storybook Bible puts it clearly and beautifully,
”No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne -- everything -- to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about this Story is -- it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them."
The Jesus Storybook Bible goes on to remind us:
“It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the centre of this Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle -- the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.”
Jesus Christ is at the centre of God’s revelation. Throughout the pages of the Old Testament, we read of the story of God’s people, waiting for a Rescuer, a King, a Prophet, a Priest. The New Testament begins with the birth and advent of this Promised Messiah, and goes on to record for us His life, death, resurrection. The cross is important to who Jesus is and what He came to do. As Bible teacher Bryan Chapell puts it, before the cross people looked forward to it as a promise. After the cross, we look back to see how promises have been fulfilled.
The present: Walking as pilgrims
The Bible also contains practical wisdom to show us how to live. We know that the word of God serves to keep us from sin, and instead, keeps us on the path of His commands (Ps 119:11,35). Sometimes, it is spelt out clearly, like Google Maps. Turn left here, avoid this path, and your path will be alright. At other times, it seems more like a compass, providing us a general guide and keeping us in the right direction, but things are commanded less clearly and wisdom is needed. The psalms teach us how to pray, how to feel, and how to handle our emotions in a fallen world. It provides practical wisdom for a complex world. Bible reading also leads us to difficult passages. This continues to challenge us, and forces us to go deeper in knowledge about who God is.
As Christians, we know that we are not perfect. In numerous parts of the New Testament, Paul’s charge to Christians is to put off their old self with all the fleshly desires, and to put on the new self, the new creation that is in Christ. Bible reading teaches us to live lives worthy of the calling, and shows us how we fight sin by obeying. The call to holiness is the call of every Christian, but God did not leave us alone! We have the Spirit and we also have His Word.
The future: Awaiting the Hope
Every good story has a resolution, and when we reach the end of the Bible, we know the end of all things. Very often, Christians talk about Heaven in hazy terms. We think of floating angels playing harps, eternal singing and a good life. As young people too, Heaven seems so far off. The book of Revelation shows us more than that. It shows us clearly that Jesus is victorious, and returns as the triumphant King at the end of all things. He comes in judgment and all of God’s promises will be fulfilled. As Christians, this is our hope -- that the curse of sin will be reversed, that every broken soul will be mended, that everything wrong with what will see in this world will be undone, that all things sad come untrue. But more than that, we eagerly await the day that our faith is turned to sight, and at last we may behold the One that we were made for.
The Bible, and Bible reading, therefore, challenges us to think beyond the immediate problems or circumstances of our lives. The Bible speaks to our immediate needs, but when we read, we also join the saints that have come before us in proclaiming the truth of God’s Word and continue to bring it to generations to come. When we read, we are part of God’s bigger plan and community! Isn't this amazing? So the next time you read, or struggle to read, pause, pray and call to mind these truths.
How is your Bible reading like? When do you find yourself most inclined to read His Word?
How can you be a better Bible reader? What simple steps can you take?