Just because we can carry a Bible in one hand we are tempted to think it is only one book--when in fact we carry around an entire library. iPhone apps distill the collected wisdom of centuries into a tap and touch guided tour while we wait for an elevator. Sixty-six books, forty-plus authors, three continents and at least 1,500 years: how many gigabytes do you need for that?
The reason this collection is too big is not because of some flaw in how the Bible has been safeguarded and delivered to us today. The problem is me. I cannot take in the bedazzling array of God’s creativity in the written word. Let me flash my orthodox credentials for a moment: of course, all sixty-six books are inspired by the Spirit of God. I trust the inspired judgment of the church fathers in setting the canon with these very books and not some others.
I am aware of through-the-Bible-in-a-year reading plans, but I find myself hanging out again and again in the same neighborhoods of the scripture. How about you? Again and again I return to the epic life stories in Genesis, but wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with those wild-west Judges just a few books over. My heart is moved by the Psalms but I feel scolded by the Proverbs. I could read the gospels every day but when I read Paul I find myself asking, “Who made you the boss of me?” And don’t get me started on Revelation--I read it late one night and didn’t sleep for a week.
There was a time when I would feel guilty about playing favorites in the Bible. But perhaps my heart is pre-disposed to receive certain input more easily that others.
Let me be clear: it’s all the word of God. We should do our best to receive it all. We should not gainsay the books that do not yield their fruit as easily. We should desire to drink from every fountain he provides, yet we should not feel guilty if our hearts come again and again to a familiar spring.
Quite the opposite: we should ask the Spirit to reveal what this tells us about ourselves. Here are some questions to help us hear his voice in the Bible:
- What books of the Bible speak to me most clearly?
- What does this say about me--how am I postured to receive his instruction?
- Has the Bible changed for me over the years? Are the words which spoke to me in my youth the same ones that speak to me now?
- Are there treasures undiscovered in the books I read again and again?
- Are there treasures undiscovered in the books I rarely read?