A Fresh Way To Read the Bible
Back in ancient times, Rabbis would gather their disciples around and pour each of them a bit of honey and let them slurp it up. Honey in those days was not as readily available and it was a rare delight. The sweetness would light up their palate and taste sweeter than perhaps anything they’ve ever had. I can picture their faces now…then the rabbi would read Psalm 119:103 aloud to them, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Is the Bible sweet to you? If you’re being honest, perhaps in this season it’s not? I get it. Perhaps the words of the Bible have been used against you? Perhaps you feel like you just can’t crack the secret code of it (it just makes no sense to you!)? Perhaps you’ve been finding it kind of boring or obligatory or redundant? I get all those things too.
The truth of the matter is, for one reason or another, we all go through times where the Bible isn’t exciting for us to pick up anymore. I have been there more than once. Here are two recommendations that may help.
First, set aside some time and find a good story in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John where Jesus is dealing with people personally. Say the Woman at the Well or the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Read that story all the way through once and then go back through it and literally write down as many questions as you possibly can ask about that story.
Here are some examples:
- What person do I most identify with?
- Where were the main characters coming from before this story? Where were they going?
- What is happening physically in the story that might be a metaphor for a spiritual truth?
- What do the people talking to Jesus say they want from Him versus what they probably really want or need?
- What does Jesus say that you need to hear?
Completely exhaust the list of questions that you think you can possibly ask. Then ask 10 more. In order to do this, you’ll have to engage your imagination and immerse yourself into the story. What would you be feeling if you were there? What would you be hiding from Jesus? What wouldn’t you understand? What don’t you still understand? Use those questions as dialogue starters with God. See what stuff that was buried in you that God begins to drag up.
Back to those ancient rabbis. Besides honey, they also used a gem as a metaphor for the scriptures. The amazing thing about a gem is, every time you turn it, the angle changes and the light refracts in a new way, so that new refractions can manifest and dance around in our minds. Keep looking at the story from different angles! That’s what you’re doing when you ask as many questions as you can. Let the story speak and shout and whisper and shine and bend your mind.
Secondly, here’s another thing I do. I memorize passages that I think I may need for particular moments in my life. For example, I was having a rough time sleeping for a little while and so I memorized Psalm 4.8 (ESV) – “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” And I would repeat this over and over and over and over again until I drifted into a peaceful sleep. Also, I make the passage more personal and a true prayer: “God, I’m so tired of not sleeping… So I will claim your truth from the Bible… In peace I will both lie down and sleep…”
If you are worrying: “Who by worrying has added a single hour to their life?”
If you are broken hearted: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” And here’s the more personal prayer based on that passage: “God…my heart is heavy and wounded and broken – I don’t feel any hope. But this one thing I cling to…you, my God, are the one who heals the brokenhearted and you bind up wounds…Please, please heal my broken heart…please, please bind up my wounds.”
Write the words down on a small note card or piece of cardboard and put it in your pocket. Next time you are about to check Instagram, just glance over the verse before you do. Take 30 seconds with the passage and then go about your business.
These are just a few practices when it comes to reading the Bible. There is a time and a place for reading entire books or perhaps even going through the entire Bible and understanding the grander themes and stories that God is telling… but there are also times when we simply have a broken heart and deep Bible study is not in the cards. So may you pick the Bible back up and may you see it shine and sparkle and may you let it light you up.