Just Read It - or Not
How many times have you read through the Bible in its entirety? With the convenience of the One Year Bible, I have maybe read it through in a year three or four times. On the other hand, my brother-in-law has read it through every year since 2005. When I think about him reading through the entire Bible that many times, I honestly wonder if he ever gets bored or is tempted to skip over parts that are so familiar to him. I feel like he knows his Bible very well. There are many good Christian people who feel like they know their Bible who haven’t read it as much or as often as my brother-in-law. I even had someone say to me, “I read it once. I know what’s in it!”
I confess that my education and pastoral service has left me with an unsavory pride of knowing scripture. References are another matter! Nonetheless, I decided this year, that I would once again read through the entire Bible, this time according to the, “Every Day With Jesus” daily reading plan. Initially, it was great to be embarking on this quest to digest God’s word in the simplest of ways - just read it - not for a class, not for a sermon. Just to read it because I love Jesus.
Then, well into this second month, I found myself reading faster, sometimes even skimming. The plagues of Egypt - yup, know them. Know what happens. The Exodus - yup, know about that - know what happens. The commandments. Yup - got them memorized. Chapter after chapter of instructions for the tabernacle. Yup - know that. The gold calf. Yup - got it.
STOP! Appreciate what you are reading, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper loud enough for me to hear. I took a deep breath. Slowed my pace. Apologized to God that I had unwittingly made this project, just that - a project to get through - just for the personal satisfaction of doing it. Yes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to read the Holy Bible. And I certainly had wandered into the wrong way. It was a beautiful God-moment when he spoke to me about what I was doing. I finished the reading. Slowly closed my Bible. Whispered, “Thank you, Father, for your word.” It had been a gentle prodding of Holy Spirit. A simple reminder from my Father not to be lazy or flippant when it comes to what is holy.
The following morning, I looked forward to my reading. I quieted my heart and as much as is possible for me, my mind. I opened the sage green soft-touch cover where its matching silk ribbon marked my page. Oh dear! Exodus 37. It’s basically a repeat of Exodus 25 with the addition that it was all done exactly to God’s instructions. Then I saw it. It was there in chapter 25 but I missed it (I wonder why?!). Now, only the second verse in, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before! I went back to chapter 25, flipped over to 37. YES! My heart soared and my spirit sang! I’d never noticed that before! Wow!
Maybe this is common knowledge. It’s new to me. When you read Exodus 25:11 and 17 and then read Exodus 37: 2 and 6, you discover something very interesting. The ark of the covenant and the mercy seat are exactly the same dimensions. The ark is made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. The mercy seat is made of pure gold. The mercy seat is a “cover” for the ark. It could have been made of acacia wood just as the ark, then overlaid with gold like the ark, but it was made of pure gold. Is God giving us a message here? I think so. The commandments are in the ark. Mercy covers the ark! The law comes through God's presence. Mercy is God's presence! When I get to Lamentations, I will be reminded that God’s mercies are new every morning. No wonder the mercy seat, the cover for the ark, is made of pure gold! And the dimensions are exactly the same. The mercy seat could have been bigger, but it’s not. While the law and mercy are proportioned the same, mercy comes at a much greater cost - pure gold versus overlaid with gold. This part of the tabernacle furnishings, the place where God will be present with his people is surely a foretaste of what is to come, and what God knows already is in his plan and purpose! Mercy!! And what the ark and the mercy seat foreshadow is all wrapped up in Romans 7!
ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God. The God of the Old Testament. The God of the New Covenant. And we are greatly blessed to be able to read God’s Holy Word every day throughout the year. I wonder if we really appreciate that privilege enough? I think I have been missing it recently. But my brother-in-law gets it. In answering my question about when he started reading it every year, he said, “That doesn’t mean I know all of the Bible.”
Today, more than ever, I think I understand exactly what he’s saying.
I’m reading more slowly now.
I’m reading more deliberately now.
I’m reading now for what I never noticed before.
Father, thank you for your holy word. Help me to appreciate what I read in scripture as a gift from you. Help me too, not to make of it, an idol wrapped in pride. My deep desire is to do everything I do to honor Jesus’ name and bring you glory. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to help me. Amen.