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Beware the deceptive wiles of familiarity — that sweet but double-edged virtue that makes you feel at home in the word of God. Familiarity of the tender variety persists in reminding you of the gospel and deepening your communion with Christ. But if you’re not careful, cold-hearted familiarity will betray you with kisses, poison your wineglass, and watch impassively while your life slips steadily away. You might not even realize it’s happening.

Unexamined familiarity will prevent you from looking at the Book. Because such familiarity crowds out curiosity, it imperceptibly stiffens necks, hardens hearts, and deafens ears. Familiarity may lead us to assume things that are not in the text, and it may blind us to things that are.

How Familiarity Works

A reasonably harmless example: I’m preparing to attend a Bible study on David, Abigail, and Nabal in 1 Samuel 25. I’ve been here before; I know this story. I give the text a cursory read-through and prepare to discuss ways to avoid David’s hasty foolishness and to imitate Abigail’s thoughtful service. I’m no unschooled moralizer, however, so I can see Jesus in David’s eventual choice to act like a true king.

But at the meeting, the unfamiliar-but-wildly-curious folks see things I’ve never seen. The death of David’s chief spiritual advisor introduces the tale (1 Samuel 25:1). The narrative’s first mention of God comes when David swears to murder every wall-urinator in Nabal’s household (1 Samuel 25:22, KJV). Abigail directs David’s attention — not primarily to her gifts (mentioned in her speech once) — but to the Lord and his promises (mentioned seven times). David praises her — not for her gifts (absent from his response) — but for the Lord’s use of her to counsel and restrain him.

My familiarity tricked me into thinking I knew the story, but I had missed the point. The Anointed One acts like God’s king only when reminded of God’s word to him. By contrast, the innocent sagess rides in on a kingly donkey, yet humbles herself, takes all the blame, and brings the Lord’s free gift of salvation to many.

Don’t allow familiarity to blind you to the text. Always look at the Book.

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