Have you ever been in a conversation in which you barely get a word in? Every time you start a sentence, the other person finishes it for you or takes over with their own thoughts? Sadly, I am often the person doing the over-talking. I have a tendency to value my thoughts over the contributions of others. With self-important vigor, I assume my input is more valuable, and since we only have so much time, I’d prefer to air it all at once.
Our Bible reading can be a lot like this, if we don’t know the purpose of it. We may assume the time is about us, our thoughts and feelings about His Word. So we either read a little bit before dwelling on a self-oriented interpretation or we don’t read it at all, assuming it has no relevance for our day-to-day life.
The main reason a Christian reads the Bible is to know ADONAI* and to enjoy everlasting life with Him. As an amazing act of grace, He has revealed Himself through narratives, legal texts, poetry, proverbs and letters, and He has preserved it for thousands of years so that anyone who desires to know Him, very well can. And the only way to really know Him is to pay close attention to what He’s spoken. In short, the details are important.
Without reading the Bible, we would not know Him as Creator, and, thus, we would not know ourselves as created. We would not know Him as the Holy One of Israel and, thus, we would have no impetus to seek holiness ourselves in order to see Him (Matthew 5:8, Hebrews 12:14). We would not know Him as Redeemer, and thus would not understand the fundamental truth that we are sinners in desperate need of redemption. We also would not understand the centrality of the salvation of a sinful, wretched people in a story that God has been writing since the beginning of humanity. The gospel is, in fact, the main message of the Bible. Through it, we know who God is, who we are, and how to process the fallen world in which we live. One could argue that the gospel, the good news of our salvation from sin and judgement, is the main purpose of Bible reading—our knowing it, our believing it, and our living in light of it.
Without a good sense of the purpose of the Bible, we also lose sight of our own purpose. As we read, we notice a pattern of God’s people constantly wandering from His good path into the way of wickedness, chaos, destructive practices and, ultimately, judgement from God. Yet we also see the merciful pattern of God shepherding His sheep back into His fold, revisiting them with His presence, reacquainting them with His word, drawing them to repentance and into deeper fellowship with Himself (see 2 Kings 22:1-23:30). Even when warning people about coming judgement, He often gives a sneak peek into a brighter future with a promise of a coming Messiah who would make them a people who treasure His word by the power of the Holy Spirit (see Ezekial 31:33-34).
The purpose of Bible reading is linked to the purpose of our lives—-to know and enjoy a thriving relationship with God forever. We can’t begin to know what that looks like without His word—which leads us ultimately into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit, through whom we are being sanctified. Interestingly, another purpose or, rather, effect of reading God’s word, is a changed life.
We cannot be in the presence of God without His transforming us. And, somehow, reading what Paul describes as “God-breathed” also teaches, corrects, reproves, and trains us, equipping us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The author of Hebrews describes God’s word as “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). There’s something distinctively supernatural about our reading of the Bible; it nourishes our souls and equips us for Christian living.
Nevertheless, Bible reading often seems unimportant, as mundane as drinking water or as inconsequential as a morning stretch. Sure, stretching is helpful, but we’ll be okay without it. We must replace this error in our mind with truth: Bible reading is the beginning of Bible literacy and the foundation to sweet communion with our Maker. Jesus said the only way to bear fruit as a disciple is to abide in His teaching (John 8:31). We cannot abide in what we do not know or understand for ourselves.
And, thus, we need to pinch our mouths shut and give Him our full attention. We need to open our Bibles and just begin reading with a heart to know Him, letting Him lead the conversation.
*Like the word LORD in many translations of the Bible, ADONAI is used by Jewish believers who want to note the use of the Lord’s holy name. It essentially means lord or master, but when using the Hebrew word it more deeply signifies the reverence due to a God who revealed Himself so generously to is people (Exodus 3:15).