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Your Bible Is Not a Rulebook or Encyclopedia

Editors’ note: 

This is an adapted excerpt from The Good Portion: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman (Christian Focus, 2017).

Deborah volunteers to teach a group of senior ladies on Sunday mornings before church. They meet for fellowship, coffee, and Bible study, just as they have done for decades. During one class, Deb goes around the table and asks the women, in their 70s and 80s, about their Bible-reading habits. She is dismayed by their response. Not one of them is in the regular habit of reading the Bible. She recounts:

My heart was so sad. First, we say we are too busy with school, then too busy with career, then too busy with marriage and kids. Now, these ladies told me, they are too tired. I went home thankful by God’s grace I had the good habit of daily devotion established in my life at a young age and saddened that my senior ladies were starving without the bread of life.

Know What You Need

I can relate to this group of ladies. For years I knew I should consistently read my Bible, and I wanted to be faithful. I attended Christian camps as a teenager and chose seminars like, “Your Daily Appointment with God” and “Five Steps to an Exhilarating Quiet Time.” I would return home eager to try out the new tips, but they didn’t keep me going for long.

I wanted to value time in God’s Word, but my Bible-reading record was a series of fits and starts.

When I went to graduate school, I began to learn how to study Scripture more deeply. I taught a Bible study on campus that kept me in the Word—at least when I was teaching that week. Then I graduated, moved, and started a career. There, I finally attended a church where the Word of God was central, and I was spurred on to enjoy reading my Bible.

But I had a demanding job that kept me too busy to be consistent. After getting married and having babies, I realized I hadn’t really been that busy when I was working outside the home. Now, I was on duty 24/7. I wanted to value time in God’s Word, but my Bible-reading record was a series of fits and starts.

Ask for Help

A growing discomfort with my inconsistency led me to pray—and ask others to pray—for my heart to hunger for the Word. Over time the Lord answered by opening my eyes to what Scripture really is. Through the regular faithful preaching in my church, along with a couple of Bible and theology classes, I learned the big picture of the Bible. Over time I came to understand that the Bible is God speaking to me, telling me about himself and what he has done through his Son, Jesus. This understanding ignited in me a hunger to know him better through his Word.

So often we read Scripture like it’s a rulebook or a disjointed encyclopedia of stories, but the Bible is a relational book.

So often we read Scripture like it’s a rulebook or a disjointed encyclopedia of stories, but the Bible is a relational book. It tells us about the God who creates and redeems a people for himself—a people who know him personally. The God of the Bible wants us to know him. He isn’t silent. He has revealed himself. He will speak to us if we will take our Bibles off the shelf and taste and see his goodness. It’s through regularly hearing God speak that we know and enjoy relationship with him.

Enjoy the Feast

Why does the Bible describe itself as “more to be desired . . . than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10)? It’s because God is more to be desired than the greatest treasure or the most delicious feast—and the Bible brings us to him. When we understand the relational nature of the Bible, it gives us a whole new motivation for opening it. It becomes our treasure, our food, our delight.

Ann Steele (quoted in Sharon James’s book In Trouble and in Joy) expressed her affection for God’s Word this way:

Father of mercies, in thy Word,
What endless glory shines!
For ever be thy name adored
For these celestial lines.

Here may the blind and hungry come,
And light and food receive;
Here shall the lowliest guest have room,
And taste and see and live.

O may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight,
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light.

We have a soul-satisfying meal offered, yet so many continue to go hungry. Let us taste and see the goodness of the Lord and share it with others (Ps. 34:8). Don’t wait for tomorrow; the feast is offered today.