Monday, August 19, 2013

Reading the Bible Wrong

I remember reading the Bible for the first time as a teenager. It was not the easiest task. The book is big (1,104 pages in my personal copy) with many chapters and verses that are supposed to make it easier to read somehow.

One of the most common problems with the Bible is that people can read it the wrong way. I’m positive that I have done this countless times. Thankfully, the more you read it the better Bible reader you become.

I came across an example this morning where a verse can be read wrongly:

“Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD with slackness…” (Jeremiah 48:10a ESV).

I can almost picture the young man eager to go into ministry. This would sound like a great visionary verse for his calling right? Or maybe it’s a warning for pastors who are prone to take some short cuts or who have lost their zeal? Can we use this verse to encourage any of these situations? No.

This verse has nothing to do with pastoral ministry or church leadership. If you read the rest of the verse you see what the “work of the LORD” really is:

“…and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed” (Jeremiah 48:10b ESV).

In this context the work of the Lord is executing judgment on Moab. So it’s probably not the best verse to take and apply to pastoral ministry or any other work that God has called you to…unless it is executing judgment on an idolatrous nation perhaps.

This is simply a reminder that Bible reading and understanding the Bible well take a lot of hard work and effort. It takes reading through books of the Bible over long periods of time, often years again and again.  

D.A. Carson has said it well: “At their best, Christians have saturated themselves in the Bible.” This means more than a verse here and there, and takes real effort and elbow grease over long periods of time.

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