My friend Rachel has a very no-nonsense son Matthew. He thinks logically. He listens to stories to find the facts and once he knows the facts it's unlikely he'll forget them. He masters and moves on.
This past Sunday Matthew sat beside his mom in church. When the preacher revealed he'd be preaching from Exodus, specifically the Red Sea crossing, Matthew (having studied the book of Exodus in depth for an entire year) leaned over to his mom and said, "Let's go. I already know this."
Matthew, by the way, is eleven. And his mom made him ride it out.
I was thinking about Matthew today and about Bible study and the way we so often approach it, especially those of us who've been Christians for a while. I think a lot of us are eleven year old boys at heart--we don't really know why we should keep reading the same book again and again. After all, we already know this, right?
For us, Bible reading can quickly devolve into Bible skimming, our eyes landing on all the things we remember from the last time we read, our hearts checked out as we dutifully read the words we're supposed to read.
The problem (one problem) with reading from a sense of duty is that we don't read with our eyes open. I know from Jesus, closed eyes do not a disciple make. In fact, I'd argue that consistently approaching the Bible assuming we know what it's going to tell us, reading to get through with reading, leads to a Bible that always tells us exactly what we expect to hear. Not because that's what's there, but because that's all we can see.
For so many of us, the Bible is charted territory, not a place to explore.
David writes in Psalm 119:18, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." He prays that because not all reading is the same. Because not all eyes are open. And because he knows how easy it is to see what you've always seen.
When it comes to reading the Bible, I'd suggest we swap duty for discovery. Because while it may seem like there's nothing new to find in the Bible, for the child of God nothing could be further from the truth.
This morning I sat down to study the Bible with my girls. We're on Matthew chapter 2. Do you know how many times I've read Matthew chapter 2? Probably less than you have, but still, we're talking a hundred times or more. I've read it at Christmas. Read it at the beginning of a reading plan. Read it in preparation for teaching kids' Bible classes. Read it because it was in the front of my pocket New Testament.
I've read it. May as well move on.
But this morning, the girls and I read Matthew 2 with a question in mind. We asked the Bible, "Who is Jesus?" We asked that question because we wanted to know the answer, and because we humbly believed we might not know the answer, not completely. After reading, London said, "He's King." Eve said, "People wanted to kill him." I said, "He was a refugee."
That realization startled me--that Jesus was a refugee, fleeing his country, seeking asylum in another, his family probably leaving behind a business, a home, family for sure. I imagined Mary hastily packing, baking bread for the road, hugging relatives she'd never see again. I imagined Joseph desperately looking for work in Egypt, taking jobs requiring well beneath his level of skill and experience, making a fraction of what he did in Israel. I imagine Mary trying to make a home in a tent on the outskirts of town, sweeping her dirt floor, struggling to communicate with neighbors who didn't speak Hebrew, trying to figure out where to get water.
My God was a refugee.
Today, there are 19.5 million refugees across the globe. Conflicts in Syria, Iraq and some African nations have led to a staggering 42,500 people being displaced per day.
The girls and I looked up video testimonials from refugees. We watched this from the UN:
Then we saw this and our hearts almost exploded:
We decided we wanted to find a way to help refugees. So we looked up aid organizations and decided to contribute to this one, Restore International:
Then we prayed with our faces to the ground, telling God how sad it was that so many people lived away from their homes, struggling to find work, struggling to feed their families, longing for people they love, people who may or not be alive, asking Him to provide and protect and please come soon.
I tell you about all of this, this discovery the girls and I made, because it's the kind of thing that happens all the time when I ask questions of my Bible.
I ask "Who is God?" I ask, "What is the truth and how can I live it?" I ask, "What is the gospel and how can I share it?" I ask, "What needs to change in my heart?" I ask, "What is God's will?"
All of these questions help me discover things.
Questions are beginnings. They propel ships across oceans and inspire change and lead to provocative, life-altering answers.
Questions help us see Bible reading as opened-door, start, and launching pad, instead of seeing it as wall, end, and achievement.
SO, when you read the Bible, don't just listen passively, letting the words roll past. Ask questions. Grab the words by the shoulders and shake them. Make them tell you what you most need to know and do.
Read the Bible with wide-eyed wonder, senses on high alert; expect it to surprise you, defy you, challenge you, and move you.
When we do this, we allow the Bible to speak. We make room for what God intends to say. We listen and look, hear and see. We seek and find.