How do you read? I don’t mean how you learned grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation. Rather, how do you process written material? I know that I read various kinds of material differently:
- I typically read news articles online for about as long as they can hold my attention. Sometimes, the headline is enough news for me on a particular subject. Other times, I may read the details, or get a couple of paragraphs in and decide that it’s not worth the remaining time (from my lunch break) to finish the article.
- Good instructional books usually demand my attention to each paragraph. While my mind wanders sometimes, I don’t want to miss a key point.
- On the other hand, fiction can often be read casually, breezing through the details without worrying about how to pronounce every name. I admit that sometimes I don’t spend much time on specific descriptions of people and places (sorry, authors), focusing on the plot over the setting. Regardless, fiction – for me – is usually pretty light reading.
- And, at the extreme, I may jump around on the comics page of the newspaper, but I try to read all of the ones that I like without missing any. Sometimes, I’m guilty of reading the panels out of order, which often results in a punch line with no “punch”, until I read the set-up.
Just to be clear, if your reading style is not the same as mine, that’s totally ok. Two people can read the exact same thing, and get different things out of it, based on the way that they choose to read it.
The Bible has been described as a love letter written by God to humankind. Taken as a whole, it contains the message of who God is, where we fit in, and His generous gift to us that allows us to spend eternity in Heaven with Him.
For instance, after Jesus’ resurrection, He was walking with some men on their way to a village called Emmaus, and used the Scriptures to show how they had prophesied about Him. Dozens of writings had led up to Jesus’ pivotal role in history.
Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:27 NLT
In the same way, as we read promises in the Bible, we can look forward to God keeping those promises, even if their resolution is in the future.
Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Romans 15:4 NLT
So, I encourage you to “just read” the Bible sometimes, soaking in the lessons that it contains. Sometimes, I will use a translation that (while being faithful to the content) is a little less “technical”, and is easier to read without getting caught up on longer words (or the little bit I know about Hebrew or Greek). I can just read it as a narrative, or poetry, or history, or letters from one Christian to another.
If you’d like some “easier” reading (although even these portions of the Bible have deep messages for us), consider books like:
- The Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), which tell the story of Jesus’ ministry on earth. (I encourage you to keep reading into Acts, if you get through the gospels quickly.)
- Ruth and Esther, two books which contain stories of heroic women, each of whom had a major impact on history.
- Proverbs, which contains wise sayings for life.
- Genesis, which describes some remarkable events from ancient times.
- Joshua or Judges, which have lots of combat and action.
On the other hand, the Bible is also a source of great spiritual knowledge and wisdom. It contains instruction, history, explanations, and insights.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
Sometimes, the Bible needs to be really studied. Passages need to be evaluated by themselves, then in context, and maybe with input from someone else who has studied the history and language of a particular era. This isn’t casual reading, but is really trying to figure out exactly what God’s Word meant to those to whom it was first given, and what that means for us, today.
Myself, I will sometimes study the Bible in a more literal translation, to better understand the details of what the original words meant in their original context. At the same time, I enjoy learning what others have found in their studies, whether through commentaries, word studies, or other reference materials. With the Internet at our disposal, the wealth of centuries of Bible study are available to us (although I wouldn’t rule out good old books to supplement electronic publications, too).
If you want to dig deeper into some of the messages of the Bible, consider these books:
- Romans, which contains messages for a church living in a secular city.
- 1 & 2 Timothy, which include instructions from a veteran apostle to a young preacher.
- Daniel and Revelation, which I’m not sure any of us have completely figured out (Revelation even has a dragon!).
- Leviticus or Deuteronomy, which contain a lot of rules and regulations for the Hebrew (i.e., Jewish) nation, who were called by God as a special people.
- Isaiah (and other books of prophets), which foreshadowed Jesus’ arrival, centuries before His birth.
(Of course, all of these lists are just some suggestions. There’s no bad book of the Bible for you to read, whether for the message, or for study.)
So, as with many questions, the best answer to the question that started this article is probably, “both”. Enjoy reading the story, and become wiser through study.
For more suggestions about reading the Bible, see:
- Sometimes, You Need to Be the Exception
- Reading the Bible Electronically
- Bible Notes
- Bites vs. Meals
- Choosing a Devotional
- “Get Your Own Tape”, Part 2
- A Few Pixels
- Sweet Hour of Prayer
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.