In high school, our choir had a tradition of singing the Hallelujah Chorus (from Handel’s Messiah) every year at the pre-Christmas concert. Once, in preparation for this, a voice coach came in to supplement the choir teacher’s normal instruction. To help us with clarity (I think), he suggested that we temporarily sing the words, “Howard Johnson’s”, instead. Of course, this was entertaining to us guys who sat in the back, and we continued to sing those words well after the exercise was over, until we were called out on it. (That took a while, though, which is perhaps proof that no one really listens to anyone except the melody.)
Have a look at some of these words in their original context:
And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And a voice came from the throne, saying,
“Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying,
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Revelation 19:4-6 NASB
The words to that great chorus weren’t any less important for us to learn, but in our adolescent ignorance, we didn’t appreciate them (especially after singing them so many times – seriously, did you ever count how many times the word “Hallelujah” appears in that song?). For another song that we didn’t appreciate as kids, see Two Tips on How to Worship God.
When I find a new song that I like, I’ve been known to listen to it over and over again in the car (typically when driving by myself, rather than annoying my family). I enjoy the music, the lyrics, and the entire composition. However, over time, that new song becomes old – I’ve heard it so many times that it no longer has much effect on me, and I may even skip it the next time it comes up in the “Shuffle All” rotation.
In the same way, we can re-read over Bible verses, maybe by putting them up around the house, or re-reading them daily. There’s nothing wrong with this – God’s Word is powerful and dynamic. However, over time, we may forget what these verses mean. Whether reading them or quoting them, they lack the “punch” of when we first discovered them.
In this latter case, it’s not that the message of the Bible has changed. Instead, we’re the ones who have gotten into a rut, where we can no longer appreciate it. I’m not judging, here – I think that this is part of being human.
So, what do we do? I don’t have all of the answers (and I would welcome suggestions), but here are some ideas that come to mind:
- If you have been reading a few verses over and over, back up a little bit – maybe a chapter or two – and read more of the context around these verses. Maybe your favorite verse is just a part of an even greater narrative.
- You could also try reading more of the books of the Bible that were written by the same author (the same human author, that is – God inspired the entire Bible, but used the styles of individuals to create a variety of ways to communicate His message). If you like Luke, try Acts. If Revelation was interesting, read the gospel of John (or the little books of 1, 2, and 3 John). If you enjoy reading Lamentations (hey, it could happen), try Jeremiah.
- Alternatively, if you’re in a Bible-reading slump, read from books of the Bible that you don’t normally try out. Try Ezekiel, Hezekiah, Numbers, or Jude. Maybe you’ll learn something that none of your friends knew, or maybe you’ll better understand the context in which other books were written.
- For more insight, read Bible commentaries and listen to messages or sermons about a particular passage. Let those who have spent the time to research these things share with you what they have found. Many authors and speakers can help you put yourself right into the shoes of those who lived out the history recorded in the Bible.
- If you find yourself looking past your favorite verse on the refrigerator, and not reading it anymore, look for some new verses. Change your laptop’s wallpaper or screensaver (there are plenty of scripture-based images online). Buy a new fridge magnet or poster. Search for some verses you’d like to learn, and write them out (or, if your handwriting is like mine, type them out).
- It’s been suggested to me that reading the Bible in different translations (if your native language affords you that luxury) can give you new insight. Perhaps something you skimmed over in the past – out of familiarity – will jump out at you when said in a different way.
The verses that you’ve learned, along with the Bible passages that you’ve read, still have plenty of value, even if they seem routine to you. God can bring those verses and principles back to your mind when you need them (or perhaps they are already second nature to you). That’s great! Now, add some more to your collection.
For some ideas about sections of the Bible to try out, see the page from this site called Popular Bible Passages.