by Laura Springer, M.Div.
We make claims about the Bible. We claim it is God's Word. We claim it is true, powerful, useful, and correct. We make these claims with our lips. But too often we behave as if the Bible is a self-help book that we read when WE have needs or desires.
But the Bible is most certainly NOT a self-help book. It is, rather, God's revelation of himself in language. This is an amazing thing. This means the Bible is not under our control. We do not decide its meaning and significance. We do not decide its usefulness. We do not “pick and choose” according to our needs and desires.
Rather, we place ourselves in God's presence. This has implications for how we should read and study the Bible. It means we read and study HUGE chunks—whole books, whole sections, and whole Testaments. It means we study, respecting the divine-human nature of the Bible.
Because the Bible is divine, we trust it and obey it. We submit to the shaping. Because it is divine, we discipline ourselves, setting aside our desires and excuses. There is no good reason not to read and study God's revelation of himself.
Because the bible is human, we read and study, respecting it as human literature. This means grammar, syntax, literary devices, genre, history, culture, etc., matter, and matter greatly.
Because the Bible is human literature, we study deeply to discover (NOT decide) the original authors' intended meaning. Because the Bible is human literature, we understand it in the context of the human author's culture BEFORE trying to understand it in our culture. This means that our response to the Bible must always correspond to the meaning and significance intended by the human and divine authors.
Bible reading and study is not a source of spiritual warm-fuzzies. It is disciplined submission to the Sovereign Lord and Creator of the Universe. It is nothing less. We dare not make excuses.