I’m nearing the end of Exodus in my morning Bible reading. I’ve decided to park in the Pentateuch for a while in my personal reading and right now I’m reading it one chapter at a time. I intend to read it in large chunks next because I’ve found that I see completely different things in different ways of reading. I’m also reading this book and this book slowly, a few pages at a time.
(I read that at one point in his life Eugene Peterson spent an hour reading the Bible and an hour reading commentaries every morning. I don’t have that space in my schedule right now, but I can do abbreviated versions. It adds up.)
The first five books of the Bible are important for understanding the whole Bible. So much of the continuing story refers back to that origin story of the people of Israel. It’s hard to understand the kings and the prophets if you do not know what God expected the people to be. The whole character of God and why God could be trusted and should be obeyed is based on Him keeping his promises and bringing the people out of Egypt. But some of the material is hard to read. Some of the stories are confusing. Some of the laws are offensive. Sometimes we aren’t sure why portions are included in Scripture. Sometimes those things means that we just don’t read it.
When I get to confusing parts in Scripture, I read with the understanding of what God reveals about Himself.1 We have an advantage now because we know that God has been revealed in Jesus. All of God is contained in Jesus; the Old Testament God is not a different God than who is seen in the New Testament. That means that my confusion about why God would do certain things in the Old Testament is trumped by what God says about Himself in the word. That does not mean that I ignore my confusion. That means that my foundation is God’s character and I stand on that. My questions are held in my hand. They are not less important; they just have a different place. This posture keeps me from panicking. If God says He is compassionate and just, when I read a story that seems unfair and wrong, I ask questions. I press on it. I keep digging. Because I know what God says about who He is and God is the same always.
I listened to this podcast by Jude 3 Project and they work through some of these hard sections of the Bible. If you listen to it, you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. They walk through the process and can teach us how to read the Bible well. I cannot recommend it enough. I know it’s really long, but take it a question at a time and you can finish it. It will help with reading and understanding the Old Testament and give you a much deeper appreciation for scholars who have spent time digging into context and original languages.
1 This would be a great place for “Godself” but I know people will quit reading if I use it.