Ah, the Bible. I've heard it is the bestselling book of all time. It comes in many different translations or paraphrases. It comes in different sizes and colors. There are Bibles for men, Bibles for women, Bible for small-group study, Bibles for children, and even Bibles that look like magazines that are made especially for teenagers (one must make the Bible look cool to carry around, right?). There is even a Bible for text-messaging. We've heard of Bible-thumpers, Bible study groups, and Bible colleges. So what is it about this book that it is of importance to people around the world?
For some people, it's nothing more than a literature book. It has some stories that may or may not be true, some poetry, and way too many begats to count.
Is the Bible an easy read? No. There are many passages that are difficult because of language issues or translation issues or because the reader does not have the requisite background to understand the context of the passage. Picture this: "What? I need some pigeons? Aaron? Who is Aaron? That guy I knew from work? But his sons weren't priests; they weren't even Catholic. No, maybe I need grain. It says if this is prepared on a griddle...pancakes? Well, I am kind of hungry. Maybe I'll go to IHOP". And the person puts the Bible down, likely to not bother picking it up again because he or she did not understand the history, culture, and context of those verses in Leviticus (they are in chapters 1 and 2, in case you were wondering).
But for many people, the Bible is the the place to go for answers to life's questions, to read about how God has interacted with the world throughout time, and to learn how to apply its truths to one's life. This is something that takes time, and in our world of fast food, video on demand, and instant everything, time is something that many of us do not have because we are constantly on the go. Even those of us who profess its importance often do not open it up regularly. I know I have bouts of time where I do read and study it, and bouts of time where I can't remember the last time I read from it.
One of the amazing things about the Bible is that it can speak to us in different ways at different times in different stages of our lives. In an earlier post, I wrote of hearing Psalm 103 at the Ash Wednesday service I attended. Have I read this psalm before? Yes. I'd read through all of them sometime this past summer. Had I noticed anything about it then? Not that I can recall. But this time was different. This time, the psalm spoke to me where I needed to hear something. And that is something that is so powerful about the Bible that cannot really be explained without experiencing it.
So get into the Bible. Don't think that just because you've read the Gospel of Mark 37 times that you can't find anything new in it on the 38th read. You never know what you'll find that will encourage you, strengthen you, or even confuse you.
One final note. It's good to have a study group or partner to read and discuss your findings. Don't have time to go to a meeting? Study something with a friend online or by telephone. Take as long as you need; there's no reason to rush through it.