Monday, January 11, 2010

Growing Deeper: Reading the Hard Stuff

As I'm reading through the Bible this year, I will be sharing verses that jump out at me. Most often, these will pop up in my side bar under "Inspiration" ~ though I'm sure that I'll want to process more about others - so those will be in individual posts.

But, I also wanted to touch on a comment left last week about how to read through the genealogies and harder passages like Leviticus.

I'm certainly no expert - but I will just share with you what works for me in this.

First, I would ask myself if my heart is right in reading through the Bible. I want God to give me an open heart that really desires to read all of His Word. When I come to it with a desire to consume His Word - I think He will enable me to do just that. And, that includes all of His Word! I want to come into it with a sense of anticipation, not drudgery.

I try to remember that it is God's Word - He put each of the words there for a reason. Because I know that the Bible is inspired by God and all of it is true - I can know that He intended for me to read each of the words there. He has a reason for including each word that is there.

When reading genealogies, I find myself comparing how long certain people lived compared to their sons. Or, I look for how many generations there are between certain major Biblical events. Sometimes, I just wonder how to pronounce their names! Being on the watch for details like these helps them seem more interesting. I also remember that this is MY family history. It is a part of my heritage - and I want to learn what I can about these members who have gone before.

Something helpful for the hard parts such as Levitical laws is to take the opportunity to be thankful for the freedoms we have in our day. After Jesus came to earth, we have been released from so many of these OT laws and customs. And, you know what? I am thankful that I do not have to do animal sacrifices or ceremonial washings or cleansing. I am thankful for this cleansing that comes to us through Jesus our Savior. And, while reading these passages - it is an ideal time to be thankful for what God has done for us.

Another thought is that sometimes God will bring someone to mind or even a specific area in my life from reading one of these things and it will give me an opportunity to bring this matter to prayer.

How is your Bible reading going so far? Do you skip genealogies and hard passages? Or, how do you read the hard stuff?


Bonnie said...

My in-laws gave us a Bible Dictionary, and let me just say, that throws a whole new spin on whatever you read in the Bible! (my favorite example: why was Rachel so willing to trade a night with Jacob for mandrakes? Mandrakes were considered an aphrodisiac, and fertility inducing. Aha. that made much more sense to me.)
I definitely helps with the harder passages, (during which I occasionally find myself mentally redecorating our house instead of giving my full attention to), because I can look up a word or name that stumps me, or catches my attention.
The dictionary's are not cheap, but something I would highly recommend.

Bevy @ Treasured Up and Pondered said...

Scott has read through the Bible once - I don't know if I can say I did it with said intention although I know I have from taking Bible courses in school, etc. But anyway, he's been wanting to read it through again as a family... which it has been taking us a while to do. I admit I often will listen with "drudgery" as we go through the geneologies...and stuff.

But, recently, we would make comment to the same of what you mentioned about the Levitical Laws...stoping to take the time to thank God for the finished work of the Cross and that today for us there is no longer the need for the tangible sacrafices, ceremonies and regulations...He is the antoning sacrafice. It's been finished.

It's helped me to to hang in there reading through the hard stuff - as you say it.

Anonymous said...

Bonnie's idea of using a Bible dictionary is a great one. I write medical articles and often refer to a medical dictionary so why wouldn't I do the same when reading and researching the Bible?

Also, I am using the One Year Bible chronological version and it seems to be helping keep me on track. By having the events ordered in the way they actually occurred, I don't get as confused.

Finally, with the Bible split into 365 daily readings that are only a few pages each, I can spend the time reading and trying to understand what I am reading much better.

Mom said...

A thoughtful post -- thanks for sharing -- love, Mom

Cheryl said...

Great post Monica. I have tried to read through the Bible before and those passages you shared are always the ones that I have the hardest time with.
I would like to try and read through it again this year, but approach it with a different attitude like you suggested.

Cheryl said...

I was reading others comments that posted and am curious about the chronological Bible. Can you touch a little more on this?
That Bible dictionary sounds like a good resource to have. I will have to invest in one.

Woman of the House said...

I'd say the most important thing to do while reading the Old Testament (or any part of the Scriptures for that matter) is to look for Jesus. He told his followers on the rode to Emmaus that all of Scripture is about *Him*. He opened Moses (the Law) and the Prophets to them. So when you are reading the Levitical laws, for instance, look for the big picture of how God was working through Israel to bring redemption to mankind through the eventual birth, life, and death of His Son. Jesus kept the law~all of it, even the hard ones!~for us!

Jeremiah and Stephenie said...

Psalm 119:18 is my prayer every time I open the Word of God..."Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." He always answers.

asnipofgoodness said...

My husband, son, and I, and some close friends,are reading the bible in 90 days. It seamed like a huge commitment when we started, but it has been so fun! We each do it on our own,(occassionaly we read aloud) but talking through what spoke to us, or what we learned, has been a real encouragement. I originally started with the thought that I would be more likely keep a 90 day commitment, then a 365 day one, but now I am enjoying it so much, I may read it through again in the next 90 days. Perhaps I will use the chronological bible next time like Jeri suggested!

Lisa @ Simply Things Family said...

My husband and I were talking about this very topic last night. I am almost finished reading Leviticus for the first time. It is alot to take in, but I have been thinking about the offerings and other rituals that we no longer do. I am learning alot and will continue with reading the Bible in 90 days.
Thanks for another great post!

Krista said...

Don't forget that the OT traditions and sacrifices andatuff are all foreshadowings of Christ himself. So when you read the Exodus and Leviticus descriptions of the tabernacle and the furniture and furnishings, remind yourself that all of it is a picture of Christ and his ministry in our lives...for example if the Lord commanded a lampstamd to be put in the tabernacle, the lampstamd is a picture of Christ, because he is our light. Enjoy your Bible reading, and I can't wait to read what you have to share!

Sara said...

I did a study on Leviticus a few years ago - it was one book I could never get through otherwise. The study really showed me the seriousness of sin. It really opened my eyes to God's view of sin and the price that had to be paid to cover sin once and for all. Understanding the Old Testament makes Jesus' birth, death and resurrection so much more meaningful to me!

Anonymous said...

I am only on my second read-through of the Bible. The first time, I did skip through many of the "dry" areas, and also many of the repetitive "oh, Israel, you are a sinner"-type writings of the prophets.

When I set about to do my second read-through, I told myself that I would read EVERYTHING. There were times that it got dull, and I was tempted, but I resisted that temptation. And I was rewarded. Sometimes I would read through chapter after chapter with no enlightenment, and then, suddenly, out would pop a particular verse that spoke to me. This was God rewarding me for my faithfulness at "plodding through".

I keep Scripture note cards in a recipe box. After my first read-through, my Old Testament box was about 1/3 full, maybe half. Now it has doubled in size and more, with additional verses that spoke to me.

I am beginning the New Testament, which I DID read all of on my first run, except for Revelation. I am looking forward to new verses speaking to me even here!

Anonymous said...

I'm reading the Bible in 90 days for the first time, and I just finished Leviticus and am into Numbers right now. It is a lot of reading each day, but oh so worth it! However, as I was reading the laws, I was so greatful that we don't have to do that because of what Jesus did for us. But not only that I was reminded of how important it was for the Israelites to be clean before God before they made their sacrifices. Over and over it was mentioned to be clean because of the Holiness of God. I was impressed with our need to be holy because God is Holy.

However, I am a fast reader, and I do readily admit that I seem to read those hard to read passages even faster...just to get through them!

angie said...

My pastor is teaching a series on Living Fearlessly. It is based on the 2 verses about Jabez, which are tucked in amongst 3 chapters of geneology. Such important words which would be missed if the dry geneology material were to be skipped. But I have to honestly say that I tend to read faster when I come to those parts.

Ami said...

The geneologies have become interesting to me because I learned more information in two ways. First, through Answers in Genesis I studied the dating of creation through geneologies. It's also interesting to see who is in Jesus' lineage. I read a set of 5 novellas on the 5 women mentioned in Jesus' lineage and that was fascinating.

Anonymous said...

I like Professor Horner's Bible Reading System for this very reason. When I come to those books that tend to bog me down when reading, I remind myself that I'm only reading one chapter that day - probably around 30-40 verses or sentences. It makes it MUCH easier for me to concentrate and digest. I know that I'll also be reading a Psalm and the NT that same day. It helps me to see how the OT laws are fulfilled in Jesus.


Davonne said...

Thank you so much! I've always struggled with these passages, and have been recently been examining my heart.

I also started reading out loud - actually hearing the names makes it funner for me :)

And, I am huge into Christian evidences, and it recently occurred to me that without the genealogy, we wouldn't know how old the earth really is!

Thank you for posting this. I'm glad that God isn't finished with me yet!

Mary Ann said...

I am currently reading Genesis and there are a few chapters of lists of names. It's tempting to want to skip over it. My Bible study includes writing one thing that jumped out at me from each chapter and then writing down how I will apply it to my daily living. I ask God for wisdom, to show me one thing that will help me to better live for Him. Some chapters are difficult, especially the ones with a lot of genealogy and that often requires reading more than once and often praying for wisdom more than once! Last week I read Genesis 5 which is how long everyone lived and who belongs to whom. I thought to myself, "I'm never going to get anything out of this!" But I asked God for wisdom and I read through it several times looking for what He would show me. What ended up jumping out to me was that Enoch lived the least amount of years of anyone in the chapter which goes to show that the amount of years is not what matters, it's how those years are lived. That may be a small thing to some people but it was powerful to me!

My accountability partner made a time line of all the people and the years they lived and received some insight on that.

So there's always something to be learned and gleaned from each passage of Scripture. It often takes longer to uncover it. And I hope I can remember this when I get into harder passages when we get to Leviticus.:-)

Anonymous said...

We've gone insane, and are reading the entire bible aloud as a family this year.
It's been a little rough so far...some nights it is very short...other nights it's sooo long!
We always feel better when we have done it, and unbelievably...the children must be paying attention because they are asking questions.
I like Bonnie's idea for a bible dictionary, because our boys (7 and 5) just mostly ask, "what is ____ ?", and you know, some of those bible words, we just don't know...makes Momma and Daddy look silly sometimes.
I say, just read it...for me, even the hard stuff is worth it.

Kathy said...

To be honest, sometimes I just have to listen to it on Family Bible reading or on CD or have the DH read it aloud - sometimes hearing it (whether or not I am reading along) makes the dryer or more difficult passages "click" for me...

Anonymous said...

When I first started reading my Bible, a friend suggested marking the text with special symbols. I made up a special system for marking my Bible that has been especially helpful during the "hard parts." To keep me focused as I'm reading, I have a pensil in hand and I mark the text and/or in the margin. Some markings I use a lot in the Old Testament are: putting a box around people groups (like Isrealites, or Moabites), underlining places or geographical locations (like rivers or towns), I put a star next to a person who is part of Jesus' geneology (as recorded in Matthew 1). In the margin, I mark thinks like "OB" for when someone is obedient ("And it was done, as the LORD commanded Moses" is a phrase used a lot in Leviticus), "S" when sacrificing is mentioned, "TE" when God shows tenderness, a backwards arrow when someone disobeys, and a little lightning bolt when God punishes. There are lots more symbols I use, but I hope that can be useful to someone.

Mattie said...

I started a Bible study class last fall summer at our church. I took 2 classes each week, the first was on Exodus and the second was a quick journey through the Bible. Then in the Fall I took Revelation and that was such a rewarding class. For the winter session I have signed up for Mark and a little later (during the Lenten season) will be taking Matthew.

These classes have helped me in getting a better understanding of the Bible and has helped me to prepare to read some of the "harder" books. When cross referencing passages, we often have to look up those scripture from the books that are harder to understand.

I must say, i have a long way to go, but I am really enjoying my classes and have gotten so much from them.

Good luck on your journey this year. And please contiue to share your thoughts and inspirations along the way!

Nicole said...

I got the ESV Study Bible and that has helped a lot. Same idea as the Bible dictionary, it help explains the verses and gives you diagrams or maps. I just finished Leviticus and am almost done with Numbers. It's hard sometimes, but so worth it.

Brooke said...

I just heard a precious sermon about a genealogy list from our pastor who is leaving our church. He said every list in the Bible is "more than a list" and he compared a genealogy to our church directory, and how that is "more than a list" to him. Each name holds meaning, and friendship, and memory, and purpose.

Makes me think of the things in my life that can become TOO routine, too ordinary, too mundane. Are there "lists" in my life that I should approach with fresh perspective and check my heart to make sure I'm not missing the blessing in serving, or knowing, or loving, or worshiping?

Wonderful post. Such good food for thought!

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I'm weird. I love Leviticus! It absolutely fascinates me. I mean, there's even instruction on removing mold, and it involves a priest! Can you imagine?!

Genealogies I typically gloss over. I'll read through them, but as I don't really know who most of the characters are, I don't typically find them terribly interesting. However, there's usually some interesting name that will pop out.

Jenny said...

I enjoy using Kay Arthur's Inductive Bible Study workbooks--not to be confused with her Precept studies. She does an awesome job cross referencing to give context throughout Leviticus and the genealogies.