Struggling with Scripture

In Sunday School we have been studying the Old Testament for the last several months, and at times it can be daunting.  

The stories aren't particularly difficult, but extracting meaning about God can feel like trying to squeeze water from a rock.  In a moment of honesty, a classmate asked the question we all think, but are afraid to ask in polite Christian company: "Why does the Bible have to be so hard?"  

My immediate reaction is to fall back onto Mark Twain's maxim: "“It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”  It's so much easier to fret over the identity of the third horn of the beast of the Apocalypse than work out "love your neighbor" in everyday life.  

Yet there's still a lot of text, and laws, and sacrifices, and rituals, and stories, and images that become hard to ignore.  After encountering the God of the Bible, it is hard to walk away contented, sensing that just below the crust of words there might be gold; gold to give meaning, bring relief, offer hope, and grant transformation.  

Here are three reasons, why I believe reading Scripture is a struggle (and that's a good thing):

1.  Read in Community.  We don't read by ourselves as if stranded on a desert island with a leather bound book as our only companion.  It is not our task to conquer the text by ourselves.  In Acts, Philip encounters the Ethiopian eunuch struggling over the text of Isaiah the prophet, exasperated by the meaning, begging Philip for help for he was inadequate on his own.  St. Peter warns us that no prophecy of Scripture is understood by private interpretation.  We need each, we need the Church, not only those in your community, but the whole Church, from the books of Acts onward.  

2.  A Book for A Lifetime.   We do live in a microwave culture where everything is instant, and this has to contribute to the frustration we feel when a reading or two of the Bible does not immediately open up the gates of understanding.  Scripture was written over a period of 1500 years, with each portion building upon itself.  The Pentateuch serves as the core of the OT with the remainder being a commentary and application of those first five books, and then Gospel provides the fulfillment of those ancient texts, with the epistles being the commentary on the Four Evangelists.  Ink has poured out over the centuries as holy men and women have read and absorbed the meaning of the Bible.  It is a book for a lifetime, and not a short term commitment.  

3.  A Wrestling Match.  Encounters with God in Scripture entail struggle and wrestling.  Our veneer of pride must be stripped down revealing our weakness and inability before our Creator.  Jacob found this to be true when he wrestled with God Himself.  

What is true of the men and women within the pages of Scripture is no less true of us when we enter the book for ourselves.  We read to be stripped of our own idols about God to discover a Person much different than the box of comfort we keep close.  

Reading Scripture is the way of the cross.  We come and find ourselves crucified as our struggle changes who we think God is and what we believe about ourselves.  The reading itself is journey toward resurrection, but the road leads through Calvary.  

Why do you believe reading the Bible can be a struggle?


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