As I’ve been doing the Bitesize Bible study series, sometimes I end up wondering what the point of reading a particular book is. There is such a variety of literature in the Bible; it’s full of history, poetry, prophecy, letters, and songs, all written by many different people over a wide span of history, but not all of it seems directly relevant to the message of salvation.
If you view the Bible as a whole, its clear to see that there is a thread running through it. Right from creation you can see that there was a plan for a Saviour, and that God chose his special people and promised them the land of Israel for ever, and that these two plans are linked – eventually the Saviour will be the means of Israel, both physical and spiritual, being restored to the promised land.
The thing that can be difficult is understanding all the details in between the various strands of this thread. Why do we care exactly how the Israelites prepared each sacrifice? Why do we care how many from each tribe entered the land, the exact borders of their territories, and exactly how many gold plates they gave to the Lord? What relevance do some of these details have for us?
Some books strike me as being very dry, or very difficult to understand or get into, and even when you do, the relevance for us today is not always obvious.
We have to have a starting point. Having decided that the Bible is the way to find God, it stands to reason that all these details must be there for a purpose. So, the question is, what is the point of the more obscure books and passages in the bible and how do they help us to find God? The Bible says:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea…Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:1-2,11-12)
We can summarize the above quotes as follows:
- The whole written Bible is inspired by God – for people who want to follow him.
- It teaches us how to behave and corrects our wrong behavior, so that we become more righteous and do good works.
- The character studies and stories present examples so that we can see the right and wrong ways to behave, and can learn from the mistakes of other people, and in doing so we will keep on the right path.
How can we put this into practice when reading an obscure or slightly dry book of the Bible?
- Review the passage briefly to start with to get an idea of what is happening.
- Focus in on words spoken by God or the story elements involving people.
- Can you take a lesson from Gods words or see something in it for yourself?
- Can you learn from the situation a certain person found themselves in and their reaction to that situation?
- Can you obtain any practical advice from the chapter?
- If not maybe you need to place the book in its historical context. Do some research and find out what period of history you are looking at, if there are links with any other parts of the Bible, and look at what the culture and society of the time was like. This approach is often helpful with the prophets to place them in the relevant king’s time period, and also with Paul’s letters to see what topical issues in his current culture he had to deal with.
- If the above doesn’t help, look at the cross-references in your Bible margin and try to find some links with other parts of the Bible which may give you an insight into the chapter you are reading.
- Finally, if you find it difficult, get some friends at church to help you study, read some books around the subject, or use the internet for research or to have discussions with other people.
It may be hard work to persevere and find out the answers, but knowing that everything in the Bible is there for a reason will mean that everything you learn is beneficial and helping you to walk in the way of the Lord. May God bless your studies.