2014-10-21 - What's Really in There?
Originally Published 2012-08-08
"Your lips cover me with kisses; your love is better than wine. There is a fragrance about you No woman could keep from loving you. Take me with you, and we'll run away; be my king and take me to your room. We will be happy together, drink deeply, and lose ourselves in love." (Song of Solomon 1:2-4 TEV)
What is stuff like that doing in a devotional? Where did that come from? Its offensive, immoral, and inappropriate! Guess what? Its in the Bible. Look it up for yourself. Its Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon in other translations) 1:2-4 TEV. Read that whole book, and you'll quickly discover it's full of such descriptions of passion and longing. Does it surprise you that those writings are part of the Bible? I know I was surprised, the first time I ran across them.
The Bible is full of surprises. Maybe you aren't familiar with the Bible in general, but have recently become interested in it, so lots of it is new to you. Maybe you've been hearing Bible stories for years, but didn't know things like that were in there. Chances are, if you grew up going to church, you've heard the same stories over and over. From the Old Testament, the ones that get lots of "air play" are David and Goliath, Adam and Eve, Joseph and his coat of many colors, Daniel in the lion's den, and Moses and the burning bush. From the New Testament, we regularly hear about the birth of Jesus, the Prodigal Son, the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, and how Saul became Paul. We know about the Ten Commandments and "Do unto others." We know Psalm 23. We know John 3:16. If we've been to a wedding, chances are we know I Corinthians 13, too.
The parts of the Bible that get lots of "air time" in sermons and Sunday School lessons are just the beginning. There is so much more to the Bible than what we're familiar with. If you get curious and start reading, you'll find all sorts of unexpected stories, people, and passages. This Song of Solomon thing is just one example. The Bible is full of ancient laws, battles, and people with funny names (Do you know who Anesimus is?), who get into all kinds of situations. There is family drama to rival today's reality TV shows. There are people whose beliefs and behaviors are anything but godly, but God is working out His ultimate plan through them, anyway. The Bible is full of so much wisdom, guidance for how we are to relate to each other and to God, accounts of Jesus' time here on Earth, poetry, triumph and crushing losses, the rise and fall of God's chosen nation, and so much more. There's all kinds of fascinating material in the smaller books of prophecy, near the end of the Old Testament.
Some stories or things God says in the Bible are confusing, and don't seem to fit with what we think the Bible is, or who we think God is. Some parts may seem boring and unnecessary. Some parts of the Bible provide clear answers, while others lead us to ask important questions. Everything in there is there for a reason, though, and everything is important.
God has so much to teach us. Become a student of Scripture. Get curious. Start wondering what else is in His holy Word. Don't wait for a pastor or teacher to tell you about the Bible. Read it for yourself! The Bible says, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine." (John 8:31 NASB). Find a translation (or several) that are readable for you. If you've used the same translation for years, try a different one. Sometimes, the slightly different wordings can give us new perspective on familiar passages. Even if you've studied the Bible for years, there are probably still things you haven't taken in, because there's just so much in there. Or something you read and studied before may come across to you in a new way, if you haven't studied it in awhile. Ask God to lead you to new and interesting parts of His Word, and those parts you haven't encountered before - or in a long time. Do some reading in a part of the Bible you aren't familiar with. Find out about a character you haven't heard of before.
If you want to make use of study tools, there are Bible commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and cross reference sources that can help you. They provide more information about the context and language of any passage or story. Getting more of an idea about the original words, the cultural context - and other verses that talk about the same thing - can provide valuable perspective. Lots of these helpful resources are available online.
Don't get hung up on what doesn't make sense, or on what is confusing to you. Don't get stumped and then get stuck. No one understands everything that's in there completely - except God. Theologians and scholars have been going round and round, for years, about what certain parts of the Bible mean. Move on to another passage, and come back to the one that you're having a hard time with in a few days or weeks, unless God seems to want you to stay with it right now. Pray about it, and trust that God will honor your efforts to learn more about Him and His Word.
Take on the challenge of going deeper into the Bible. Wade into unfamiliar territory. God will honor your efforts and your wish to have deeper knowledge of Him and what He says in the Bible. There are so many things that will intrigue and surprise you.
All scripture references are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.