I wrote the article below for our church’s outreach newsletter to explain how to read the Bible with more understanding. One of the ways I ask the congregation I serve to use Gentle Reformation is to copy relevant articles or send links to their friends. Who do you know that perhaps could use the following encouragement in reading the Bible?
One summer vacation my family visited a unique national park. It was Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Having never been there before, I expected simply to go through a passageway into a large room under the ground. I did not realize this cave system contained 350 miles of passageways! How strange it was being underground for several hours of “spelunking.” It was like being on another planet.
We took a historic tour that went through two miles of the caves. We saw and experienced such places as the Bottomless Pit, Fat Man’s Misery, and the actual Mammoth Cave Room that was several hundred feet tall. We listened to the guide tell us the history of the caves. Last century one church even held services in one of the large chambers (Great acoustics and free air conditioning!).
Yet probably the most amazing piece of history to me was simply how many people had been in Mammoth Cave before us. This cave system has been explored and mapped, and now over two million people a year visit it. Our tour was hardly rugged or frightening, for we were walking on lighted boardwalks and paths with patio stones and handrails! We had the ease of going up and down staircases others had built.
At one point in the tour, the ranger stopped us and turned off the lights. It was instantly so black that you could not see your hand in front of your face and you quickly became disoriented. Had he left us there, we would have become utterly lost. Yet with a flick of a switch, the lights came back on, illuminating the tunnel and making navigation possible through that portion of the cave.
When it comes to the Bible, God’s holy Word, many people can feel as if they are exploring a cave. They find this book to be dark, confusing, and disorienting. After all, in some ways it is a strange book, for it too speaks of bottomless pits, misery, and even a fat man (see Judges 3:17)! Yet what we must realize is that the Lord has promised to “turn on the lights” for us by providing help in reading and understanding the Bible. Here are four ways He will do so for you if you do as He says.
Read it daily. God’s Word is meant to be read every day. Jesus said that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Just as you eat every day, you need to read the Bible every day, not only to understand it but to receive the spiritual life it can give.
Pray for help. Jesus promised His disciples that God’s Spirit would come and “guide you into all the truth.” The Holy Spirit is like the tour guide with the flashlight in the cave. If you ask God for help, you will start seeing what the message of the Bible is all about. Yet be warned! As one begins reading and seeking the truth of God’s Word, he quickly starts realizing that the light of it shines on the real darkness in his own heart.
Hear it preached. Our family enjoyed and learned a great deal about Mammoth Cave because others had gone before us to explore it and put in the lights. In the same way, God has given the church faithful teachers whom He has led to travel through this book before us. Go to a church where the pastor prepares and proclaims the teachings of God’s Word as they have been handed down faithfully through the ages.
Look for Jesus. The whole Bible tells the story of how God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, came to save men from their spiritual darkness and wandering. Of all the reasons to read and study the Bible, this is chief. As Jesus told one group of spiritually lost men (who claimed to be sincere Bible students), “You search the Scripture because you think in them you have eternal life. Yet they testify of Me.”
Indeed, at His death Jesus was buried in a tomb that was in fact a small cave (Mark 15:46). But that cave is now empty. Make it your goal to read the Bible to understand how and why Jesus got out of that cave!