I talked last week about how I decided in December of 2009 to live life the way God wants me to. I knew I needed something more than people and earthly things to stop feeling like doom was always right around the corner. One of the decisions I made was to read the Bible all the way through. I had never done that and I wanted to see how the things I know about Christianity fit together. I had read parts of the Bible before but that Christmas my daughter gave me a Life Applications Bible. She did not yet know about the decision I had made and she knew I had several Bibles. I couldn’t figure out why she had given me a Bible. But, it was a gift from my daughter, so I loved it – she’s not a “grab something” gift-giver. She puts a lot of thought into gifts (both my kids are that way). This incident was one that was clear evidence that God is truly at work in our lives!
In January, 2010, I started at Genesis 1:1 and read every verse and every footnote in that wonderful Book! I was like most people – many things in the Bible just didn’t make sense or were hard to understand. I would read a chapter or a book and would argue with what it said. “Yeah, but, that was a long time ago.” “Oh, but times have changed.” “That’s true of so-and-so, but not me!” “That’s the most awful thing I’ve ever heard – how could a loving God DO that?” I said to myself all of the stuff most people say to themselves. Then I read Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” I can’t explain how that one verse just jumped out at me and stuck with me. I am NOT good at memorizing Scripture. But this one would not go away. It would pop into my head every single day, no matter where I was or what I was doing.
“Be still…” It became clear that God was telling me, in effect, to shut up and hear what He was trying to say! I said in my last blog that we have to get everything out from between us and God. Well, that includes ourselves: our thoughts, our experiences. Each time I would read a verse or a story I didn’t like, I had to consciously tell myself to stop “talking back” and just read. When I wasn’t getting a lot of what was going on in the story, I just kept reading. The footnotes in the Life Application were very helpful, so I made myself read every one of them and it cleared up a lot. But the verses that still didn’t make sense or I disagreed with, or portrayed God as some kind of a monster (there’s a LOT of bloodshed in the Old Testament!!), I just kind of laid them aside with an understanding that I would learn more as I went which would help me understand better. I hate it when people make quick judgments about me, so I decided I wouldn’t judge the things I was reading about God until I knew Him better.
My first read-through I kept noticing how I was like so many of the people in the stories. I was like Eve in that I want others to go along with my bad ideas. I was like Moses as he tried to persuade God he had too many shortcomings to do what God was asking him to do. I could find me in just about all the people we are told about. The most significant thing I learned was that they were not perfect people. I did not know that Abraham lied about his wife being his sister so he wouldn’t get killed. I did not know that David committed adultery, then murder to cover it up. God was telling me that He used these kinds of people – I didn’t have to be perfect for Him to love me. Those are very simple truths, but that is what I “heard” as I read through the entire Bible that first year.
The second year I kept seeing how much God loved people even when they did things that disappointed Him. I saw how He stayed with the Israelites when they disobeyed. Over and over and over. My mind kept going to how God wouldn’t leave His people even when we would have given up on them so many times! The third year, I began to see how Jesus shows up in the Old Testament. This year, I see small details in stories that are significant. I look forward to next year and going deeper into His truth!
The thing is, every other time I had tried to read the Bible, I expected great and wonderful things to be revealed – deep truths and being able to put it all together. Or I would quit reading when I read something I didn’t like or would get frustrated because I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be learning. I wanted to find peace and understand everything I read. And, I wanted to find the parts where God liked everything I did. But this time, I stopped arguing and just read… I mean listened.
I just listened. The Bible is one of the ways God talks to us and, if we’re reading and objecting to everything we’re reading, we’re not listening to Him. So that’s how you listen to God – start reading His Word (the Bible) with the understanding that you won’t understand a lot, you won’t like a lot of what you read. Read it knowing that God is good in spite of something somebody has done or said or something you hold so tightly to. If you read something and God doesn’t seem to be so good, know that there are things about Him you don’t yet understand.
If you will listen (Be still), you will know (and know I am God). After living without Him and determined not to give in to “religious nuts,” I can tell you, living life with God is beyond description. You will find joy instead of happiness, peace in all things. I didn’t believe it could happen, fought against it. But it did happen. And I want that for you!