Many of us suffer from “dry reading”, but there is a book out there that totally blew my mind when it came to reading the Bible. Reading the Bible often feels difficult, not enjoyable, and boring. Yet, as Christians we feel guilty about feeling this way so we press on in our un-enthusiatics attempts at establishing a daily reading discipline. We know this is what we are supposed to do yet there is no desire, no passion. This is a major reason John Piper’s ministry has been so impacting on me. Christianity was a duty, not my life, nor my passion. My faith was emotionless and dry, so was reading the Bible, and this is not Biblical Christianity.
Now, before I get hammered by those who reacted to the word “emotion”, let me state clearly that I am NOT an advocate for sensationalism nor emotions as a primary source of motivation or truth. I am a confessional Christian who loves liturgy, loves the historical confessions (Westminster Confession of Faith, Heidelberg Confession, The Beligc Confession, etc) and the creeds (The Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, etc). So give me good, grounded, intellectual faith. But!…to model ourselves after the Vulcans with the denial and suppression of emotions is to deny who God is and how he made us. To make a pop-culture reference: The movie Equilibrium built a great plot around the value of emotions (also, it is one of my favorite Christian Bale movies).
So what does this have to do with the Bible being boring? May I submit that the reason the Bible is “boring” is that because we are ignorant of it. The more I read and learn from the Holy Spirit and other scholars, old and new, the more the Bible becomes a vast treasure trove of links, connections, and depth that I could not have possible seen before. Here is a section from the book, Deep Exegesis by Peter Leithart, that I mentioned blowing me away.
“What is John 9 about? It is story about Jesus. Jesus preforms a sign, revealing himself as the one sent by the Father, as the creator of the new Adams, as the light of the world. He is the Son of Man, the eschatological judge of Daniel 7, who comes into the world to blind those who see and to give sight to the blind.
It is also a story about a blind man healed by Jesus. The blind man has never seen the light of day and spends his pathetic life begging outside the temple. One day, a man named
Jesus stops and talks with his disciples, puts some clay on the blind mans eyes, and sends him off to wash in Siloam. When he returns, he can see, but he cannot see Jesus because Jesus is gone. His neighbors and friends are befuddled but since it is a Sabbath day, they turn to the Pharisees for a legal judgment. The Pharisees interrogate the man and come to a dead end: they do not want to endorse Jesus, but they cannot deny that the man can see. They turn to his parents, but that interview too ends in frustration. When they come back to the man, they try to bully him with threats and unfounded declarations about Jesus’ sinfulness. Something is happening to the man who was once blind. He started out knowing only Jesus’ name, but when the pharisees ask him what he thinks of Jesus, he says that Jesus is a prophet. When they come back for a 2nd interrogation, he has gotten bolder, doggedly pointing to the fact that he can see and asking how a sinner could do such a thing. In his boldness, he turns ironic: “Do you want to be his disciple too?” It is the pharisees again who push him along in his commitment to Jesus: “We are disciples of Moses; you are his disciple.” Finally, they expel him from the synagogue, and as soon as he steps over the threshold Jesus is waiting outside for him. The blind man has deepening sight. He knows Jesus’ name, then confess him as prophet, then confesses he has come from God, and finally confesses him as Lord and Son of God and prostrates himself before Jesus.
Not so obviously, it is also a story of Exodus. Early in, John links Jesus with Moses (1:17), And he tells a story of Jesus preforming signs that correspond in detail with the signs preformed by Moses in Egypt. Moses turns water to blood; Jesus turns water to wine. Moses brings hail and lightening to Egypt, Jesus calms a storm. In Egypt, locust eat all the grain, but Jesus feeds the 5,000. Moses brings darkness to Egypt, while Jesus brings a blind man from darkness to light. The specific plot of John 9 also retells the story of Exodus. Jesus, the prophet greater then Moses, delivers the man from the Egypt of darkness and sends him through the waters. The man enters the wilderness of trial, temptations, and threat, where the leaders of Israel insist that this new Moses cannot be from God, but the blind man is a faithful Joshua or Caleb, who confesses Jesus with boldness in the face of the giants of the land.
Not so obviously, John 9 is also a story of Genesis…Jesus makes clay to make a man new, and reveals himself as the eternal light who’s light came into the world on the first day and who became incarnate in these last days. Jesus is also the Lord who opens the eyes of the blind man, just as Adam and Eves yes where opened at the tree.
It also a story about the pharisees, a story about Israel’s reaction to Jesus, a story about the mans parents, a story about discipleship…” (141-142)
To be sure, Leithart has some…interesting theories, but to his credit, he points out that some of his speculations may be unfounded, but are interesting to tease out. As Christians, this is ok. There is a difference between meditating on God’s Word that involves speculation, and preaching something as gospel truth. Hopefully this excerpt helps people see that what they read on the surface of the texts is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that lies underneath.
Leithart names his chapters as such :”The Text is a Husk”, “Texts are Events”, “The Text is a Joke”, “Texts are Music” etc. and just pores out knowledge and analogies that, when reading this book, I was so overwhelmed with information and feelings of ineptitude that I just wanted to go into a corner and shrivel up. But it was like a good work out; you hurt during but feel great afterwards. This book showed my that ironically, I had been reading the Bible for years but had not yet even begun to read it.
So how does one start you may ask? Try something easy. When asked how he knew what to preach on Charles Sprugeon said: “I take a text, and make a bee-line for the cross.” So let me encourage you, take a text and see how it points to Christ. Yes, there is danger of eisegesis (reading things into the text that aren’t there, i.e. inserting your own meaning) but the Bible is so Christo-centric that it is fairly easy to see where the Old Testament is pointing to Christ. Here are some examples to get started: Moses as a type of Jesus, or the Tabernacle and it’s foreshadowing of redemption and it’s picturing of Jesus. The Holy of Holies as the throne room of God and how only priests could go in, so when Christ dies and the veil was torn this was establishing believers as the royal priesthood mentioned in Peter, who all have access to the throne.
So just as the “…blind man is being healed by the the Sent One in the pool of sending, and thereby becomes one sent, a type of apostle. He is plunged into the pool “Sent” by the One Sent, immersed in the Sent One’s sending” (102) so we are sent to understand the Word. So go forth and seek! No longer may the text be boring!