Studying the Bible can be tricky. Sitting in my office in the United States in 21st century can cause all kinds of distractions as I try to hear the voice of God speaking through the word of God. I can't tell you the number of times I have gone down a rabbit trail of my own curiosity only to end up shaking myself back into reality saying, "IT'S NOT ABOUT THAT!"
This sort of distraction is fueled by the fact that most people live in cultures that are very different than the ones in the Bibles with very different definitions as to what constitutes good history and literature and a plethora of other cultural values that cause us to bump on countless portions of the Bible.
One of the classic issues like this comes from the book of Jonah. The amount of time I have spent thinking about and talking about the issue of whether or not God could make a fish with a mouth so big and stomach acid so weak and a buoyancy so high that... Seriously. You can see the fascination. The story is such a sensational tale.
But the story of Jonah is not about whether or not God could create a fish with just the right physical attributes that it could sustain human life. It is about things that are far more important. It's about getting mad at God when God forgives our enemies. It is about the way that a prophet of the Lord ignores God in a crisis while heathen sailors pray in the middle of a storm. It's about the mysterious ways that God calls us to live our lives more as questions than as answers.
But what if it was one of those sea-dwelling dinosaurs? Could it be something... stop it! It's not about that!
The word of God is seeking to change our hearts. It is seeking to transform us as the Spirit uses its words to call us into deeper levels of surrender. And if I'm honest, when I head down one of those fascinating rabbit trails of distraction, I am usually headed away from the path of personal transformation. Most of the time, I am walking down a path that does not lead to me being called to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
The challenge for Christians as we read the scriptures is to take a posture where we are not so much reading the Bible as we are allowing it to read us. Where we are not looking so much at interpreting it as we are about it interpreting us.
Or to go even deeper... through our interpretation of scripture we allow it to interpret us. There is a mysticism to engaging with the word of God that, when we get it right, allows us to transcend the rabbit trails and read with our heart.
Its the same mystical perspective that allows us to stop in the middle of one of those rabbit trails and say, "It's not about that!"
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