Delighting in Scripture
I’m sitting here typing with my Bible right next to me. It’s a beautiful, marbled mahogany calfskin Bible with hand-stitched binding and a perfect type set. Not only is it gorgeous, but it’s also thick — 1,516 pages. And not only is it thick, it’s also old (not my actual Bible, but the words it contains are ancient). So while the cover and design of my current reading Bible draw me in, there are still times when I’m intimidated by Scripture’s sheer size and scope.
It seems like it’ll take forever to get through it (I like my tasks done quickly and efficiently!)
If I do get into it, will I understand it or just get caught up in my lack of knowledge about ancient cultures and contexts?
Let’s face it; the Bible can be intimidating to approach, so we often put it off until another time. And if we do muster up the discipline to open it regularly, we might get lost or bogged down.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Reading Scripture can actually be one of the most joyful and life-giving practices in our lives, if we can see past the number of pages or the age of the text and begin to slowly and surely sink into all that it has to say to us.
Consider the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:
I rejoice in following your statutes (Scriptures) as one rejoices in great riches. - v. 14
I delight in your decrees (Scriptures) - v. 16
…strengthen me according to your word (Scriptures) - v. 28
Scripture can be a source of joy, delight, and strength if we can only learn how to get into it consistently. Here are three ways to consider:
If you enjoy taking things in slowly and thinking deeply, one approach to reading Scripture that may work for you is called Lectio Divina. It’s an ancient form of Bible reading that involves a patterned way of meditating on Scripture. Lectio Divina is made up of four basic movements:
Read: Choose a short passage or verse and read it through several times.
Meditate: Reflect on the meaning and significance of the passage for your life.
Pray: Talk to God about the passage.
Contemplate: Take a moment to sit in silence and allow the Spirit to speak back to you.
Lectio Divina moves us from seeing the practice of Scripture reading as gaining information to seeing it as engaging in a conversation with God.
Were you great at cramming tests in high school because you can digest content and lock it in (at least until the test is done)? If so, memorization may come easy to you and be a great source of life in your reading of Scripture.
Try choosing a verse — maybe an inspirational statement from the New Testament or a verse in the Psalms — then read it over a few times to let its meaning sink into your heart and mind. Then break the verse down into small chunks and repeat silently or aloud (aloud works best but may disturb your roomies). It takes about seven repetitions to get one phrase or chunk memorized. Then add the next chunk and keep going.
Pro tip: Once you’ve memorized a verse, go back to it often or you’ll lose it. Memorization is great for Scriptural promises and praise, which you can recite on a daily basis to stay encouraged and keep your eyes fixed on the truth of God’s word.
You may be the type who thrives on content and variety. I am. Maybe you’ve set out to read the entire Bible before, but you get to Numbers 15 and lose steam. I get it. Been there.
One thing you may not know about Scripture is that it’s not technically one book, but it’s a library of spiritual writings compiled together to form one coherent story. So one way to approach this library is to read it in sections. There are actually six natural sections in the Bible that make up this library:
The Pentateuch: Genesis - Deuteronomy
The History: Joshua - Esther
Wisdom: Job - Song of Songs
The Prophets: Isaiah - Malachi
The Gospels: Matthew - Acts
The Letters: Romans - Revelation
Make a plan to read a chapter or two from each section on a daily basis. (I read 1-2 chapters from each section, each day, which takes about 30 minutes, and can read the Bible through in about six months with plenty of skip days built in.) Or read a chapter from one section on Monday, another section on Tuesday, another on Wednesday, etc. The variety may keep you more engaged than simply plowing through difficult sections of Scripture. If you try this, you’ll find yourself moving through Scripture at a pace that keeps you interested, and you’ll begin to see connections across the library of writings that bring the entire story of Scripture together. It’s brilliant!
Choose one of these practices, stick with it for a month, and see what you think. And keep in mind, the ultimate goal of the practice of Scripture reading is not so much to gain knowledge (though that will happen) but to engage the Author. The Spirit inspired and wrote these ancient texts, and we get to take them into our lives in order to relate with Him more deeply. There’s the delight!