How do you read the Bible? For information only, like an encyclopedia or a telephone book? Do you read the Bible simply for pleasure, to take your mind off what is going on around you, to escape into a different world, like a comic book or a novel? If you read the Bible like Jesus did…..a new world opens up! Reading the Bible for understanding helps you to engage the world we live in, to be responsive to the world we live in and to also be accountable for what we learn (which, by the way, includes reading for information as well as pleasure).
Reading God’s Word this way requires faith. Why? Because the Holy Scriptures are a “Living Word”, I believe that they are a conversation between God and us. I believe that all the answers to life (this means that all the concepts to how we should live in harmony in order to live a life of joy and fulfillment) are in the bible.
In Mark 2:23-28 below, Jesus reveals the true meaning of Scripture to the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the day). Their focus was on the rule of law rather than the heart.
Mark 2:23-28 (TNIV)
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
In the story from 1 Samuel 21:1-6, what is important to know is that Although the priests were the only ones allowed to eat this bread, God did not punish David because his need for food was more important than the priestly regulations.
I see this sometimes today in our culture. Some time ago I posted a picture on Facebook of my wife and I sharing a meal together at The Willow Tree Cafe here in Sanford. In the picture, there in front of me was a German beer. Don’t you know that someone was upset that I, a Christian Pastor, would have a beer! There is nothing in Scripture that I have ever found that says that drinking is a sin….only that drunkenness is a sin. If you know me (at least in the last 10 years or more) you will have never seen me drunk…..because that IS a sin.
We really don’t know for sure why the religious leaders of Jesus day pursued such legalistic interpretation of the Scriptures, however, what we do know is that they had forgotten God’s love and compassion. We must always be careful not to impose harsher restrictions on the Gospel than the Bible requires. When we add rules, programs and policies that make following Jesus a burden for people, we end up taking out the love and compassion that God so deeply places in the Scriptures. God’s love and His grace must always come through in dealing with people.
Matthew 11:28-30 (TNIV) (Jesus Speaking)
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”