Did you ever notice that God is a gardener? The Garden of Eden, which He created, was His choice of where to place Adam and Eve. Therefore, can we be far off base if we conclude that those who garden are close to God’s heart?
As I’m sure most of you know, I’ve been a Frederick Buechner fan for years. I’ve read almost everything he wrote. The other day I came across his practical suggestions for reading the Bible.
1. Don’t start at the beginning and try to plow your way straight through to the end. At least not without help. If you do, you’re almost sure to bog down somewhere around the twenty-fifth chapter of Exodus. Concentrate on the high points first. There is much to reward you in the valley too, but at the outset keep to the upper elevations. There are quite a few.
There is the vivid, eyewitness account of the reign of King David, for instance (2 Samuel plus the first two chapters of 1 Kings), especially the remarkable chapters that deal with his last years when the crimes and blunders of his youth have begun to catch up with him. Or the Joseph stories (Genesis 39-50). Or the book of Job.
Or the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Or the seventh chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, which states as lucidly as it has ever been stated the basic moral dilemma of humankind and then leads into the eighth chapter, which contains the classic expression of Christianity’s basic hope.
2. The air in such upper altitudes is apt to be clearer and brighter than elsewhere, but if you nevertheless find yourself getting lost along the way, try a good bible commentary which gives the date and historical background of each book, explains the special circumstances which it was written to meet, and verse by verse tries to illumine the meaning of the difficult sections. Even when the meaning seems perfectly clear, a commentary can greatly enrich your understanding. The Book of Jonah, for instance – only two or three pages long and the one genuine comedy in the Old Testament – takes on added significance when you discover its importance in advancing the idea that God’s love is extended not just to the children of Israel but to all humankind.
3. Try some English version you’ve never tried before – the New English, the New International Version, or the Message (John Wilson’s personal favorite). The trouble with the King James is that it’s too full of Familiar Quotations. The trouble with Familiar Quotations is that they are so familiar you don’t hear them. The Bible was originally written in everyday language and was meant to be easily understood. The King James Version was translated into the everyday language of 1611. However, our everyday English has changed to such an extent that it’s almost impossible to understand portions of the King James now.
4. If somebody claims that you have to take the Bible literally word for word, or not at all, ask him or her if you have to take John the Baptist literally when he calls Jesus the Lamb of God. If somebody claims that no rational person can take a book seriously which assumes that the world was created in six days and humanity in an afternoon, ask him if he can take Shakespeare seriously whose scientific knowledge would have sent a third-grader into peals of laughter.
5. Finally this. If you look at a window, you see fly-specks, dust, the crack where Junior’s Frisbee hit it. If you look through a window, you see the world beyond.
Yes. How we need to know God’s heart. That’s the core of our faith and why we have and study the Bible: because the Scriptures reveal God’s heart to us. Happy reading!
Rev. Wilson writes a weekly reflection for everyone to read. If you would like to receive these message via email, sign up for our email list.