I’ve heard the claim that the Bible is the largest selling book in the world, and it is also the least read book in the world. I can imagine this might have some validity. If this is more than an urban legend, how can we be stimulated to read the Bible more?
I guess this also begs the question, why read the Bible? I’ve heard the argument that you go to church and hear the Bible plenty. That should be enough, right?
I guess such a cursory experience with the Scripture would be adequate if the book was merely a collection of wise or ok or decent sayings and stories. Things to ponder perhaps that might help you be a better person if you had such an inclination and need. It’s just a book to help you be a good person, isn’t it?
That could be the problem. If it was just a collection of human wisdom culled throughout the ages, then just about any book would do, and I suppose usually does for a lot of folk. You could use any text, say from Confucius in the ancient world to “I’m OK, You’re OK,” from the 1970s. Why resort to a ponderous book like the Bible?
First the Bible doesn’t claim to be the culmination of man’s wisdom gathered on his evolutionary journey from caveman to “ascended being.” If read from cover to cover it makes a unique claim that the God who created all things has been intimately engaged with His creation from the beginning. So much so that He became man, walked among us, was rejected by us and killed by us. And with His overcoming that ultimate sacrifice gave mankind a way to return to fellowship. It is that fellowship that is at the root of the Bible. First the enjoyment of it, then its loss, then its recovery. There isn’t another book like it.
But is that enough to compel us to read the Bible? Recall an early time getting to know that special person, boyfriend, girlfriend, those glorious days of romance and discovery, where every waking thought was of that person, you were giddy at the though of your next meeting. Love letters left on each others car windshields of school lockers were treasured to read over and over again, weighing the meaning of every thought and word.
The Word of God is like that, at least from His perspective. Somehow we don’t quite treat His word with the same contemplative ardor. Though shouldn’t we? Isn’t it the same? How about:
Psa 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
Psa 40:8 I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”
Psa 104:33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
Psa 104:34 Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.
There is a delight in that relationship that constrains us to ponder His grace and mercy towards us. And why wouldn’t we be so enamored with the one who gave us His life for our own just because He loved us. Why wouldn’t we read and reread how He came to save us and call us to His blessing. Such a love letter has never been known, as that which He wrote to us.
How else but in such a frame of mind of joy and peace should we regard the word of our beloved Lord. How difficult is it to put yourself in a mood to consider the person He is and the things He’s done if we care little for those things in the first place, if our heart is less than fully engaged with Him? If we are little thrilled with His grace how much like work and drudgery it is to pick up a Bible and read about Him, especially when there are so many wonderful diversions of this world that keep us occupied, right?
True, after a brutal day at work when all the soul is seemingly sucked out of you that when you get home you can barely concentrate to read the paper, eat dinner, talk with your spouse, pet the cat, watch TV. But actually, taking the effort to pick up the Word, using a current version of Scripture that speaks the language of today, you just may find that even for a few minutes of dwelling on the thoughts and acts of God you may find a little rest for your weary soul. Psa 94:19 When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. His Word has a way of refreshing the exhausted, and you may agree with the Psalmist: Psa 119:92 If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction. And you might find yourself spending more time than you expected in His company.
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]