One summer when I must have been insane, I agreed to join a small women’s Bible study given by a deaconess at the church we then attended.
“You must be insane,” the Norwegian Artist commented when I told him. “You know that you don’t play well in groups like this.”
“But it’s a small group,” I replied. “I know everyone, kind of, in an acquaintanceship-sort of way, and maybe it will be a means of making our relationships stronger.”
Six weeks, one hour per week, theoretically studying King David in 2 Samuel. I say theoretically, because from the get-go we read all of one sentence, along the lines of,
“On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men.”
“The study book says to look at this sentence closely,” the leader said. “It wants us to circle all of the names, underline any prepositions, put triangles around the adjectives, and prayerfully consider what is being said here. Each of us will take turns reading the sentence aloud.”
At this rate, 2 Samuel was going to be a long, looooonnnnng book. And six weeks started to seem like a long time.
But then, amazingly — it must have been an oversight of the Bible study guide people — we hit the part about King David wandering around on his roof and espying the already married and incontrovertibly off-limits woman Bathsheba, in a state of significant dishabille, bathing on the roof below, and when we got to the sentence,
“Then David sent messengers to her. She came to him, and he slept with her,” even the study guide couldn’t obfuscate the compelling, grittily earthy aspect of the story, although it did its best by insisting that we identify the direct object (messengers) by putting a star over it with an orange crayon.
“Was Bathsheba a willing partner in this?” one woman mused, “Or did she have no choice because the king had commanded her?”
“Did she know he was looking?” another woman countered. A lively conversation ensued, with actual animation in people’s features and voices.
None of our questions or observations were in the study guide, which was ready to move on to identifying conjunctions and compound predicates (I had no idea that grammar was so spiritual), but finally, in the third week of class, we had hit upon something interesting to talk about: real life, real people, real situations, real problems without easy answers.
And the leader desperately pulled us back to the task at hand, which had nothing to do with real life, real people, real situations, and real problems without easy answers:
“I don’t think we’re supposed to talk about this,” she said. “We need to move on to the spiritual meat of the passage.”
Back to grammar.
Was this boring? Yes. Did it need to be? No.
Is the Bible boring? Depends upon how you approach it. It’s got
everything in it that you’d find in a juicy novel — intrigue, deception, incest, adultery, murder, theft and rage interspersed with mercy, compassion, understanding, longing, loss, love, joy, and hope, and if you allow yourself to read more than one sentence per day, and not worry about analyzing every single semi-colon for its placement and purpose, you can get something out of it.
If you read it for yourself, and don’t allow others to interpret it exclusively for you, you can learn, bit by bit, more about God, because He’s on every page, somehow. And you don’t have to read everything just because it’s there: if architectural blueprints don’t excite you, detailed plans in the book of Exodus for building the tabernacle will put you to sleep.
There’s poetry, prose, lists, stories, advice, history, genealogy, letters, prophecy. Some of it’s clear, some of it isn’t, but anybody who adores Jane Austen knows that you can’t understand everything, all the time. If the answers were easy, we’d have them all by now.
Read it how you want: bunches and bunches at a time; or one significant sentence, over which you muse for days; and a fusion of the two extremes. Don’t get stuck in a rut, and always remember what the book is: our only written resource about God, by God, using human writers.
God’s not boring. But we sure have the capability of making the book about Him that way.
All of the fine artwork in my articles is by Steve Henderson, a professional painter who shows and sells his work internationally.
Find and buy Steve’s art at
Manufacturers and retailers — license Steve’s work through Art Licensing