Reading boring books of the bible

Here’s a good article about reading the boring parts of the bible.

To which I’d add these points of emphasis:

1. Pay attention to God – its all about God revealing himself, Not everything that happens is holy because its in the bible. People sometimes claim to be good, but they are acting on their own? So always ask ‘Has God spoken? What is God’s role? What is being revealed of his character?’

Because boredom can arise  from reading long complex bits of writing that seem irrelevant.  Focusing on God, who is unchanging, can anchor you in a sea of confronting cultural and historical distance, and start to bring it back to something relevant and shared with the writer of the passage.

2. Also use commentaries for the really weird bits, and don’t be impatient.  Slow down when sometimes you get the urge to speed up. There is often more gold in there than you first think.  I’m looking at you, Ezekiel and Daniel. Often I’ve thought something was irredeemably stupid, and a little bit of commentary makes it pretty mind boggling.

3. Say to God your feelings, no matter how ‘wrong’.  Say the thing you think God doesn’t want to hear. If you find a passage boring, repetitive, needlessly violent or bizarre, say that to God and pursue the line of thought.

Because God is real, loving, slow to anger and wants the best for me, I’ve found this braveness in talking to him has generally opened up insight and blessing.  It means you wrestle honestly with the boring bits, and they actually can come to life in surprising ways.

4. The bible is reflecting you in unpleasant ways, because much about us is unpleasant to God. Its changing you in ways that you will fight and want to hold onto.  Its aligning your mind with God’s, and the ‘boredom’ may be your sinful nature rejecting God’s grace and teaching. Sometimes I stop for a bit, or carry on in pure stubbornness, passionless. I got that way last time I read Psalms actually, which I’m going back to finish next.

5. But also, boredom is just part of life, so sometimes its just part of the deal. The bible has bona fide boring bits, it just does. Accept it, and as the article says, skim the genealogies.

I say this having just finished 1 & 2 Chronicles, which were surprisingly less boring than I expected.  I was going to read Ezekiel next, but as I say I’ve decided to divert to Psalms. Time for some pithy poetry and ambiguity! Songs for all occasions.

4 thoughts on “Reading boring books of the bible

  1. I have found your reading of chronicles very encouraging. The mix of curious digging, biblical theology and then the humble day to day reflections on the application of the core message to your daily life helps me to reflect. Loved Hezekiah’s tunnel (with picture) – sometimes faithfulness requires just boring through rock…

  2. I, too, am working my way through the Bible and decided to tackle Job for Lent, because I disliked it so much. But I’ve slowed down, as you said, and been doing lots of complementary reading, and it’s fast becoming one of my favorites – I never realized all the rich spiritual and literary nuggets it contained.

    1. Wow I love your blog, bless you for being so much more careful than me! Thanks for your comment – I had a similar change of attitude. Our church (in Australia) is privileged to have an Aboriginal pastor who saw it as an indigenous story: outside the jewish tradition, with themes of coping with the trauma of loss, which really opened it up for me – are you seeing that in it?

      1. Definitely! The first poem/soliloquy by Job was both heart-wrenchingly anguished and eloquently relatable at the same time. I’m only six chapters in, but I’d say my biggest appreciation for Job has been coming to realize what a wonderful literary composition it is, with some of the poetry on par with Psalms. Appreciating it in that way has opened up some of the larger themes for me.

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