There are probably thousands of articles on how to read the Bible. Classes and probably even degrees and dissertations have been done on this idea. I’m sure they’re all great. They might even say what I’m about to say. I don’t know, I’m not as smart as they are.
But, I just want to share one simple idea with you, give you an example and encourage you to read your Bibles. Even though I have a degree in Bible/Theology, I have a lot (a lot!) to still learn about the Bible.
I’m not writing this article to give you a silver bullet. (although, if there is a silver bullet it’s this: read it every day) Instead, I just want to come alongside you in the simplest, yet most effective way possible.
So, how are we reading the Bible wrong? I do it all the time. Much of the time, it’s not a big deal, but sometimes it can be devastating.
Are you ready for it? We can’t read the Bible through the filter of our assumptions about God. We all read with assumptions, I get that. But, if we don’t learn to recognize them, we’ll never realize how our assumptions are skewing the text. And that’s the problem.
Let me give you an example:
12 And God said, “This is the guarantee of the covenant I am making with you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all subsequent generations: 13 I will place my rainbow in the clouds, and it will become a guarantee of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 then I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures of all kinds. Never again will the waters become a flood and destroy all living things. 16 When the rainbow is in the clouds, I will notice it and remember the perpetual covenant between God and all living creatures of all kinds that are on the earth.”Genesis 9:12-16 (NET)
There is a troublesome phrase in this text: “then I will remember”. At first sight, a question come to mind: “Does God forget the promises he makes?” “And if he forgets that he made this promise, what about all the other promises he has made? What about the promises I cling to, the ones that give me hope, has he forgotten those too? If there isn’t a rainbow attached to the promise, then how is God going to remember?”
I’m sure I’m the only one to ask such ridiculous questions about promises that God makes. But, just in case you have done the same thing, receive this reassurance. You’re not alone. I’ve done/I do it too.
But, when I step back just a little bit something changes. That’s when it hits me, I’m reading this passage from the assumption of skepticism. Which, by the way, is a huge presupposition with which many Christians are reading. This assumption comes from my perspective and forces it on God who is not restricted by my limitations.
How many times have you hear: “You don’t really believe that, do you?” when it comes to the flood and the ark and Noah? What is this? Skepticism. We’re all a bunch of skeptics. I tend towards being one, though I’ve been working hard not to be. I think we think it makes us sound more intelligent, because we’re smart enough to be able to come poke holes.
But, when I read the Bible from my standpoint of skepticism, I impose my finite limitations and understanding on an infinite God. Which, is kind of backwards. That’s what leads me to all those questions. “God doesn’t remember his promises? Are you kidding me? I knew he didn’t care, and here’s the proof that he never did.”
So then, if it’s not that God forgets, what is actually happening here?
Well, we need to slow down and get into the story a little more. Imagine yourself in their shoes. You’ve just lived for months on a boat you helped build. You’ve witnessed the end of civilization. You’ve just experience rain for the first time, oh and when it rained the whole earth flooded and everyone died. And now it’s just your family starting from scratch.
What do you think would happen the next time it rained? Probably PTSD, right? Your heart would start pounding and you’d probably be filled with worry and dread.
And then it happens. A huge storm comes along, the wind is howling the thunder is rolling and the rain is pouring. You’re hunkered down in your shelter, hanging on for dear life, literally scared to death. The circumstances are so overwhelming, all you can do is fear for your life.
But, then out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of something you’ve only seen once before. A rainbow. And then you remember the promise. God’s never going to flood the whole earth again. And right there in the midst of the storm, you find a sense of peace.
Does God forget? No. But we do. And when the circumstances of the storm are so overwhelming, it can be nearly impossible to rise above the waves and remember the promise.
You see, in the midst of the storm, it’s going to FEEL LIKE God’ has forgotten. And when it feels like he’s forgotten, it’s easy to make assumptions that he did. But, how gracious and loving was it of God to create the rainbow? Think about it, when Noah and his family would likely be terrified that it’s happening again, when the circumstances would seem so overwhelming that you’re sure God was lying to you all along, then…right there in that moment…at the greatest point of despair, God gives you a rainbow. And not only do you remember the promise, but you see the promise over you.
God doesn’t forget, we do. God doesn’t forget, but sometimes from our finite vantage point it feels like he does. But he doesn’t. He remembers. He always remembers.
Next time you see a rainbow, remember that God always remembers his promises to you. See God’s promise over you, protecting you. Dwell there, safe under the rainbow.
“The promise still stands, great is his faithfulness,“Do It Again” by Elevation Worship.
I’m still in his hands, this is my confidence, He’s never failed me yet.”