There’s a lot of weird stuff in the Bible.
There are things one can’t explain, events that disturb, and stories that leave the reader with far more questions than answers. So how are we to make sense of all the odd and embarrassing stuff we encounter in the Bible, and then what are we to do with it?
The first thing – and this might seem terribly obvious – is to remember that the Bible was written to a particular people, at a particular time, for a particular reason. Every biblical writer had a specific audience in his mind and no biblical writer was, knowingly, writing for ‘the ages’.
Another way to say it might be this: The Bible was not written to me. The Bible is not all about me. And it is not the Bible’s primary duty to avail itself to me and my personal sensibilities and expectations.
No, it is the reader of God’s word who must avail herself to the context which produced the content of the Bible. Why? Because that is the context God chose! These are the people he inspired to “write these things down” so that his intentions; his will; his good purposes for heaven and earth might be made known.
Christians believe that the Bible is God-breathed and human-written. But we sometimes forget that those God selected to write down his epic salvation story lived in the Near East and the Meditteranean between 2000 BC and 1AD.
And so, if I want to find the meaning of a certain text, the starting place is, unexpectedly, a healthy dose of humility. The biblical worldview is ‘other’ than mine, yes, but it is never lesser, more backward, or more ‘weird’ than my own. The Bible’s context is simply not my native tongue, it’s not the water I swim in, and I have much to learn.
In a way, every biblical writer offers us a seat at his kitchen table. It would be disrespectful to sit down to a home-cooked meal, before a table laden with good and carefully prepared local food, and eat only what looked familiar to me – or worse!- to bring my own food from home and ask where the microwave is!
You guys, the entire Bible is a divine feast. There is so much rich food on the table, all so carefully prepared by God and the biblical writers, that the kitchen table is sagging under the weight! Are you feasting?
The feast God offers is for our own nourishment, true, but it is also for us to share with others who are hungry. But if we’re scared of the weird-looking fruit, or the strange-to-us methods of the local cooking, then we’ll miss out on both.
For the last year or so I’ve challenged those I teach to belly up to the kitchen table of the biblical writers and, humbly and thankfully, immerse themselves in a worldview that is rather more ‘other’ than they ever thought. It’s been a joy to watch them taste, feast, and generously share with their neighbors.
I wish that for each one of you today.
Shalom to you and yours,