How to Love the Whole Bible
“The heart cannot love what the mind does not know,” says Jen Wilkin. As Christians seeking to grow in our love for God, we must make it a priority to know Him deeply. We must resolve our minds to the task of learning the character of our God that we may grow in deep and sincere worship of Him.
Where do we go to acquire such knowledge? If we rely on our own intuitions, or accept the ideas of our culture, regarding who God is, we are sure to go astray. As Proverbs 14 says, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” We may construct a warm, fuzzy image to console our convicted consciences, but ultimately we’re just providing blankets to people who are flatlining. Our self-concocted views about God give temporary comfort to dying souls that need to be shocked back to life. In His unmeasurable grace, God has shown us the way to true and everlasting life. He has given us the priceless gift of self-revelation. He has shown Himself generally as creator in the world around us, and He has shown His heart and character more specifically in His Word.
The purpose of this post is to encourage you to grow in knowledge of and affection for the Lord through the deep study of His Word. Once we’ve turned there, we cannot afford to read it as though we’re cracking open a fortune cookie, hoping to discover a nugget of wisdom or encouragement for the day. I understand why we’re tempted to approach Scripture this way. The Bible is a big, ancient book with a plethora of authors and genres. It can seem lofty and intimidating. At first glance, it can seem like a collection of unrelated rules and anecdotes, and we don’t know where to start. Yet, in reality, though the Bible is made up of many books, it does have one big, overarching story (referred to as the metanarrative), and it is intentional in form and purpose from beginning to end.
If you’re anything like me, the majority of your time reading and studying the Bible has been spent in the books that feel most comfortable and relatable to your own life. Maybe you have a special place in your heart for the Psalms, or maybe (like me) you’ve mostly hunkered down in the New Testament. What we don’t realize is that neglecting the parts of scripture we’re uncomfortable with actually hinders our understanding of those verses we so dearly love. It’s not that we can’t glean anything from reading the New Testament exclusively. God’s Word is powerful. Even scratching the surface can reveal truth, provide encouragement, and convict a hardened heart. But imagine the beauty you might discover if you were to plunge the depths.
For example, consider the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4. When you read that story without background knowledge of the Old Testament, you see that Jesus is steadfast. He is faithful. He is a perfect and sinless man, unable to be foiled even by the craftiest of Satan’s schemes. These are encouraging truths about our God and Savior. But what if you came to that text with a greater understanding of the metanarrative of Scripture? You would know that the people of Israel also spent time wandering in a desert, but unlike Jesus they grumbled against God and failed to trust Him in each hardship and trial they faced. You may also recognize that when Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread at the height of His hunger in the wilderness, Jesus quoted a verse from Deuteronomy explaining why God had let the Israelites hunger in the wilderness— “to teach (them) that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). When they grew hungry in the desert, the Israelites lost faith in the God who had just split an entire sea that they might walk through on dry land to escape their enemies. They grumbled and accused God’s chosen leader of trying to starve them to death. When Jesus grew hungry in the desert, He displayed perfect trust in The Father and used Scripture to thwart the temptation of the enemy. He succeeded where Israel failed. He proved that even though humanity could not act in perfect obedience, He was more than able to do so on their behalf.
Only studying certain parts of the Bible is like focusing on one tile of a mosaic. You may notice that the tile is square and orange. You research to figure out that the exact shade is called “ginger.” You measure the sides at 1.75 inches each and note every detail you can gather from that one small space. But it is only when you step back and look at the picture as a whole that you see the true purpose of that tile— why it was given the shape and color it has, why it was placed in that exact spot and how it relates to all of the other tiles around it. You then realize that although the tile was beautiful on its own, it was meant to be a part of an even bigger and more stunning picture. And once you come to see and understand the big picture, the details of the one square, orange tile become even more meaningful and exquisite.
So let’s commit to take a look at the whole mosaic together. My hope is that after you read this post you will walk away encouraged to discover the metanarrative of scripture, that you will do the hard work of reading through the whole Bible, and that the Holy Spirit will use your time in the Word to fuel a deeper worship of our gracious, intentional and loving God.
Julia Ford is a wife and stay-at-home mom of three. Her family lives in Louisville, KY, where she takes classes at Southern Seminary.
*This article was originally posted as part 1 in a series on God’s covenants with His people throughout Scripture. Check out the rest of the series on the covenants at Julia’s blog, www.oflightandheat.com