Over the last couple of years I have been reading the bible as I would a novel. Just reading chapter after chapter, starting from Genesis and finishing in Revelation. Which means I get to see the bigger picture and that helps me as an “N” in Myers Briggs. It has been rather enjoyable and I have noticed different things each time I read the bible.
But what I have found, is that every time I get to Jeremiah, I get stuck.
Stuck in the mud with Jeremiah.
I often feel like reading the bible should be like leaping through a meadow, or swirling around like Maria in The sound of Music. I should be a Gazelle in bible reading. But in certain books, like Jeremiah, I feel like I am wading through mud face down. Its hard reading! It’s heavy.
I mean the Spirit is the one helping us read the bible and revealing our wonderful saviour to us – so reading the bible shouldn’t be hard, right?. Often I can feel so guilty when I find it hard. Like if I get to a bit of scripture and think, “this is really hard and glum” I feel like a failure.
Have you ever felt like that? Have you felt like you aren’t reading the bible right? That Jeremiah and Lamentations should be a breeze to read? But instead you bash your head against the wall.
And yet. The more I think about this, the more I realise that it shouldn’t be easy and unemotional to read.
The bible is full of emotional, hard stories! Twists and turns, wars with defeats and victories. Hero’s rising up and leading a nation. A love story between a prostitute and a gracious King.
And so when we come to bits we find hard it is because it is often reflecting what is happening in the story. I think the Spirit is bringing the story alive and we cant help but feel the emotions of the story.
Think about the story of Jeremiah. Is it a happy story? I don’t think so, not for most of it. Gods people in Exile, disobeying God, not listening to the prophets but instead listening to the false prophets. Poor Jeremiah, being thrown in prison, having to say hard words to hard hearts and no one is listening. He was banging his head against the wall! So many times the Lord speaks judgement over them.
When I read Jeremiah, I often feel a sense of despair. The Lord is angry, the people are so disobedient and no one is listening to the one man who is making any sense. Head. Wall. etc. And yet also there are specks of hope and light – we yearn and cling to them!
Think about the Kings earlier in the OT… one King does great and loves the Lord… then about 10 Kings after him do evil in the sight of the Lord and ruin everything.
Doesn’t that make you yearn for the True King to appear? Someone to make it better? So we yearn and ache when reading this and we rejoice when we see a glimpse of the true king.
I have to ask myself – since when do we read Scripture in a cold manner? Thinking of it just as simple facts and bits of knowledge to learn. My understanding is, that all of scripture shows us Christ and what he is like, pointing to Him. And so when we read those hard stories, the Spirit helps us to see the depth and weight of emotion in them. Perhaps he shows us what the Lord felt at those times and what the people felt.
When Gods people turn away – how do you think the Lord feels? And how do the people feel? And the prophets?
When you read the sacrifices in Leviticus, its right for us to think – this is hard, this tough to read. Because they point to the blood of Christ, the weight of sin on his shoulders – those lambs and doves would never carry that.
When we read lamentations, should we not mourn and weep? Lamentations is about lamenting! To be sad!
I think when we read scripture lets not be afraid to weep, mourn, feel the weight of whats being said, yearn for Christ, laugh with joy, be filled with compassion or just feel like you are walking in mud.
If you feel the heaviness of what you are reading, then don’t assume you are reading it wrong, perhaps the Spirit is revealing something of Christ to you. But don’t give up, don’t be stuck in the mud with Jeremiah forever because a true redeemer, a true king, a true lover and a true rescuer is coming. Keep going!
**Photo: By TomFrost (Flickr: Creative Commons licence)