Why We Don’t Read the Bible

You wake up ten minutes later than you had hoped and it starts: “What if I’m late? What about traffic? What time are my meetings today?” You finally make it to work, but your mind is elsewhere. You remember the family member who is struggling. Or you remember the difficult problem your kid is facing at school. You make it home, and, as you turn on the evening news, you start to worry about the economy and world events. You turn the television off and decide to sleep. Your body wants to sleep, but your mind is wide awake. You feel a sense of anxiety and you don’t even know why. Does this sound familiar?

I’ve recently noticed a subtle disregard for daily Bible reading. The scenario above does not directly cause neglect of God’s Word, but it certainly contributes. Perhaps we’re tempted to see the Scriptures as irrelevant in regards to dealing with serious matters of life. I’m afraid many hear continual lies echoing Genesis 3:1, “Did God actually say . . . ?” Sure, we affirm the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy and inspiration, but our actual practice is far from our stated belief.

In this article, we will look at how the Word of God should sustain our lives. While setting the alarm a couple minutes back in the morning can give you more time in the day for Bible reading, I don’t think it addresses the main problem. I want us to look closer at the motives behind our neglect of God’s Word. We will see how God’s Word connects and speaks into every area of life (2 Pet. 1:3).

Intertextuality[1]

One reason why we may not study God’s Word as often as we should is because we don’t see how all the books link together. We might interpret the narrative of Abraham as prescriptive teaching on how not to sacrifice your son when really it is a descriptive narrative of how a future Savior is promised to come. We might look to Jonah for instruction on how to be obedient instead of seeing God promising restoration through the coming Savior.

Old Testament narratives are more than stand-alone books, and the New Testament is more than memory verses. God is revealed by His self-disclosure in the written Word. Each book is uniquely connected to help us identify God and understand something about Him, His will, and His work.

One example of the intertextuality of Scripture is Isaiah’s use of the term light to refer to Jesus, the coming Messiah. Isaiah first introduces this term when he writes, “Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isa. 2:5).[2] Later he writes, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isa. 60:1).

Both Paul and John utilize this Biblical theme. Paul makes the connection and writes, “For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you’” (Eph. 5:14). John also uses it, saying, “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Rev. 21:24).

Another example of this intertextuality is the Old Testament prophets building upon promises made before their time. We can see this in Hosea 3:4-5:

For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.

Hosea prophesies about Israel being exiled after God brings judgement on them. After their exile, Hosea states that Israel will return to seek David as their king. However, King David has been dead for a few hundred years by this time; why will they seek a dead man? In reality, Hosea is not pointing back but forward. He is speaking toward the promise God made to King David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13. This King will sit on his throne forever.

We are often easily tempted to view the Bible as a book of stories filled with morals for life application. But, as we can see from these examples, it’s much more. All of these narratives tie together to tell one story. There is a scarlet thread that runs from Genesis to Revelation revealing to us the story of redemption through Jesus Christ.

He Is There and He Speaks[3]

A second reason why we may not read Scripture as we ought to is that we forget that God’s Word is the revelation of God. As Carl F. H. Henry wrote, “Revelation is a divinely initiated activity, God’s free communication by which he alone turns his personal privacy into a deliberate disclosure of his reality.”[4] Why is this important? Ever since Eden, we have heard continual lies echoing the Serpent’s question, “Did God actually say . . . ?” (Gen. 3:1) God does speak, and He has not left His people without guidance in every area of life (2 Pet. 1:3).

God being capable of and desirous of revealing Himself through the written Word is reassuring. Furthermore, the reality that the human beings to which He addresses this revelation are capable of understanding its message brings hope. To know that human language is capable of transmitting the message of an infinite God is cause enough for us to worship Him.

We can be tempted to see revelation as simply a personal experience with God in which we can sit and experience His presence and love. Jonathan Leeman refutes this impulse, saying, “[I]magine sitting next to a friend on a couch and saying, ‘Don’t talk to me. I just want to feel your presence.’”[5] Nobody does that, and we must not treat God’s Word that way either. The Scriptures are filled with examples of God communicating with His people. We have fellowship with God through His words.

Closing Encouragement

I personally have never known a Christian who was growing in their relationship with God who was not consistently reading and applying Scripture to his or her life. It is simply a necessity for the Christian journey. Man does not live by Scripture on Sunday alone (Matt. 4:4).

Scripture is written in such a way that it fits together logically to tell one overall story of redemption. God reveals Himself freely to us in the Word. His glory is a visible representation of the invisible (Isa. 40:5). We know His nature and character better through the Word (Eph. 1:17). He also reveals His plans (2 Sam. 7:27; Amos 3:7) and the “mysteries” involved in the gospel (Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:10). This view of the Bible seems to show the truth that revelation is both personal and propositional. It’s the record of a message told in the past but also a channel that brings revelation to us now. This is why the author of Hebrews calls the Word of God “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). Reading the Scriptures may be and should be a life-changing encounter.

I get discouraged when I see Bibles left in the pew after a Sunday service. While motive-reading is not a fruit of the Spirit, I often wonder if Bible reading is neglected by the person simply forgetting his or her copy of God’s Word. Christians sometimes forget the beauty and power of the Bible. We neglect the source of light, freedom, and action that fulfills our needs.[6] After all, God “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). Scientific elements of nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen listened when He told them to “Be still!” (Mk. 4:39). Let’s not neglect the Word that became flesh, but let’s also hold fast to the hope that God gives information about Himself in order that a relationship of personal knowledge and trust may be established. God wants to establish the relationship, but He also wants to sustain our lives by His Word.

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[1] I’m indebted to a small Bible study I attend at seminary every Tuesday morning that teaches on this topic.

[2] All Scriptural quotations and references come from the New American Standard Bible.

[3] See Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2001).

[4] Carl F. H. Henry, God Revelation and Authority, vol. 2, God Who Speaks and Shows: Fifteen Theses, Part One (Waco: Word, 1976), 17.

[5] Jonathan Leeman, Reverberation: How God’s Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People (Chicago: Moody, 2011), 50.

[6] Ibid.

Author: Zach Maloney

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1 Comment

  1. Zach,

    I really enjoyed reading this article and the point you are making is so true!

    I think one of the reasons we 21st century Christians take God’s Word for granted is that it is almost “too easy” to access (i.e. most of us have it on our phones now) and we assume we will “get to it” on a break, if running late, etc. But of course that’s not how the day goes! Whereas, we used to be better about setting aside that special time with God–as we would for a meeting with special person–and keeping up with our Bibles!

    And I really like how you point out that God’s Word consists of narratives that tie together to tell One Story–THE story, of course. When we keep that in mind as we read a single devotion, and ask ourselves how this chapter relates to the Story of redemption, it means so much more..than say, well “Let’s see what happened to Paul in Acts today…”

    I also thought it was very interesting to think about the Word being “God’s free communication by which He alone turns his personal privacy into a deliberate disclosure of his reality.” You know, God did not have to reveal Himself to us at all after the Fall. That is such a cool thing you pointed out.

    What an awesome thought that He chose to do so–and in Human form, as you put it: the “Word that became flesh” and in written form as well–so that a “relationship of personal knowledge and trust may be established…” And now we are able to “SUSTAIN our lives by His Word.” The fact that the relationship is 2-way–and we can communicate back to God in prayer and worship–praying His own Word back to Him, (as it is living and active, like you mentioned), as well as bring our daily needs to Him as He invites us to do (Phil 4:6)–is simply amazing. Mostly because God clearly paved the way for this relationship–literally with His own sweat and Blood–and yet, He takes delight in us and longs for us to come to HIm. How marvelous!

    So yes, I’m in–let’s not be too casual with the Word of Life.

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