Two of my favorite illustrations of reading Scripture comes from NT Wright. He says to imagine Scripture as a symphony, that you don’t go just to hear the first few notes of Beethoven’s 5th just for the conductor to turn around and say, “OK, that’s it for this week, next week come back and we’ll play the next few notes.” No, you go to hear the whole thing, to experience the whole thing, to be caught up in it and to have it move you. Just because you won’t remember every note of the symphony doesn’t mean you still won’t get something out of it.
The second illustration Wright uses is that of a small window that looks out into a larger landscape. If you step back and look through the window you’ll only see a very small bit of land outside. But if you were to press your face up against the glass and look out you’d be able to see the wider landscape. True, not all of it, but you’d have a wider perspective. Too often we read Scripture stepped back from it, so we only see this little narrow bit of whatever we’re reading, but we should keep in mind the whole. The way this illustration works is that when we read Scripture we should keep in mind we’re really reading the entire Old Testament or entire New Testament through the window of the little passage we’re reading – we should intentionally press our faces up against this Scripture window to really see what all else it lets us see.
I love those illustrations & try to take them to heart. One of the things I’m privileged to do quite often because I work in ministry full time is to have quiet study time in which I can read large chunks of Scripture, and I realize not everyone has that privilege. But at the same time if Scripture is truly important to us we need to make time to read it, experience it, & let it speak to us. There are many people who come in to talk to me & tell me that sitting down & reading just doesn’t work for them – they fall asleep, they can’t remember at all what they just read, they’re up late with kids so they fall asleep late & get up late, etc. I empathize (I’m there too), and write this post to tell you sitting down & reading for three hours isn’t the only way!
- Audio Bible
Why not turn on an audio Bible while you’re driving, doing dishes, making dinner? Bible Gateway has several free Bibles that can be played, and one’s you can purchase are only a Google search away. It’s pricey, but I personally like The Bible Experience because it tries to put you in the actual places Scripture is talking about and is read by professional actors. Yes, you may not hear everything or remember everything, but you will more than you realize.
- Chronological Bibles
Prefer reading stories or narratives? There are several Bibles out there that combine different books & passages to make it flow chronologically, meaning in order, to make it more of a story that flows. For example, in a chronological Bible the Gospels are all combined into one narrative with references that tell you where the stories are from. It also takes the history of Israel & the prophets & puts them in order. While you may not be able to study chapter & verse references as well, you’ll be able to see the story unfold better & that may help you digest & remember it more.
- Study Bibles
For many people, not remembering is because they can’t apply what they just read. There are study Bibles, book pamphlets, & study guides out there about each book & chapter that ask you questions about what you just read that you can answer. That way as you’re reading you know you’ll have to remember, plus it makes you remember the material from a different perspective. If you can’t find or can’t afford a study Bible or something similar, call your preacher (or me!) and we’ll be happy to provide you with some.
Bible study doesn’t have to be a chore, though it is a responsibility. God I believe wants us to know Him through His word, and nowadays we have a plethora of ways in which we can engage with the Bible. If something isn’t working for you, try something else! And God be praised for making us each a little different in how we learn. Grace to you.