Troublesome Topic: Why Are Parts of the Bible So Hard to Understand?

Lesson 1 of 10

Besides the obvious challenges of the Bible being written in languages we do not understand, in a culture we do not understand, at a time in history we can only read about, there are some deeper reasons why the Bible is hard to understand. In the end, it is a good thing.

 There are good reasons God does not give us a massive, all-night download of information the day we choose to accept His offer of salvation and begin to live for Him. God wants His children to dig, to work at learning new truths from His word. The more we are in His word, and the more we work at understanding it, the more we will learn His truth. Five minutes a day is not enough to saturate our minds with God’s word, especially in a world in which our minds are saturated with so many messages that are contradictory to God’s word.

I was a bit surprised to realize that the book of Revelation is very Jewish even though it was sent first to the Gentile believers of seven regions of Asia Minor. There is no Greek thought process in it; the examples are from Jewish history, the word-pictures are Jewish, and the way the teaching is presented is Jewish. It makes perfect sense because Jesus was a Jew and He was communicating through a vision to John, who was also a Jew. No attempt was made to couch things in ways that the Gentiles would more easily understand. Rather the Gentiles were expected to learn Jewish word pictures and Jewish history. Paul took more effort to connect with the Gentiles than anyone else, but even he expected the Gentile believers to learn Jewish history in order to understand the way God had worked in the past.

However, there are two aspects to learning God’s truth.

The second aspect is expressed by Henry Blackaby, in his excellent book, Experiencing God. There he says that spiritual truth is revealed, not discovered. This does not contradict what I say above, rather it shows another aspect of truth, the other side of the coin, if you will. When you are reading your Bible and something jumps off the page, hits in the face, grabs you by the throat, or turns on the faucets inside your eyes, that is God revealing truth to you. You did not research it and put all the pieces together; God simply chose to show you something you would not have found otherwise. When God does that, it will be exactly what you need at that moment in time. The word serendipity is a good expression of this experience.

So there are times when we are expected to study, do research, and put in the hard work, and there are other times when God will reveal things to us that He knows we need for that moment. We cannot say, “God’s truth is revealed, so I don’t have to study;” no, both methods are needed. I am convinced that, when we put in a healthy amount of time and effort in learning God’s truth, He will reveal additional truths to us. Rarely will He reveal many truths to the one who is unwilling to exert effort into studying God’s word. Tiny effort will bring tiny results. So do your due diligence and be ready to praise God for his serendipities.

On the internet there are a great number of videos of preachers preaching and teachers teaching about the Bible. This is good, but it is also a problem because some people dedicate quite a bit of time listening to others talk about the Bible but very little time reading (or listening to) the Bible for themselves. This concerns me. Our first priority should be to read God’s word. What other people, such as I, think about it should be secondary at best. This is one of the reasons I offer you a translation and paraphrase side by side. I want you to see what the biblical text says and then see what I think it means to us today. We cannot jump right to what it means to us. We should ask, “What did this mean to the people of that day?” and then ask, “How does this apply to me?” Of course I want you to read the topical studies on this website, but even more I want you to be in God’s word, either through my translation and paraphrase, or through some other translation or paraphrase. Whatever you do, be sure to be digging in God’s word every day.

The next lesson is: God Gave Us a Mural Not a Snapshot.