Reading vs. Studying

ReadingAs students of the Bible, we may spend much of our Bible study time digging into the details of a verse, passage, or chapter to gain a better understanding of the text.  And that’s good and necessary!  (I’m a proponent of the inductive Bible study method.)  However, simply reading through a book, especially one of the longer books, in one sitting or in a condensed period of time suddenly gives you a “big picture” view of the narrative that you might otherwise miss.  It can be an eye-opening experience filled with “aha!” moments, so don’t neglect reading in favor of picking apart verses — or vice versa.

I just finished reading through the book of Deuteronomy with the aid of The Word of Promise Audio Bible and an introduction from James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment.  Here’s a snip:

The first mention of loving God in the Bible came in Exodus 20:6, which referred to “those who love” Yahweh and keep his commandments.  But the idea of loving God is not elaborated upon until Deuteronomy.  In Leviticus, Israel is urged to obey Yahweh’s commands on the basis of his identity, the assertion “I am Yahweh” often prefacing or following his commands.  In Numbers, the God who is a consuming fire purges the wickedness of his people in the wilderness.  In Deuteronomy, Moses prepares the people to enter the land.

[Hamilton Jr., James M. (2010). God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Kindle Locations 2356-2360). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.]

We tend to think of the Law (of which Deuteronomy is a part) as being stuffy, boring, or unapproachable.  Yet it may be surprising to note that the word love occurs around 30 times in the book of Deuteronomy.  Love plays such a central role in Deuteronomy that it is no wonder that Jesus summed up the Law by quoting from Deuteronomy:

“The foremost [commandment] is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'”

–Mark 12:29-30 (quoting Deut 6:5)

In Deuteronomy, we find that God loves the children of Israel, set them apart from the nations, set them free from bondage in Egypt, and even chose to live among them!  Because God is holy, the people among whom He chose to live must also be holy — or perish.  So, out of love for His chosen people, He provided the law to teach them how to be holy.  And the people, in return, could demonstrate that they loved God by keeping His law.  It was meant to be a two-way love relationship.

Of course, this carries over into the new covenant that Jesus inaugurated and now extends to Gentiles as well as Jews (Rom 1:16) — that is, we, too, can live in a love relationship with God (1 John 4:16, 19).  He set us apart from the world (John 17:16-17).  He set us free from bondage to sin (Rom 8:2).  And He even chooses to live in us (1 Cor 6:19-20)!  And because God is holy, we are to be holy (1 Pet 1:15-16).  Out of His love for us, He now provides us with the Holy Spirit to teach us how to be holy (John 14:26) and to enable to be holy (Gal 5:16).  And we, in return, demonstrate our love for God by obeying Him (John 14:15, 21, 23).

So, what’s the point?  Read your Bible!  You’ll find it refreshing, enlightening, challenging, and exciting!

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