About a week ago, I finished reading a book that was set in Biblical times. More specifically, it is a fictional representation of the life of Jacob's daughter, Dinah. Even though it is fiction, that story made me want to compare it to the real story from the Bible. The next thing I knew, I was pouring through the pages of Genesis and looking at the maps in the back of my Bible tracking the locations and directions of the people. Isn't it funny how it takes a work of fiction to peak my interest in reading God's Word? When I read the Bible before, especially the Old Testament, it seemed like just a bunch of names and rules, and it was like a chore to get myself to read through those lists. Then, every once in a while I came across one of those stories that my Sunday school teacher used to put up on a flannel board. But, there is so much more to it than that. It's all a matter of perspective. You can find stories of victories and defeat, love and loss, good and evil. There are songs, poems, letters, and parables. Those study Bibles have a concordance, maps, and notes for a good reason, so maybe we should use them.
What's interesting (but certainly not coincidental) is that the morning after I finished reading that book, I came across this devotional from Our Daily Bread. Basically, it expanded on what I had just come to realize. Like the writer of that day's devotion, I went through a process from reading out of duty to reading for enjoyment. The Bible isn't just a history book, it is a book about life with God. We can learn lessons from the people in the Bible. They may have looked different and used different customs and protocols, but their thoughts probably weren't so different from ours. They were real people with their own traits, doubts, fears, and struggles. Many of the Old Testament laws are still used to govern us. There are psalms that address joys and sorrows that modern-day Christians can relate to. The New Testament letters address issues among the first believers that churches still deal with today. And those are just a few examples of how relevant and alive God's Word is in our lives.
So, if your scripture reading feels like more of an obligation than a delight, then maybe it's time to find a way to peak your interest. There are commentaries and dictionaries available that can help with words or concepts that are hard to understand. You can use maps or look up information on the background of those times to get a better perspective of how the people lived and where they were located. Most commentaries tell you who wrote the books and the audience they were addressing at that time. Just remember that the Bible is more than just a good story, it's more than just a record of laws and prophets, it is God's Living Word to us.