Warning, this is a heavy one…sorry! Happy Monday 🙂
I’m in the middle of reading the Bible – for the 4th time. Each time I attempt finishing this book in its entirety, I make it further than I did the previous time, but new challenges arise in actually finishing. I’ve struggled with the size of the book – it has SO many pages and chapters and the wording so small! I’ve been challenged by the wording itself until I found the version that suits me best (NIV). Even still, the difficult names of people and places continues to challenge me – especially when genealogy is given. But one of my biggest battles currently is getting through some of the stories, and that’s where I am now.
As I was finishing up the Book of Judges, I was sad but mostly mad after reading Judges 19. If you aren’t familiar, I’ll give you my interpretation. Warning, it’s graphic. A concubine (a woman who lives with a man but is not his wife – another definition says a mistress) was unfaithful to a Levite man and went back to her parents home in Bethlehem. After being there for awhile, the man went to persuade her to return to him. The women’s father welcomed him in and persuaded the Levite man to stay day after day. I got the feeling that the father didn’t want his daughter to leave with this man for whatever reason. Finally they left after the father again asked them to stay, this time stating that it was too late to leave and they could head out in the morning. As night fell, they kept traveling until they got to a city where the people were Israelites. They stopped in Gibeah, in Benjamin. They sat in the city square waiting for someone to take them in, and an old man did. While they were enjoying themselves at the mans house, wicked men of the city surrounded the house and demanded the old man bring out the Levite man so they could have sex with him. Shockingly, what happens next is even worse. The old man instead offered his virgin daughter and the concubine to the vile men saying “I will bring them out to you now and you can use them to do whatever you wish.” I was stunned and outraged as I read! How could women be so mistreated and disrespected? But even still it gets worse. The man sent just the concubine outside to these evil men. I was wracking my brain, how could these two men not protect this woman? How could they subject her to this? How could they be such cowards? This woman was raped and abused all night long and at dawn she was finally let go. As she made her way to the house her master was staying at, she fell down at the door and died. These men raped and abused her to death and it broke my heart reading it. When the Levite man opened the door the next morning, all he said to the woman was “Get up, let’s go” – but obviously she couldn’t, she was dead. So he picked her lifeless body up, put it on the donkey and set out for home. When he got there, he took a knife out and cut her into twelve pieces and sent them to the tribes of Israel. Alarming and inconceivable right? I had to stop reading after that chapter because I was fuming mad. How could this possibly be Biblical? After much thought and reflection, I realized that sadly rape and abuse is still very much a part of our world today. Innocent victims are taken advantage of daily. This is nothing new, it’s been going on forever. It’s sad today, and it was sad then. Clearly, both are ongoing and devastating problems.
This story, as tough as it was to read, wasn’t enough to make me quit reading the the Bible all together again though. As I read Judges 20, I realized that the Levite mans final act of cutting the concubine into pieces and sending her body parts to the different tribes was actually the most loving thing the man could have done for her. Tears filled my eyes as I read that all of the men of Israel rose up together saying “None of us will go home. No, not one of us will return to his house.” They came together united as one and waged a war on the Benjamites, because it was their men who were responsible for the rape and abuse and ultimate murder of this woman. Men laid down their lives to bring the Benjamites to justice in honor of this woman. My heart felt happy for her that all men together could do what two cowardly men together couldn’t.
Judges 21 was another tough one though. After taking an oath that none of them would give their daughter in marriage to a Benjamite, the Israelites mourned the loss of of one of their tribes. They later realized that the Jabesh Gilead tribe failed to assemble at Mizpah, and again under oath promised that whoever wasn’t there would be put to death. So they traveled there and killed each man and woman who wasn’t a virgin. 400 women were what was left of the tribe, and they were offered to the Benjamites telling them “Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and seize one of them to be your wife.” This again was sad treatment to women that is hard to wrap my head around. All I could think is how scary that must have been for these women.
So why did I share these glum stories on this otherwise happy Monday? I felt I needed to to encourage others who may also find reading the Bible difficult. Some of the stories are hard to relate to, some are hard to get through, but you know what? It’s not the end! We need to keep reading past the hard stuff because it’s important to know the entire story! We need to read all the information given to us in the Old Testament to fully appreciate the New Testament, when Jesus, our Lord and Savior comes into the story. We need to read and know the Old Testament to realize just how bad it was and to ultimately help us understand fully why we need our Savior so desperately! I don’t know about you, but reading that story and realizing this truth makes me all the more thankful that God sent His only Son to save us! I want to honor Jesus even more now, overwhelmed at the sacrifice He made for my sins! I hope this post makes you feel the same!
Are you also trying to read the Bible in its entirety? If so, below are some tips I’ve learned along the way that have helped me.
TIPS FOR READING THE BIBLE
- Make sure you find the right version to read! This is so important in helping you to actually understand what you are reading!
- “The Story” is not a Bible, but breaks The Bible down into story form which I found helpful. I found reading this first helped better prepare me for reading the Bible.
- “The Message” is The Bible translated into contemporary language. In my opinion it is a great starter Bible that definitely makes the content more understandable.
- Don’t feel like you have to read The Bible from beginning to end…I’ve made this mistake, 3 out of my 4 attempts! You can find a Bible plan that allows you to read from both the Old and the New Testaments at the same time, which makes reading daily so much easier. Surprisingly, the two can sometimes correlate which is really interesting!
- I highly suggest the YouBible App! Its a FREE download that allows you to choose any version of the Bible! It’s an interactive community, so you can see what other friends who have the App downloaded are reading. It allows you to highlight verses that stand out to you and even make an inspiring image with your most favorite verses! You can choose from different plans like “The One Year Bible” or a more concentrated study topic. It also has an audio option, so if you don’t like reading, you can listen! This App has been so helpful to me! I find that any time I am waiting for an appointment or in the passenger seat on a drive, I pull it out and read. I now always have my Bible with me!
- Don’t get caught up in a timeline. My friend Jen, who is one of the best examples of a Godly Woman that I know, taught me this by sharing that it took her 3 years to finish her “Read The Bible In A Year” plan. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, all that matters is that you are doing it! It’s a BIG book, and reading it in a year is a lofty goal even though a year seems like a long time to read 1 book! I am currently about 3 months behind my plan…I hope that share can help you find comfort in where you are!
- Try to read every day, but if you can’t, don’t let that stop you! God knows our hearts and understands that some days reading can be a lot to add to our plate. Simply talking to Him instead totally suffices 🙂
- Pray before opening your Bible. Pray that God will reveal Himself to you in new ways. Pray that He will help you understand what you are reading. If you are getting tired, confused or frustrated with a story or genealogy, stop for a bit and pick up where you left off later or the next day.
- Don’t make it a pressure or chore to read your Bible. You should want to read your Bible! If you aren’t finding you want to, pray for God to open your eyes and heart in new ways that refreshes you to what you are reading!
- Find a friend to read with you or who is currently reading or who has read before. It is so nice to have someone to bounce questions off of! My friend Ang and I are both reading, and though in different chapters, we had a great conversation sharing what our favorite books have been! It’s nice to have that encouragement and also that accountability!
- Bible Studies are a great way to get into The Word and gain a better understanding. A Bible Study wouldn’t be considered reading the entire Bible, but it can help you gain a deeper understanding of what you’re reading. BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) is a great one. It is a very in depth study that relies on the entire Bible to focus on 1 book at a time. This is a Worldwide study, so you will be able to find a BSF in your area! It is a great way to meet others who share in your desire to know the Lord better, as it pairs you into small groups, and promotes sharing what you’ve learned each week through the study guide and questions. Warning, this is an intense study! Expect great growth through it, but also expect to put in your work! BSF is currently enrolling for their fall study of The Gospel of John.
- Lastly, just keep reading! When difficult content arises, just remember you aren’t at the end of the story yet. We need to read all the tough stuff to understand fully why we needed our Savior to come and save us from the sins of the world!
I hope you find these tips helpful! Please share below if you have any other advice, I would love to hear what is working for you!
Be Blessed + Be A Blessing