The Bible is the all time best selling book. Nothing else comes close. It might also be the least read book. Various studies and reports have been published bemoaning the lack of biblical literacy. While a large majority of American homes own a Bible and many believe it is inspired, only a small percentage read it daily.
There are many reasons why the Bible is not read more, but one of the main reasons is that it is a difficult book to read. It is an ancient book about an ancient culture with many strange practices that seem bizarre to modern readers. It is also a very long book.
Consequently, many people just do not read it much. It doesn’t seem relevant. What does a book thousands of years old have to do with twenty-first century life? People ask these kinds of questions and find the Bible outdated and unrelated to the struggles they face. But the reality is that the Bible is relevant to life in any age because it is the Word of God. And we desperately need God’s message for life. Therefore, reading and understanding the Bible becomes crucial. Can we treat the book from God as any other book? Can we let the difficulty we find in reading it keep us from devoting ourselves to that arduous task? What’s at stake in neglecting the Bible?
Surely, the most important thing in life is knowing God. If God is real, and I believe deeply that he is, then nothing can be more important than knowing him. The only problem is that we can’t know God truly unless he reveals himself to us. Thankfully he has made himself known.
God reveals himself in two ways, first in nature, his created world, but most fully in the Bible. This is often called General Revelation (nature) and Special Revelation (the Bible). We can see this wonderful and beautiful truth in Psalm 19 as well as Romans 1:18-20; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:20-21, to name a few.
If knowing God is the most important thing in life, and God most fully makes himself known in the Bible, then it is critical that we read and understand our Bibles. It follows that as we come to know and understand our Bibles we come to know and understand God. But this is the struggle for many people who want to know God in the Bible. Try as they may, they can’t seem to understand it. It seems to be a closed book, a locked book. The truth is that the Bible is an open book, but there are certain keys that unlock its treasures for the one willing to do the hard work to obtain them. Therefore, we will provide seven keys to unlock the treasures of the Bible. This will be the first of seven articles on important keys that help us better understand the Bible and God’s plan found in the Bible.
The first key is the message of the Bible. One of the wonderful things about the Bible is its unity and diversity. The Bible is a richly diverse book. It is actually a library of books. There are 66 books in the Bible by about 40 authors written over a period of around 1500 years, yet the Bible has one overarching storyline and one overarching message God wants to communicate to the world. The Bible displays a rich diversity but also an amazing unity that reveals its divine origin.
The unity of the Bible is seen in its overarching message. The Bible fits together. All of its many and complex parts fit together beautifully. It is truly amazing that such a diverse book is so unified in its message. So, what is the overarching message of the Bible? What is the Bible trying to say to people through its many documents, authors and literary types? Jesus himself tells us the message of the Bible. The message of the Bible is the glory of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ accomplishing the plan of salvation that comes through him. We see this so clearly in Luke chapter 24. The resurrected Jesus encounters two discouraged disciples walking from Jerusalem to the small village of Emmaus on resurrection Sunday. As Jesus began to walk with them, they did not recognize him. They were discouraged because they thought Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, but he has just been crucified and put in a tomb. Jesus rebukes them for not knowing that the Messiah had to suffer first and then enter his glory. He then shows the two disciples from the whole Old Testament (“beginning at Moses and all the Prophets”) what was said about him. Jesus is the message of the Bible!
When the two disciples recognized Jesus, he vanished from their sight. They excitingly said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he spoke to us on the road, as he opened up to us the Scripture?” These disciples experienced burning hearts as Jesus opened up the Scriptures to them. Disciples today can experience the same burning hearts as they discover the message of Jesus and salvation in all the pages of the Bible.
We see similar things in many other places in the Bible, such as, Luke 24:44-49; John 5:39; Acts 28:23-24; Romans 1:1-6 and Galatians 4:4-6. If we were to we work through the Old Testament we would see Jesus and the salvation he brings time and time again. We see Jesus in messianic prophecies like Psalms 22; Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-5; 52:13-53:12; Ezekiel 34:23-24 and Micah5:2 as well as many other places. We also see Jesus in the sacrificial system of the law of Moses. He is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Old Testament is filled with the promises of the coming Messiah-Redeemer, while the New Testament is the fulfillment of his coming. The whole message of the Bible, therefore, is about Jesus and the salvation he brings.
It is important to know the central message of any book but especially the Bible. This first key is indispensable in unlocking the treasures of the Bible. Without it the rest of the keys do not hold the power they otherwise would. The Bible is about Jesus. Without understanding that one cannot grasp what God is saying in any part of holy Scripture.
Since the first key to unlock the treasures of the Bible is that the message of the Bible is Jesus, let us look for that message as we read every part of God’s word. Many passages mention Jesus specifically while many others do not. Yet we can find Jesus in some way everywhere we read. If we do that we will grasp the meaning of the Bible and like those early disciples, we will experience burning hearts.