Putting The Bible Puzzle-Pieces In Place

Once upon a time, I was a child. 😀 Not startling news, since we all were. But I remember as a child, then as a teen, being told that I should read the Bible every day. I tried for a little while and was actually quite surprised at how interesting Genesis was. And the beginning of Exodus. It bogged down in the middle chapters of that book, then came Leviticus. Need I say more?

I was in college when I actually had to read the Bible through for a class. We were quizzed over it every day without fail. Still, there were passages that … you might say, I didn’t stay awake well as I was trying to dash through them late at night, nor did I exactly pass those quizzes with flying colors. 😕

Fortunately, after college I became a teacher in a Christian school where I was required to teach a Bible class. Fortunately, I say, because I had a principal who laid it on the line–how could we teach the Bible if we ourselves weren’t reading the Bible? It made sense to me.

A fellow teacher told me she read the Bible through each year and had been doing that for ten or so years. I was impressed. She gave me the schedule–three chapters a day during the week and five on Saturday and on Sunday.

I started out, convinced I should do this, equipped with a method to do this. As before, I was pleasantly surprised by stories about creation, the fall, the flood, Abraham and God’s promise of a son, all the way through to Joseph and his forgiveness of his brothers. Exodus followed suit for the most part, but then came Leviticus. It was still there, like a roadblock, bringing my resolve and good intentions to a halt.

Slowly I pushed through, but one thing became clear: I was no longer on the path to finish the Bible in a year.

This scenario repeated itself a time or two before I realized that reading the Bible through in a year was not mandatory. I could go at my own pace. No one was holding a gun to my head. If it took me a year and a half, two years, so be it.

Suddenly I wasn’t feeling quite so beholden to a method.

Not long afterward, I also came to the decision that I didn’t have to read the hard passages–starting with Leviticus. What a burden came off my shoulders. Genesis, most of Exodus, parts of Numbers, all but the begats in Deuteronomy … that became my pattern.

I can’t even tell you when it began to change. I know I fell in love with Deuteronomy. Yes, Deuteronomy. And I even stopped skipping the begats. Eventually I started looking for ways of understanding the hard parts. How was Leviticus organized, what benefit or protection did all the laws give the Israelites, that sort of thing. Before I realized it, I had begun to study the hard parts, and gradually they stopped seeming like they actually were hard.

Why do I detail this process? Yesterday in “The Bible Puzzle” I made a case for looking at the entire Bible, without any missing pieces, so that we can see the entire picture.

And picture it is–God’s word-picture showing us His character, His plan for us and the world, His work. But it is a picture that is layered and it’s not presented entirely in sequential order. Poetry is interspersed with history, letters are bumping up against prophecy. And then there are the begats, not to mention the laws and the sacrifices and the feast days and the parts of the tabernacle and the order of marching in the wilderness and ….

Quite honestly, a jigsaw puzzle is an apropos comparison, but so is putting a jigsaw puzzle together, at least how my family worked puzzles when I was growing up. We first started by finding the edges, especially the corner pieces. Once we had the edges fit together, we had a frame for the picture. Then we could start gathering similar colors.

The point is, we started with the easiest part first and gradually worked our way through to the harder sections–the field of grain or the solid blue sky. But by then, the part of the puzzle we were working on was much smaller and we could concentrate on shapes, since the colors were so similar. In the end, unless we’d lost a piece, we always finished our puzzles.

To complete the analogy, a Christian’s goal should be to complete the picture God has given us. He wants us to see how all the pieces fit together. But it’s not a bad thing to start with the edges. It’s not shameful to wait to do the sky last. In the grand scheme of things, it is much more important for us to start and to make progress toward the goal of understanding God’s revelation than it is to declare it too hard or boring or irrelevant, and stick with the favorite parts we think we can solve even without the edge being in place.

Anyone might be able to put together the snow cap, but does it fit into the picture as part of the mountain or part of the reflection of the mountain? If all you have are parts of a puzzle then you have a distorted picture, not a complete one. So too with the Bible.

But we may take some time getting all the pieces in place, and that’s OK.

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 Comments

  1. Excellent post. Thanks.

    I also love Deuteronomy.

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    • Thanks for the feedback, Sally. Deuteronomy is a great book, but as so often happens to me, as soon as I declare a certain book, passage, or verse my “favorite,” another one shoulders its way into my heart. I’m not good with “life verses” either. My life doesn’t change all that much, but perhaps my understanding of it does, so the verses inevitably change too.

      Becky

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  2. Becky, this post is so easy to relate to our lives! Although I have read through the Bible in a year, using a method that takes three different sections a day, I didn’t like it. It felt as though I was galloping past important things I needed to learn and didn’t want to forget. I didn’t want to become anesthetized to the truths there, either, by giving them so little time. The genealogical information has helped me to make connections and explained some important things, such as Esau’s relationship to Edom, where the Ammonites originated, the significance of Joseph’s slavery to Ishmaelites, and the remarkable genealogy of Jesus’s half-humanity, born in the direct Kingly line, but with people in the line who qualified only by faith! The brilliance that God demonstrated here is amazing, giving, in one account, the lineage of his mother, and, just for the naysayers of His time on earth, the lineage of His earthly father, in another, BOTH as 100% genuine Kingly line as possible!

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    • Peggy, I’m familiar with the read-through-in-a-year method that takes you to different sections of scripture, and I don’t care for it either. I really like immersing in a passage. But that’s the thing–not everyone is the same. Getting tied down to a method instead of freed up to enjoy the Bible is a red flag. I stumbled along for too long before learning that method is not the end game.

      And yes, I’ve become a fan of genealogies, though I never would have believed it back in those days when I was skipping them to “get to the good stuff.” 😆

      Becky

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  3. Yes, picking out the parts of the Bible that we like isn’t going to give us the complete picture but I’m also not convinced that reading Leviticus is necessary to fully understanding God’s Word. It provides a bit of context and should be read once but it’s never going to be a favourite of mine. I first read through Leviticus in Year 5 (granted it was the Good News translation) and found it to be a terrible bore. I’ve returned to the book numerous times since then, reading from a variety of translations and I still find it to be a real challenge and not the rewarding kind either. Glad some people find value in it though.

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  4. Christian, I still struggle with some books of the Bible, as you’ll notice by checking out some posts in the archives, such as “My Least Favorite Book of the Bible” or “What’s With The Song of Solomon?” The thing is, I finally have accepted the fact that God has included the hard books, like Leviticus, for a reason, and if it’s there, then I’ll be the poorer if I don’t make the attempt.

    A couple things. To be honest, I sometimes have trouble with Psalms. The various songs seem redundant and focused on things I don’t relate to. I have had trouble with Proverbs too–so much to do, more than I can remember, so when I close my Bible, I feel more overwhelmed than inspired.

    The hard passages or the passages that are hard for me at a particular time are still part of the Bible, still part of God’s counsel and His revelation. The best thing I’ve discovered is asking God what it’s all about, telling Him I don’t understand.

    I began to approach Leviticus in a simple way–what were all these sacrifices God ordained, and how did they differ from one another? It’s not a “devotive” question, but a factual one, yet it focused my attention and helped me understand God’s relationship with His people and their disobedience to Him in a way I’d never seen before. Then I started uncovering some gems–like this one from Lev. 2: “Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Nothing profound there, except that Jesus called us believers “salt.” Is there, perhaps, something I can learn by taking Christ’s metaphor and considering it in light of the use of salt in the OT sacrifices? I think so.

    All this is the long way of saying, Leviticus enriches the New Testament because this is the framework from which a scholar like Paul wrote and in which those listening to Peter on Pentecost understood their relationship with God.

    So yes, context, but context is everything. 😀

    I hope you give it another try sometime.

    Becky

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