In Genesis 13:17 God said to Abraham: Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
For Christians today, the Holy Bible, the Word of God, is our heritage. Have we walked through the length of it and the breadth of it and learned the contours and characteristics of it? Do we know where to find the fountains of living water and the places of refuge from the storms of life?
We don’t need to read a lot of other books to understand the Bible; we need to read the Bible.
Other books may help us understand the cultural background and political circumstances in which books of the Bible were written. They can help us understand the meaning of the original words. However, let us beware lest these books lead us to read something into the words of the Bible that is not really there. We may read plausible expositions of obscure Bible passages, but the multiplicity of conflicting interpretations indicates that the writers are just expounding the fancies of their own imagination.
Beware an imaginative approach to the Bible.
In Genesis 4, verses 4 and 5 we are told that: the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. One Bible story book shows the smoke of Abel’s sacrifice rising straight up to heaven and the smoke of Cain’s sacrifice hugging the ground. I suspect that this comes from the fertile imagination of Ellen G. White. Many people believe it because they saw it in a Bible story book.
As we read through the Bible , we find that in every other instance where God accepted someone’s sacrifice, He showed His acceptance by sending the fire to consume the sacrifice. This is true of Manoah, Moses, Solomon, Elijah and others. Thus it is more reasonable to believe that He did the same with Abel’s sacrifice, and that there was no smoke at all from Cain’s sacrifice, because there was no fire. An even more compelling reason to believe this is the death of Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire before the Lord.
The Bible explains itself
The writers of the books of the Bible were inspired to use much figurative language. As we read the Bible, we find two things: first, each book of the Bible uses these figures in a way that is consistent with all the other books of the Bible; and secondly, there will be an explanation somewhere in the Bible of the meaning of the figure.
For instance, Revelation 17:15 tells us: And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. Thus we can understand that in figurative uses of waters or sea, the Bible is meaning the multitude of people who do not know God, who are unstable and changeable as the waves of the sea.
We cannot learn to understand the Bible by playing hopscotch over its surface.
Reading passages of the Bible without understanding the context does not lead to understanding. How can we understand the words and ministry of Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea if we do not understand that the entire ministries of all four of these prophets were directed toward the apostate worship in the northern kingdom of Israel, and not against Judah and Jerusalem, which they regarded as the true people of God? Elisha once told the king of Israel: As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee (2 Kings 3:14).
We live at a time when we can obtain a Bible with no difficulty. Has that cheapened it in our eyes? There are no shortcuts to walking through the length and breadth of it. That is the work of a lifetime. More than the work of a lifetime; we will never arrive at a full understanding of the depths and heights of the Word of God. That should surely not be an excuse to be satisfied with fleeting and perfunctory glimpses of the wonders of the Word.