How many books have you read more than once? It may seem bold to ask this question, since reading books is becoming a thing of the past for many people. What with all the channels on cable TV, the Internet, video games, text messaging and other distractions, who has time to read, right?
But for those who still enjoy the feel of a tangible book, the rustle of pages turning, the smell of paper and ink, and the adventure of discovering what the author has packed inside the book, I ask again: How many books have you read more than once? (Comic books don’t count.)
Personally, I’ve enjoyed reading a few classic novels a second or even third time.
I’ve re-read George Orwell’s 1984 several times because his cautionary, dystopian tale appears to be unfolding right before our eyes, in real time. There are several books by Christian authors I’ve revisited, seeking to draw from their wells of wisdom again.
There’s one book, however, that I have read cover to cover well over a dozen times. Perhaps you can guess what it is: the Bible. If I were to begin using adjectives to describe what the Bible – the Word of God – has meant for me over the years, I’d have to consult a thesaurus to cover all the bases. Words like amazing, incredible, and life-changing can’t begin to capture the impact of the Scriptures.
Why have I read it so much? Not because I expect any divine pats on the back or “extra credit.” It’s just that as I’ve read through the Bible year after year, I’ve found it kind of like peeling an onion – remove one layer and discover there’s another layer right below it, then another, and another. I’m convinced that an entire lifetime of reading through the Scriptures could barely begin to capture its vast treasures.
There are many reasons for this. Its length is one. One Bible I regularly use for reference has nearly 1,550 pages of purely biblical text – no footnotes, and not including the compilers’ introduction, table of contents, foreword, and index. Since it consists of 39 Old Testament books and 27 in the New Testament, written by dozens of different authors, there’s a lot to read from a variety of perspectives.
In the Bible we find narratives, history, poetry, letters, personal accounts, and other forms of writing, all pointing to one central theme: Jesus Christ and God’s plan for the redemption of His creation, most notably, humankind. That’s a lot to absorb.
But there’s another reason why the Scriptures are so compelling, so intriguing that they can be read again and again and again without ever seeming stale. The secret, I believe, is found in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judged the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
The best novel, or a classic book that has endured centuries, might be fun to read again, but it will always say the same things. The Bible, however, has the uncanny capacity to speak to us differently each time we read it. That is, God through His Word can speak to us differently every time. This is because as we continue in our journey through life, we encounter the Scriptures in new ways, depending on what we’re experiencing and how we’ve changed.
An old friend, an agnostic, once told me that he regarded the Bible as “a primer, something you read once, and then you move on to something more sophisticated.” No offense intended, but I think that might be one of the most ridiculous things anyone has ever said. Because nothing is more comprehensive, profound, penetrating, and timeless as the Word of God. Its principles, principles and truths have transcended the ages and will continue doing so until Christ’s promised return.
At the same time, I have no problem acknowledging the Bible doesn’t tell us all there is to know about God. How could it? But it does tell us all we need to know about God.
I like how 2 Peter 1:3-4 expresses it: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires.”
Back in 1966, a movie came out called “Alfie,” starring Michael Caine. Its theme song asked, “What’s it all about?” This is a question that resonates with millions of people to this day. We ask things such as, “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What’s my purpose in life?” “Where do I find meaning?” The Scriptures, I can say without any reservation, answer each of these questions – and many more – if we’re only willing to give them an honest, open-minded look.
In the longest of the Psalms, the writer asks and then answers, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).
We live in a world that seems spinning out of control. I believe it’s primarily because we’ve turned our backs on our Creator, the One who has laid out for us in His Word how we should live. As the King James Version puts it, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Another translation says it a bit differently – “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” But then the verse ends, “but happy is he who keeps [God’s] law.”
As wondrous as the Bible is, the divinely inspired Word of God, it’s barely the tip of the proverbial iceberg about all that is possible to know about Him. But it definitely tells us all we need to know about Him.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.