In the message this past Sunday I mentioned that one of the strengths of Prof. Horner’s Bible Reading System is that if you are in one of the long “boring” passages of the Old Testament, all you have to do is read one chapter that day; you don’t have to trudge through four to five of those chapters in one reading.
Tyler Kenney, over at the Desiring God blog, offers some helpful hints on how to benefit from the less exciting sections of Scripture:
If you’ve ever tried reading through the Old Testament, chances are at some point you’ve found yourself bored, stuck in the middle of a genealogy or list of laws and wishing you were back in Mark. And if you didn’t fall asleep, skip the chapter, or quit entirely, you at least came away wondering why these sections are in Scripture and what they mean for us today.
The New Testament affirms that every word of the Old Testament is God-breathed and for our good (Matthew 5:17-18; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16; etc.). But how do we experience this, especially when some passages seem to be nothing more than antiquated lists of numbers, names, or laws? How do we benefit from the parts of the Bible that seem so boring?
Here are three possibilities:
1) “Boring” passages are the evidence of God’s faithfulness.
Taken individually, many details in Scripture can seem useless, like scattered stones at the bottom of the Jordan. But when we read them in context and observe how they have been drawn out and arranged on the other side of the river, we start to see them as concrete reminders of how God has been faithful to his people and promises.
What significance is it, for instance, that in the census at Sinai the tribe of Judah had a noticably larger number of men than the other tribes (Numbers 1:26-27)? For one, it shows us that God was making good on his promise to exalt Judah above his brothers (Genesis 49:8).
2) “Boring” passages equip us to understand greater spiritual realities.
By enumerating details from the past, “boring” passages introduce us to concepts by which we can understand later revelation.
Consider this: Why does the Pentateuch contain so much material that describes the old covenant and its laws? One reason is that Moses wanted to increase our anticipation and appreciation of a new covenant.
By chronicling the old covenant—one in which God’s law is external to his people, written on stone and unattainable in all its requirements—Moses sets up a contrast by which his readers can better apprehend the nature and glory of the coming covenant. In the new covenant there is still law and obedience, but the law is written on our hearts and obedience comes from within as “faith working through love” (Deuteronomy 30:6; Galatians 5:6).
3) “Boring” passages help us experience what they talk about.
At times the biblical authors illustrate or elaborate on certain details in the past in order to give their readers a felt sense of what they are describing.
For example, when listing out the instructions for how to build the tabernacle, Moses goes into great detail about all the materials and measurements. Did he intend for the reader of Exodus to actually build a tabernacle? No! That was Bezalel and Oholiab’s job (Exodus 31:1-11).
Rather, it appears that Moses included the full set of blueprints in order to convey to us, as we literally labor to read them, a greater sense of the weight and worth of God. The effect is that we feel more hopeless about attaining our own righteousness, and we marvel more at God’s mercy in still coming to dwell among feeble and failing people.
Every passage of Scripture plays its part perfectly. Sure, not all are dramatic or suspenseful or flowering with sweet promises. But God has his wise—and needed—purposes for every inspired line.