As many who know me and those who read my post regularly know, I love scripture. In more specific terms, I love my Bible, my big yellow Bible.
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I got it my first semester as a Religious Studies major and I’ve had it ever since. While I personally prefer to use the New Oxford Annotated Bible in the New Revised Standard translation, I always get a kick out of seeing the diversity of bibles and making note of which one someone chooses to carry. Even though I have a newer version of this same Bible leather bound with gilded edges to read from the pulpit when I preach, I always grab the yellow third edition for teaching bible studies. Such was the case yesterday when I was teaching the third session in a curriculum I wrote about Abraham.
Like any other time I teach nowadays, I had my digital tablet and my trusty big yellow Bible. I was ready. As we began to go through the story (by now we were at the birth of Isaac), I read each verse and proceeded to ask questions to the class. I find that when we read every line, taking time to pause and reflect, even asking critical questions, we see things we otherwise would have missed. I’ve taught enough to know that even though I pour over these texts while creating the curriculum, have studied them in great detail in my undergraduate and masters studies, and generally have read the entire Bible from cover to cover multiple times, I still find new things. So I’m aware of how true the maxim is that the Bible is the living word of God and always speaking something new to us. Yesterday was no exception.
Until about 10:30 AM yesterday morning, I probably would have told you that my favorite Bible verse was a toss up between Jesus Christ’s proclamation that the greatest commandment is “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30), and the story in Numbers where God tells Moses that the people of Israel will eat quail until it comes out of their noses for complaining about the lack of meat in the wilderness (11:19-20). I love it when God gets sassy. Despite having read Genesis more times than I care to count from studying Judaism, the Religion of Ancient Israel, and the Old Testament, I read Genesis 21:12 as if I had never read it before:
“Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you” (Genesis 21:12 NRS).
Exactly! Thank you, Lord! I felt like that should have been clear to so many a long time ago, but there is was all along for all to see plainly in scripture. So how come I, of all people especially, missed it? This is a line about my namesake. It’s hard to over look something when you’re reading your name, but I had. I hadn’t just done it once or twice. I’d be embarrassed to guess how many times I had read this passage, but somehow I had failed to digest it. It was like God was opening my eyes to something that almost feels like an inside joke between us. I’m not the most serious person and we had been joking around during my class, but this was something different. This was an intimate thing. It was as if God opened my eyes in that moment to something that I might have gone perhaps my whole life and never saw, but that day, at that moment, it caught my eye and I laughed.
That’s what really is special about scripture. That is what is sacred about God’s Holy Word. God reaches out and touches us in new, amazing ways. Sometimes I read the Bible and God comforts me. Sometimes God convicts me. Sometimes I read a story and I sit in awe about the grace of God. It never ceases to amaze me how just one fraction of a verse can make me feel as if God not only knows me, but is willing to give me the blessing of joy and laughter all at the same time. That verse was written thousands upon thousands of years before me. Yet in that moment it felt like God had placed it there just so I could laugh and share that with my fellow Christians in that room. Laugh we did. Maybe somewhere in God’s own way, God was laughing too. Like a joke that waits for the perfect comedic timing, that verse fell into my life with perfect precision. It unfolded in its due time. Can the Bible top that one liner? I have faith that it can. So I’ll keep reading with great expectations and full of anticipation. The Bible has never disappointed me yet, and by Gods grace, it never will.