It’s been several weeks of caution and seclusion. Our churches are livestreamed, our fellowship times are in digital halls, and our Bible studies are framed by computer or phone screens. There is a new normal that is still unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and we don’t know how long this altered existence will last.
Scripture is full of exhortations about waiting on the Lord (Is. 25:9; Ps. 37:7; Lam. 3:26), having patience (Gal. 5:22; Col. 1:11; Jm. 5:7), and God’s care in the midst of hard times (2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 36:7, 46:1, 62:8). But there is one page of the Bible that I’m finding unconventionally encouraging in these unconventional times. Unfortunately, if you use an electronic version of the Bible, you probably won’t notice it. Go grab a physical copy of the God’s Word and turn to Malachi 4. Now, turn the page.
It’s blank, isn’t it? There’s a blank page, followed by a page introducing the New Testament. That blank page represents over 400 years of silence, uncertainty, and waiting.
If you’re still holding a copy of the Bible, your left hand is holding around 1,500 years of covenant history. I say “covenant” history because the Bible is full of covenants that God makes with his people. Throughout that history, God kept his covenant to preserve and bless his people, even though his people disobeyed the covenant conditions. The Old Testament is an ongoing story of how God committed to his people, his people disobeying, God reestablishing the covenant, and sending covenant messengers (aka prophets) to remind his people of the terms of the covenant. There are robust themes of God’s faithfulness despite his people’s sin..
The holidays, for good or bad, are over. And once again you’re facing a new year. It’s full of new possibilities, new opportunities, blank pages, unwritten stories. It feels like a chance for a do-over, something many of us would gladly take when it comes to Bible reading. Because if we’re honest, we’re not so great at it.
You may have made resolutions in the past, maybe multiple years. You may have even found a partner and decided that accountability would make a difference. You got a great start, found a rhythm, and enjoyed it. And somewhere in Leviticus, or near the end of February, you stopped. Life got busy. The baby started waking up again. Work became more stressful. You got bored. What does this mean about you?
It means you’re human.
On Habits and Restarts
Though we may put it in a different category because of the power it holds, reading the bible is like other human activities, which means that at some point, we’ll fail. Unfortunately many of us have assigned this failure to keep a good habit or be consistent in a spiritual discipline a significance it doesn’t deserve. We’ve decided it means we don’t love Jesus, or that we’re a lesser-than disciple, or that we’re just not good at reading the Bible. Here’s what it really means: Life got busy. We are embodied souls. And embodied souls live with stress and changing circumstances, restarts and do-overs. And the restarts are just as important as the first starts…