Sometimes I don't understand the Bible

Sometimes the Bible is confusing.  

Can we admit that more often?


So much time in the Christian world is spent explaining meanings. Making points. Tying strings together. We talk and write and preach about how much we know and how much we see and how much we can learn.


I love that stuff, to be honest. In fact, I subscribe to podcasts so I can listen to more than one sermon a week. Seriously.


But can we stop pretending that we always understand? Can we be vulnerable enough to admit that sometimes we read the Bible and we don’t get it?


vulnerable approach to the bible


I don’t get Psalm 41.


I have a seminary degree. I work at a church. I have been studying the Psalms for over a year. Yet still, my response to Psalm 41 is, “Hmmm… whatchya doin’ there, God?”


It begins:


Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!
     The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble. The Lord protects them
     and keeps them alive.
 He gives them prosperity in the land
     and rescues them from their enemies. The Lord nurses them when they are sick
     and restores them to health. –Psalm 41:1-3


All I can think is, “But what about the times God doesn’t?” There are many people who have dedicated their existence to helping the poor whose lives have been difficult as a direct result of that choice.


There are things that were true for ancient Israel that are not true for us today. God made a covenant with them: He was their God and they were His people. Attached to that covenantal relationship were rules, which were connected to promises. If Israel ran itself with the grace and justice in line with God’s character, God committed to bless them in return.


So, perhaps this kind of clear correlation between action and blessing makes sense in that time. But then, what do we do with it now?


I’m not exactly sure.


Jesus asks us to help the poor, but He also tells us we will be persecuted for our faith in Him. The promise is now of God’s presence, not of God’s blessing. Surely, that presence is a wonderful thing, but sometimes I wish actions, consequences, and rewards would be a little more linear.


The Psalm then goes from a section I don’t know how to apply to a section I don’t know how to understand.


David talks of an illness he had and how his enemies gloated over him. What does that have to do with verses 1-3? I don’t see the connection.


Also included in that lament is a wish that God would make David well again, so that David could pay his enemies back.


Again, this request has an appropriateness because David is the king of God’s covenant nation. Therefore, an attack on the king is therefore an attack on God. This means there were different operating orders than Jesus’ command to us to love our enemies.


But that still leaves the question: what do we do with verses like this today?


I don’t know.


And that is okay. It is okay to read the Bible and come away with the answer, “I don’t know.”


The Bible is not a map. The Bible is not a rulebook. The Bible is a story.


It is the story of a vibrant and powerful God filled with compassion for a broken and hurting humanity. It is a story of creation and sin and commitment and rescue. Of purpose and hope ushered in with a Love made flesh. It is a beautiful and amazing and deep and true story.


I cannot expect that any verse I choose from any part of that Story will have a perfect correlation and application to my life today. That is a selfish perspective on God’s Word. These verses are part of something much grander than my individual life.


When I read the Bible, even if I find the pieces confusing or frustrating, that does not change the power of the whole.


So, my conclusion today is that I don’t understand Psalm 41. And I am okay with that.


walk through the psalmsWalk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.


Are you linking up? Grab the code for my Walk Through the Psalms button: <a href=”” target=”_blank”><img alt=”Psalms” src=”” /></a>

I wish Psalm 2 didn't come after Psalm 1

I have a confession to make: I am a lazy Bible reader. I love to research and dig into passages when I teach. But I’ve realized that when I am reading the Bible just for my own spiritual growth, I get lazy. I look for passages with easy application. I skip passages that are confusing or boring or frustrating.

I really wanted to skip the passage of today’s post. But, I was stuck. It’s a series.

You see, after the Advent Series ended, I decided I should do another series. I wanted to make another commitment to reflecting on not just my life, but on God’s Word. Not at the once-a-day, what-was-I-thinking pace of the Advent series, but at a once-a-week, pause-for-reflection pace of a new series. So, I thought a walk through the Psalms would be perfect. One Psalm a week. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.  And it started out pretty well last week with Psalm 1.

But after Psalm 1 comes Psalm 2.

Psalm 2 is about kings and rulers. Psalm 2 uses words like “trembling,” “wrath,” and “destruction.” Psalm 2 is confusing. Psalm 2 is the type of passage I might normally move past. Be lazy. Skip.

Take a moment to read it for yourself.

 1 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6 “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

7 I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. 8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. 12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Are you like me? Did you want to skip it?

Well, I couldn’t skip it this time. Since I committed (at least in my mind) to doing a series, I had to write about this Psalm, this week. And I was reminded of the disservice I do to myself, to God, and to His Word when I get lazy.

I read a few commentaries, and discovered that Psalm 2 is a messianic Psalm. It somehow, mysteriously, refers to Israel’s kings at the time it was written, Jesus when He was on earth, and Jesus when He will rule again, all at the same time. This makes my head spin. I get confused about how it all works. Which is what makes me want to skip reading this Psalm.

But what if instead of getting frustrated, I get amazed? Amazed at a God whose Word runs so deep? Amazed at a God whose truth transcends time and space?

And what if instead of trying to read every Bible passage to find out what it says about me, I look at what it says about God? If I really love Him, don’t I want to get to know Him better?

And what if I stopped valuing my own knowledge so highly? What if I admitted that it was okay that I don’t understand everything?

Psalm 2 still confuses me. But that is okay. I have my entire life to investigate it. And even then, I have my entire life to recognize that if God were not smarter than me, He would not be a God worth worshiping.

Psalm 2 is not about me. It is about my God. And if I don’t find a direct application to my life right now, that does not make a passage any less valuable. I want to read the Bible with these words in mind:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. - Romans 11:33-36