Near the end of 1997, at the tender age of 26, I wrote my first Deacon’s corner article in my church’s monthly newsletter. I was just sifting through old files on my laptop, and came across it. I ask you, what is more fun than plagiarizing yourself?
My Boring Bible Story
circa November 1997
This morning, chapter seven of Numbers happened to be part of my devotional reading plan. It is a favorite of mine, because I learned a great lesson from it a couple years ago when I listened to it in my car for the first time. Unlike a book, one cannot skim a passage when listening to the Bible-on-cassette. There I was, trying to keep a disciplined focus on the words coming through my speakers as I cruised down the highway, when God ‘enlightened’ me. You see, Numbers 7 is perhaps the most boring chapter in the entire Bible.
No kidding. Read it if you doubt my sincerity. Though several of the genealogies certainly deserve recognition, Numbers 7 is unique in that it repeats the same detailed description of an offering twelve times, once for each tribe of Israel. Six verses per offering, seventy-two verses in all, with each six verses the same as the six before, with the exception of the name of the man making the offering.
What is the meaning of this passage? I have no idea. However, I do know the significance of it in my own life, and I believe that it can prove significant in your life as well.
In Romans 12:2, we learn that we are transformed through the renewing of our minds. This perspective on our sanctification speaks to the depravity from which God lifts us when he redeems us. Our very thoughts are perverse. The framework by which we view the world is skewed. Upon salvation, by God’s grace, we finally see the truth for what it is. Our blinded eyes are made to see. Yet, as we live our lives, we quickly realize we still have very poor vision, for though God saves definitively, he works out that salvation in our lives over time.
As a result, we often view and judge the world around us in a way contrary to God’s word. In our minds, we think hatefully of others and sometimes even of God. We do not always value what he values, and we often value that which he hates. Our very thoughts, the categories by which we view our world, our judgments, all must be transformed.
Essential to that transformation is the Bible, which records the very words of God. These words bring life, teaching us of our God and his creation. We must make these words our thoughts. We must, as someone once said, think God’s thoughts after him.
Inherent in this needed transformation is a requirement: in all things we must submit to God’s word. We must value it as he values it and order our lives and thoughts around it. We cannot use our preexisting categories and framework of thought to dictate how we view the Bible. To do so would be equivalent to standing in judgment over the scripture. Rather, the Bible must judge us and our notions.
So, how does this need for transformation tie into Numbers chapter 7? I believe II Timothy 3:16 serves as a bridge when it says that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” That bold statement tells us exactly how God judges the Bible in its entirety. As I suffered through Numbers 7 in the car, however, I realized that I often judged scripture in an entirely different way.
No, I never claimed that parts of God’s word were obsolete, or that it taught a schizophrenic view of God in which he used to be mean and hateful but decided more recently to become loving. But I regularly, habitually, as a life-long practice, focused my Bible reading on those portions of the scripture which I considered interesting and relevant.
Think of the implications of such a practice! Suppose God would see fit to use a particular passage to transform me in some particular way. Now suppose that I had determined (using some distorted, unsanctified thought process) that the particular passage in question was boring and of no use to me. I would thereby judge scripture, rather than allowing it to judge me. Now suppose that the particular passage I didn’t want to bother with was actually one fourth to two thirds of the Bible…
Numbers 7 challenged me to submit to God and his word, for he has declared that Numbers 7 is “God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” I find the passage boring… so what! Should I therefore ‘passively’ judge its value by ignoring and avoiding it? What about the countless other passages which are less than scintillating, difficult to understand, or seemingly pointless? Are my emotions a trustworthy guide, or perhaps are they too in need of transformation?
Hopefully, the above questions will seem rhetorical to you. When any part of us, whether emotions or intellect, disagrees with God, we are wrong. God has judged all of his scripture to be profitable to us, and I know of no one at <church> that would verbally disagree. Yet in my own life, whether by neglect or preference, I often see myself disagreeing in practice with God’s view.
So the next time you find yourself wondering why God is wasting your time with a particularly boring or seemingly pointless passage, flip over to Numbers 7 and get really bored. And then humbly submit to God, trusting him to use that which is seemingly pointless to sharpen you in your faith.