The Bible's boring bits - Dwelling Spaces

Thursday, 15 February 2018

The Bible's boring bits

This year I am reading the Bible through in a year.  I try and do that every other year so I can keep in mind the big picture of the story of God and God's people, whilst on the alternate year I try and drill down deeper into themes or books.  Anyway, each time I read it through I of course find myself getting to the 'boring bits' that we can often just feel like skipping over. And I have to admit that I approached the start of the book of Numbers a couple of days ago with a slightly heavy heart. If you know me, then you know that I am the sort of person who finds it hard to skip past a footnote, and I want to work out the connections between things. So the book of Numbers can be a bit tricky because I find myself checking the numbers do add up and that the relationships between people match what we know from other parts of the Bible.  It makes for a lot of calculating and page turning!  However, leaving my personal quirks to one side, as I was reading Numbers 7 I was asking God: why on earth is this same list of gifts for the tabernacle just repeated over and again 12 times?! (and yes, I did check it is exactly the same!)

As the tabernacle is dedicated as the space for worshipping and meeting with God, each of the twelve tribes of Israel sends exactly the same gifts (see picture above) with their leader to be given to Moses.  But rather than saying that in a sentence, the Bible has 60 verses detailing the gifts.  And let's be honest...that is just not as gripping as a virgin birth, astonishing miracles, or the simple confirmation that God is love.

So what should we do when we are faced with a 'boring bit' of the Bible?  I think the answer is to read it with the same question in heart and mind with which we read the 'exciting bits': "Lord, what do you want to show me through what I am reading?" And as I read those 60 verses, the importance that this act had in the early life of the nation became clearer.  We are meant to dwell on the significance of the presence of God, and the worship that results, being at the heart of the peoples lives. Whilst a summary would've saved time, it would also have rushed past the 12 days of each tribe taking their turn to make their offering. I thought how wonderful that every tribe gave the same, whether the tribe was bigger or smaller, each gave exactly a twelfth of the offering.  Each tribe equal before God, named and valued, and fitting into the plan and purpose of God's intended life for God's people.  In its own way quite beautiful as a passage in its simplicity and constancy.   

I wouldn't want to read a passage like that every day, but that is the joy of the Bible, so much variety and different ways of telling this one amazing story.

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