so prosperous will your future be.
"Ask the former generations
and find out what their fathers learned,
for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.
Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?
Job 8:7-10 (New International Version)
When I was in school as a child, and later as a teenager, I thought of history as such a bore. Sure, sometimes the teachers made some of the stories sound interesting. I still recall the stories of the travails of Magellan's crew and how they had to resort to eating shipboard rats and even their shoes because they were so hungry. Mostly it was just names and dates that suffered a disconnect with my brain. To me it didn't seem to matter where we all had come from and what meaning it had for any of us in the present time.
After I started college I began to appreciate history. Piecing together the series of historical events and understanding timelines put the important dates into perspective. Relationships of the important people to time and place and events made me realize that studying history was in some ways like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. As the pieces were put into place, the bigger picture became clearer and easier to comprehend.
Likewise, when I would try to read the Bible in my younger days I was often perplexed by what I was reading. First of all I was challenged by the King James Version, which was the translation that was generally available. Then there were the lists of names and begats; and there were the detailed processes of rituals and other instructions given to Biblical characters. Why was all this information important? What did it all mean to a modern day reader? Then came many new translations that helped me to overcome that first barrier of language.
However even with the more lucid translations, much of the Bible seemed like so much confusing detail to me. Why were all the names so important? I had heard many of the interesting stories that we so commonly hear as children: Noah and the ark, Moses leading the captives out of Egypt, David and Goliath,
Jonah and the "whale" and the many other classics. Yet when I'd attempt to read the Bible from start to finish I would get bogged down in lists and numbers and seemingly peculiar details. I'd get frustrated. Perhaps it was because I was taking the wrong approach.
The Bible is many things. It is a book of law and wisdom. There is inspiration and prayers of reflection and praise. Much of the Bible is a book of history told not only as stories, but also as historical records much like what you'd find in your local courthouse. These records are relevant because they put times, people, and places in perspective so that the studious reader can start reconstructing this history and filling in the missing pieces. As you begin to absorb these details through repeated readings more new aspects come into focus and you begin to understand more about the Book.
The passage from Job which is quoted above suggests that we come into this world knowing nothing and we will grow as we learn more and more. However, our learning curve will be exponentially greater if we learn from history. Building upon the foundations of the knowledge that came before us will make us able to progress to new learning and to avoid making the same mistakes that those who came before us made. One of the resources that we have at our disposal is the Bible.
John W. Ritenbaugh says the following about Job 8:8 :
In effect, Bildad is telling Job, "Look back into history. The ancients were wise and had many experiences that can help you. If you would just study the wisdom of the past, you would find answers to your situation." He is basically correct. The ancients of which he spoke lived for hundreds of years—they had a lot of time to learn the lessons of life. They probably passed a lot of wisdom on to their descendants. "Job," he says, "all you have to do is to mine the past, and you'll solve your dilemma."
The Bible is the ultimate desert island book, far more useful than any Harry Potter book, self-help book, literary classic, or any other book of philosophy, science, or whatever you want to come up with. Every reading of the Bible will provide new insight, encouragement, and wisdom. When you've even learned to love the names and rituals, you will be on your way to a fuller understanding of the Bible.
Why is the Bible an important book about history? It is important because it tells us where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. It is the history of the people who were chosen by God. It is a history of sin and its consequences. It is the history of God's love for us. It is the history of God. It is His Story.
So you say you've read the Bible and it just doesn't make sense to you? Then read it again. You say it's boring? Read it again with reverence and a sincere desire to learn from it. If you approach the Bible to find fault with it, to prove that it's wrong, or to ridicule it, you may appear to be successful, but you will also be wrong and will have gained nothing. Learning everything about the Bible would take more than a life time. Learning about God will take an eternity. The Bible is the guidebook that will show you the path to eternity with God.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (King James Version)