When You Don’t Understand the Bible

I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a lot of crazy stuff in the Bible. It is out there. Like, far out there. Wild and confusing things fill the pages of Bible.

And just when I start to think that I know what’s going on, that’s when I come across a passage or book that is way over my head.

But that is okay, and I daresay, a good thing. It’s okay—good even—to be blown away and bewildered by the things that fill the Bible. It’s what we’re talking about on Penprints today (if the title of the post didn’t tell you that already).

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Let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about a few different types of literature in the Bible.

Historical Narrative

This kind of stuff is simple for the most part, once you come to grips with just how depraved humanity is,

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just how holy and righteous and sovereign God is and everything that goes along with that,

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and the literally mind-blowing miracles and such that God does all the time.

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(Why, yes, I did just use two gifs in the middle of a sentence about human depravity and God’s holiness, but it’s just one of those I-don’t-even-care-because-this-is-how-it-is posts.)

Prophecy

Some of the prophecies in the Bible are just… wut.

I have a fairly vivid, expansive imagination due to all the sci-fi, fantasy, and biblical accounts I’ve been exposed to my entire life (thank you, parentals), and I’ve been introduced to theories about prophetic passages my entire life as well (thank you again, parentals). But on first glance, I just don’t know what to make of a lamb standing as though it’s been slain with seven horns and seven eyes.

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actual footage of me trying to talk about prophecy

And that bit imagery is straightforward compared to some of the other pictures painted with prophecy in the Bible.

Poetry

 

So there’s poetry.

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And then there’s ancient Hebrew poetry.

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And then there’s Holy Spirit-inspired, ancient Hebrew poetry.

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Oh, and sometimes the Holy Spirit-inspired, ancient Hebrew poetry is also poetic prophecy.

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So there’s that.

Epistles

Let’s not forget these bad boys. They’re rarely as simple as all the flowery shareables online make them out to be. My goodness, no.

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The epistles read so beautifully, but it’s crazy how quickly you can come to realize that you actually don’t know what all the lovely words mean. Like, a third heaven? What? What does it meant to be “caught up” to this third heaven? And what about the other two heavens?

The point of all this is to say that it is natural to be confused by verses, passages, themes, and whole books of the Bible.

Please don’t get disheartened by what’s confounding. Don’t give up on trying to know God because of the mental strain required to grasp/reconcile the confusing things.

Don’t buy into the lies that you’re not smart enough to understand because you’re “just not cut out for it” or that you’re less spiritual because you don’t understand or that you will never understand, because they are all just that—lies.

As far as your intellect goes, understanding the Bible is not about being smart enough or having the right sort of mind for it. The Bible is richer and deeper than you or I can imagine, but God has not made it inaccessible. He didn’t write it for a select few. Maybe you’re a genius. Maybe you’re more like me. Regardless, you don’t understand parts of the Bible not because you’re “just not cut out for it”; you don’t understand parts of the Bible because the Holy Spirit hasn’t illuminated them to you yet.

(Sidenote: God is far more glorified in making the simple wise than he is in smart people figuring something out on their own.)

When it comes to being more or less spiritual, well, I don’t believe that is a biblical measure (because don’t forget that demons are spiritual). The measure isn’t in being more or less anything than anyone else. The measure is godliness. Christlikeness. In your core, expressed in your words and actions—not in what you do or do not understand.

And you can understand. Just because something’s baffling right now doesn’t mean that it always will be. Be proactive. Take steps to understand what you don’t understand.

  • Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and help you. Don’t rely on only your mind and human resources.
  • Don’t skip the first suggestion.
  • Get a good commentary (no matter what you may have heard or think about the recent happenings at Moody Bible Institute, the Moody Bible Commentary is an excellent, trustworthy resource to have on your shelf if you’re looking for a whole-Bible commentary).
  • Get a study Bible (the ESV study Bible seems to have solid notes, as does the MacArthur study Bible. Don’t skip research when buying a study Bible. Try to get an idea of who wrote the notes and if they’re trustworthy.)
  • Ask your pastors and small group leaders questions.
  • Read the difficult passage. And then read it again. And then read it again.
  • Don’t give up. Knowing God and his Word isn’t easy, so keep working at it. Keep studying. Keep learning. Don’t throw in the towel.

Friends, when God commanded us to know and keep and love and live his Word, he did not give us an impossible task.

If you’re confused by the Bible, good. Good because it means you’re thinking about a theme or passage deeply and intentionally. It means your brain didn’t drop into autopilot while you were “reading” the Bible. It means you’re invested.

Please don’t feel silly; just seek to understand.

What have been some things from the Bible you’ve grappled with? What’s been confusing? And what do you do when you don’t understand?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – a special shout-out to 2 Corinthians for being confusing to me right now and inspiring this post.

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9 thoughts on “When You Don’t Understand the Bible

  1. Actually, the third heavens is one thing I DO understand. xD It’s slang which we don’t use any more, but the first heaven is the sky, the second heaven is space, and the third heaven is… Well. Heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! I see now! I remember hearing about that in my Spanish class a few years ago when we were discussing the various uses/meanings of “cielo” (heaven”). I just never made the connection to Paul and 2 Corinthians. *headdesk* Thank you for clearing that up!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lol, somehow those Toothless gifs communicate exactly my facial expressions when ready prophecy. xD

      Yes! Hebrews can be so tricky! I think the writer was comparing Jesus to a bunch of different people/things to show that as good as all these other people/things were, Jesus is supreme, but I don’t really know. xD

      Like

  2. Pray and ask God for His wisdom, knowledge and understanding of His Word. One thing about it, if we truly want to know, He’ll show us!

    Like

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