It is astonishing the number of Christians who believe that much of what is written in the Bible is either 1) completely arbitrary, part of God's "good" ideas about being "nice" or 2) so far beyond us that all we can do is shrug our shoulders and say, "God's ways are higher than our ways."
But I guess that depends upon how you understand the Bible. What, exactly, is this book that we have?
It could be that this book is just a handbook, all the laws of living compiled here in one place as a handy reference for all that we think about doing. In the same way as a new employee takes home the company handbook, so Christians take home their Bibles and discover in their pages the way they are expected to dress, behave, and produce for the God who now runs their lives like the most efficient of all CEOs.
It could be that this book is just a mystery, meant just to throw us off our pedestal every now and again and remind us just how little we know and understand about this world. Every time we open its pages, we are supposed to see something we don't understand, discover a God who is so far beyond our imagination that we can't even fathom Him, and return once again to our small story lives that have now been put in their place - the temporary, fallen world - while God has been put in His - in the highest heavens, just out of reach of man.
It could be that this book is just a history, a chronicle written by men as they struggled to figure out who their God even was and to figure out how to live "nicely" together. It's the best wisdom we have come across, even in the places where it may not seem like wisdom at all, and it gives us the voices of the same kinds of men just like us who had the same kinds of questions and came up with the same kinds of ideas about God that we're now talking about.
At its best, it could be a family history, a book that tells us why we do things the way we do them or suggests the best way for going about it. You know, the way your mom tells you stories about the stories her mom told her about the stories that her mom told her about why her mom said you should always keep potatoes in the corner of the cellar, third shelf up. Or the way you somehow come into know this one family recipe that's been passed down for seven generations. Maybe that's what this Bible is - a family story that tells us how to live the way our ancestors lived and helps us to learn from their wisdom.
All of these are common ways of looking at the Bible and approaching its word, but none of them requires much of an investment in what it says. And none of them gets close to what the Bible itself tells us that it is.
It is the revelation of God.
When we talk about the Bible being a revelation, we are talking about two things. We are talking, of course, about it being revealed by God for man, given through divine inspiration, passed down from the very breath of God into the hands of men. And that's the way that we commonly talk about it.
But we're also talking about the Bible revealing God. And that's the understanding that most of us in modern Christianity have lost. That's the understanding we have to get back.
It goes back to what we were talking about yesterday, how each of the commandments and indeed, the laws, reveals something about the character of God. Every page, every chapter, every word of this Book is designed to reveal something about God that enables us to see Him, to know Him, to recognize Him in the world around us a little bit better. It tells us His heart. It tells us His character. It tells us His plan. It tells us His story. And of this, we can be sure, because the Bible culminates not with anything fantastic we have done, not with our story, but with Jesus's story and all of the amazing things He's up to.
This is God's story. He's the main character. And for some reason, we're missing that. For some reason, this is the only book we ever pick up and do not expect to read the continuing saga of its hero. For some reason, this is the only book we pick up and turn our eyes away from the main character. It's like reading Oliver Twist to get a sense of historical England or reading The Lord of the Rings to develop a theory about fine jewelry. We would laugh at ourselves for even attempting such a thing, but it's what we are doing to our Bibles all the time - reading them for every reason under the sun except for the revelation of God contained therein.
Imagine how it would change our lives, our faith, our hope, even our love, if we stopped that. If we took the Bible at its word and believed that every page was there to tell us something about God we didn't know before. If it wasn't arbitrary, but was, in fact, revelation, just as it tells us it is.