I’m slowly working my way through Living By The Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard Hendricks and his son, William. The book, originally published in 1991, had a second revised edition released in 2007. The purpose of the book is to help people learn good Bible study methods; learning to “observe, interpret, and apply Scripture.”
What’s slowing me down is the accompanying workbook that was released ten years later and also revised in 2007. It has 75 exercises corresponding to the 48 chapters of the book.
Twenty-two of those exercises deal with how to read the Bible. The authors want you to look at Scripture with different eyes. This can be very difficult, especially when it deals with a passage you’ve read or heard hundreds of times. But I’m surprised at the results and have seen how changing your perspective and preconceived notions brings new life to the familiar.
Today’s exercise was titled, “Reading Imaginatively” and dealt with Daniel 6, the lion’s den. Talk about a familiar passage! But Hendricks wants you to read it as if you were Daniel. Put yourself in his place.
It’s especially difficult because it’s easy to forget that Daniel was a man like us, with an ego, with fears and insecurities.
I kept thinking, “I’d react this way, but Daniel wouldn’t act like that – he was a MAN OF GOD.” Time for a reality check.
Suddenly, a thought popped in my mind, “What if Daniel had been a pragmatist?”
Earlier in the day I was introduced to the term. Pragmatism tells us that “truth is determined by the consequences.” In other words, if you get results, it’s good. If you don’t get results, it’s bad. Truth, however, is not determined by results, but by the absolute standard of God’s Word.
So, Daniel’s a pragmatist. His thoughts would run something like this: “Okay, here I am in this awesome position of power, a governor, one of only three. This new law only lasts thirty days. What’s the big deal? I’ll hold off worshiping God for a month and it will be okay. What a waste it would be for me to be killed! Think of all I can accomplish for God’s people. After all, God put me here for a reason, I’m sure He wouldn’t mind. I mean, it’s not like King Darius expects to me worship a golden statue or anything… ”
That was a brand new perspective for me. Of course, Daniel didn’t take the easy way out, but “prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” (Dan. 6:10) But reading imaginatively gave me a new insight into the passage and into understanding human nature and philosophy.
Try it some time as you read Scripture. Put yourself in their place. Imagine what it had may have been like to live in that time or place. What could they have been thinking or feeling?
Take time to read Scripture differently. Read different translations or paraphrases. Read it somewhere new. Read about Jesus walking on the water at the lakefront. Act it out. You may be surprised at the observations the Holy Spirit will bring to mind.
- Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks, Living By The Book Workbook (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007), 9.
- Tim Challies, “An Introduction to Pragmatism.” Challies. February 3, 2004, http://www.challies.com/articles/an-introduction-to-pragmatism.