You pick up your Bible in the morning, grab the ribbon coming out the bottom, and flip open the thin pages to where you last left off in 2 Thessalonians… only to find that the next section heading reads “The Man of Lawlessness.” Arghh, you groan, though not out loud of course. This isn’t going to help me with that deadline I’m so stressed out about. Your eyes slide down the page to the next heading. “Stand Firm.” There it is. That must be what I’m supposed to read today in my quiet time. You quickly read the first part of the chapter so that when you get to “the good stuff” you can really slow down and take it in.
Inspired, Living, and Powerful
Perhaps more often than we’d like, we come across passages of Scripture that seem fairly irrelevant to us. Leviticus is a prime example. But these sorts of difficult passages are all over the Bible. On a daily basis during our quiet times, we don’t know what to do with them. How can our stressed-out families meaningfully “put feet” to the stories of atrocious sin in Judges? Can the frequent “everything is meaningless” refrain of Ecclesiastes do anything to help us get through Monday morning? Is it possible for our problem-riddled small groups to edify one another with Paul’s letter to Philemon about his slave?
Especially when it comes to our daily devotions and quiet times, we naturally gravitate to the seemingly more practical sections of Scripture. This leads us to neglect other meaningful passages.
Such an approach is easy to have. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have it. But it’s obviously lacking, because “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16). We also know that the Bible is more than ink on a page aimed at relaying information. Rather, the Bible is “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). In Christ, the Word has the power to cleanse (Eph 5:26).
With that in mind, what do we do with Leviticus, the man of lawlessness, and everything in between?
The Right Questions, The Right Focus
It’s been said that Scripture doesn’t render its fruit to the lazy. So quiet time means work. When our Bible reading for the day doesn’t seem to apply to our life, we don’t give up the fight. We wrestle with the difficult texts, reading them and re-reading them. We utilize the cross-references in the margins of our Bibles to get the bigger picture. Like reporters, we ask ourselves question after question about what’s going on and what it means.
We may need to first make sure that you’re asking the right questions, though. If our main questions are centered around what facts we can learn, where we can grow, which promises to apply to our needs, and how we should change, we’re being short-sighted. Those questions are all good and necessary, but they aren’t enough. Topping our list of questions should be what the passage teaches us about God. He is, after all, the reason we read in the first place.
In fact, focusing most on God might be the fundamental paradigm shift our quiet time needs. Explanations of the ceremonial law in Leviticus might not be the most instructive passages for us if we’re struggling with a difficult boss at work, but what do those passages tell us about the God we serve? What does the imagery in Revelation reveal about the God of creation and how he sees things? Who is God revealing himself to be? Just as our relationships with people cannot grow if we ignore them when they speak, our relationship with God can only flourish through hearing his Word. This – not mere learning – is the highest goal of Bible study. We don’t consume the Bible like a Happy Meal; we commune with God through the feast of his Word.
Trust the Author
As we meet with God in Scripture, we must remember when we get to a difficult or seemingly distant text: all Scripture is God-breathed, inspired by him. He’s given it to us for a reason. Even if we can’t always articulate its implications for our daily living, we can trust that, over time, the Spirit is using it to transform us more and more into the image of its divine Author. We must have a higher view of the living Word than we do of our sin-sick intellectual capacity.
All this means that we should not view the Man of Lawlessness section of Scripture as a waste of time. Instead, we should prayerfully dive in, trying our best to understand it, but with a focus on knowing our great God more. And if, when we close our Bible, the man of lawlessness hasn’t “wrecked” us like we hoped, we can still smile and trust God’s living Word, thankful for his grace-filled promise regarding it: “It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Is 55:11).