Reading the Bible is hard work that requires a lifetime of sustained, disciplined, prayerful effort. Scripture has to be read over and over and over again, through seasons of plenty and scarcity, through times of pain and pleasure, and through periods of spiritual vitality and in dark spiritual vacuums.
You can’t merely read a passage and ask, “What does this mean to me?” Neither can you reduce Scripture down to its various components of literary format, archaeological evidence and authorial intention. And you can’t proof-text Scripture and pull out an array of unrelated sentences to support your own point of view.
You must live with and in Scripture for extended periods of time and wrestle with its big questions of meaning and mystery. Let’s face it – you’re a human being. You will misread Scripture, you will misinterpret its meaning, and you will misuse the words of the Bible for your own gain. It’s going to happen, and there’s not much you can do to prevent it.
But you can keep going. Keep reading – never be content with what you think you know. Scripture can take care of itself, and God’s self-identity isn’t threatened by your failure to understand.
The words of Scripture aren’t magical, and understanding Scripture isn’t about solving a riddle, cracking a code or unearthing some hidden meaning that only a privileged few can discern. But taking the time to examine the text – and allowing the text to examine you – will ultimately bear fruit in your life and in the Kingdom of God.