I’ve gone to church my entire life, so all things Christian have always been a part of my existence. I go to church, I know lots of hymns, I know stuff about most of the stories in the bible, I read my bible most days. But reading my bible is far too often just something I do in the mornings and figuratively cross off my list and go on with my day. The legalism runs deep in me.
I’m reading Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book and, just a few chapters in, it’s changing the way I read scripture.
Peterson calls us to take the scripture into ourselves; to chew it, digest it. That’s not what I’m in the habit of doing.
In 2012, I started on a three-year plan for reading through the bible. I should have finished this past December. I’m currently in 1st Timothy- a dozen more books ahead of me. Some of that is due to laziness and getting behind and stopping altogether for a while. But now I’m ignoring the (already long past) deadline and trying to “Eat” the scriptures most days.
One thing I’m trying out (and I believe Peterson will talk about in later chapters) is to read multiple versions of the same verses. Most of the people in my circle are hard-core ESV fans. It’s not my go-to bible. The bible I reach for is the same one I’ve used since high school. It’s the NASB, and I like both the language it uses and the actual bible itself, as it has good-sized margins for note-taking. When my mom died, my dad gave me one of her bibles, a New Living Translation that I thought was weird. But I like having one of hers. There are a few things underlined and I like to think about what she was thinking or feeling or experiencing when she underlined them.
Earlier this week, I was reading John 1:16-17 and I studied four different versions of the same two verses.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
English Standard Version (ESV)
16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
New Living Translation (NLT)
16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.
The Message (MSG)
16-18 We all live off his generous bounty,
gift after gift after gift.
We got the basics from Moses,
and then this exuberant giving and receiving,
This endless knowing and understanding—
all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.
No one has ever seen God,
not so much as a glimpse.
This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,
who exists at the very heart of the Father,
has made him plain as day.
I’m familiar with these verses, which is a blessing and a curse of being a lifelong Christian. A curse, because really amazing things (like GOD’S WORD) become “commonplace” and lose their awesomeness. Which is why reading all these different versions was so eye-opening for me.
Grace upon grace. Good stuff. Stuff I’ve heard and sung and will hang on my reading room walls. Stuff I “know” pretty well.
One gracious blessing after another. The same idea, just a bit different, and already piquing my interest even more.
Gift after gift after gift. Generous bounty. Exuberant giving.
I loved that language. I loved seeing familiar scripture in a new way.
There’s nothing profound here. I haven’t stumbled upon something that no one else has discovered or experienced. But I’ve felt the freshness of God and His word in such a way that I’m excited to read it again and excited to share it with you.