This script takes place at the Edge [youth group] on a typical Friday night. It’s a conversation between six friends about reading the Bible. Today, there are two big questions: “First, why do you read the Bible?” And then, “How do you go about reading it?” In other words, when we are reading the Bible, what should we be looking for? Enjoy.
Reader 1: I’m telling you, we got sidetracked a few weeks ago and never dealt with the question!
Reader 2: What question?
Reader 1: Why did God give us the Bible?
Reader 3: Are you kidding me? That question? We’ve talked about that question a thousand times! Yeah, yeah, yeah — wisdom, sin, redemption, God’s story of his people. I tell you, I’m tired of this question. In fact, I want a new question, something like, “Is there ever such a thing as a just war?” Or maybe, “What would Jesus say about capital punishment?” And, “In a world of 7.88 billion people, why can’t I get a date?” THESE are the things I want to know! I already know why God gave us a Bible. It’s the story of God’s people . . . yeah, yeah, yeah.
Reader 1: No! You’re doing what we did a few weeks ago. You’re jumping to the implications without looking at the conclusion. So, let me ask the question again, “Why did God give us the Bible?”
Reader 4: Well, this may be a bit obvious, but maybe God gave us the Bible for us to read it. . . ?
Reader 5 (sarcastically): Wow. Thanks. That’s brilliant. We’re looking for a real answer here, and you come up with that! I think God gave us the Bible so that we could consider the existential questions of life vis-à-vis epistemology, metaphysics and phenomenology. You know, questions like: “Is true freedom even possible?” And, “how would you know if you were dreaming right now?” Or maybe most importantly, “What should you say when God sneezes?”
Reader 1: That’s it exactly!
Reader 5: I knew it! Everyone wants the answers to deep philosophical questions. Here’s another one for you to ponder: “If I hit you with a dictionary, is it physical or verbal abuse?”
Reader 1: No! Those questions are ridiculous! I’m talking about what reader four said! God gave us the Bible so that we would read it.
Reader 6: Read it? Are you kidding me? Who wants to read the Bible? In my opinion, the “B” in the Bible stands for boring and there are two “B’s” in the word Bible because it is not just boring, it’s boring-boring. Here, listen to this – and the Bible is filled with boring passages just like this (read it slow and boringly): “When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died. When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters and then he died.” I’d read more, but I think I’m dying………….. of boredom.
Reader 2: I hear you. And you’re right. I don’t care one whit how long Seth lived. And that’s the problem. The Bible is mostly irrelevant to my life.
Reader 3: I’m not sure I care about Seth either, but I care that the Bible says that he lived until he was 807 years old. That seems rather odd. In fact, it seems ridiculous. That can’t be literal, can it?
Reader 4: I have no idea, but it is entertaining. Dane is wicked old, and he is already falling apart – new knee, new wrist, can’t see, needs at least 5 cups of coffee each day to get by – but he is nowhere near 807 years old! Why would anyone want to live to be 807 years? Now, that’s a philosophical question!
Reader 5: Granted, there are a lot of dull passages in the Bible. But there are also a lot of good ones – passages filled with passion and fury and meaning. For instance, look at Isaiah 1: “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! ‘The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.’”
Reader 1: You’re right. It’s a great passage, but when you read it like that, it sounds like you’re auditioning for the Veggie Tale production of “Say ah, it’s Isaiah!” Have you never read a prophet before? Isaiah is furious here! Read it with some emotion! Read it with some passion! Read it like the audience just killed your dog! Now, read it again. Just saying, when I read this passage, I put so much passion into it, all the girls cry.
Reader 5: Okay, Isaiah 1 – again, but this time with passion: “Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.’”
Reader 6: Woooo, Isaiah is HOT! I don’t mean he looks hot, but he is angry hot! I like that in my prophet! A little rage. A little righteous indignation. A little “who cares what people think! I know I’m not supposed to say such things, but I’m going to say it anyway!” Oh yeah, Isaiah is smokin’ hot!
Reader 2: You want hot? Well, put on some oven mitts, because this is going to get scorching. Ezekiel 16: “‘I am filled with fury against you,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute! When you built your mounds at every street corner and made your lofty shrines in every public square, you were UNLIKE a prostitute, because you scorned payment. All prostitutes receive gifts, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you!’”
Reader 3: Well, doggie! Ezekiel has a burr under his saddle, too. And I love that insult at the end of that chapter when Ezekiel says, “Yes, your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.” Snap! Put it down and let them deal with it.
Reader 4: But emotion isn’t only in the prophets. Look at the Psalms. Every emotion imaginable is here. Pick an emotion, and I’ll find you a psalm. You want despair, here’s despair; Psalm 13: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” Reader 4 couldn’t come close to capturing the emotion of David here!
Reader 5: Whoa! That was uncalled for! And now, I feel some emotions. I feel anger. I feel bitter. In fact, I feel an existential crisis coming on! Someone give me the book of Ecclesiastes and hurry!
Reader 6: Look! If you are going to read Ecclesiastes, read it right! Read it like life is meaningless and hopeless and miserable. Read it like you’re Jean-Paul Sartre!
Reader 5: Got it! Thanks for the direction. This is for Jean-Paul: “And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.” Now, that is some dark philosophical despair!
Reader 1: But the Bible is not only dark and angry, it also offers great wisdom. Proverbs is filled with wisdom.
Reader 6: Yeah, like these two. Let me read them just like the Bible has them. I’ll read them slowly. Proverbs 26:4: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” That’s good advice. Now, the very next verse, verse 5: “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”
Reader 2: What the heck, man? They contradict each other!
Reader 3: Is your mother a Hittite? Every proverb depends on the situation. “Look before you leap” – that’s great advice if you have time, but if a bus is coming and you’re going to get pancaked, maybe that is not the proverb for you. Maybe you ought to apply, “He who hesitates is lost.”
Reader 4: I LOVE the Proverbs! They are beautiful: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” That’s great stuff.
Reader 1: There is all sorts of good stuff in the Bible. Stuff about love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” You say that on a date, and someone is going to get kissed.
Reader 5: There is also stuff about the right way to live: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Reader 6: Stuff about relationships: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Reader 2: And stuff about how we should talk to each other: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Reader 3: And then, there are all the passages about sin and salvation: “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. BUT because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Reader 4: Whoa, baby, reader 3 is smoking the salvation story; and it feels good!
Reader 5: See, the Bible is filled with all sorts of things; and if we don’t read it, we will never be able to apply all these things to our lives. In order to grow wise, we first need to READ the Bible.
Reader 6: But that is so hard, because there are so many boring parts. I want a Bible that is filled with three things: the story of salvation that reader 3 was just smoking; and I want good advice on how to live a rich and loving life; and three, I want my Bible to be filled with entertaining stories.
Reader 2: Stories with great violence in them, like the story of Ehud, the left-handed judge: “Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. After Ehud had presented the tribute, he said, ‘Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.’ The king said to his attendants, ‘Leave us!’ And they all left. Ehud then approached him and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly.”
Reader 3: That is disgusting and violent. I don’t want to hear another. . . .
Reader 2: Hey. I’m reading here! I’m reading here! “And plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, ‘He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.’ They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.”
Reader 4: True, that is entertainment, but not exactly the kind I was hoping for. See, I was hoping for some romance. Like this from the Song of Songs: “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing. Each has its twin; not one of them is alone. Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. Your neck is like the tower of David, built with stone, on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors.” And that’s as far as we are going to read that passage today except to say, “Young man, keep your hands to yourself!”
Reader 5: Good call. Let’s keep things PG around here. But you’ve got to love love! But you also have to love the funny parts, too. How’s this as an unexpected twist. In Ezekiel 4, God tells Ezekiel: “ “‘Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.’ Then I said, ‘Not so, Sovereign Lord! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No impure meat has ever entered my mouth.’ ‘Very well,’ he said, ‘I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.’” That’s right, cow dung saved the day!
Reader 1: If we had the time, I could regale you with one funny story from the Bible after another, but there’s more to the Bible than just the entertaining parts. But here’s the real kicker: when we don’t read these stories, we diminish ourselves. God gave us the Bible so that we would read it. And by reading it, we grow wise.
Reader 6: Well, I would be open to reading the Bible regularly if we only had to read the entertaining parts.
Reader 2: No, it has to be more than that. It has to mean something to me. I need to discover things that will help me grow as a Christ follower and as a person.
Reader 3: I agree. I would be more than willing to read the parts that are entertaining and those that lead to some discovery, but I also want it to make sense. People living to 807 years old, swords stuck in bellies, baking bread over cow dung. . . . These stories just don’t do it for me. I need to know what all this means, which means I need to know the genre. I need to know what type of literature this is so that I can read it correctly.
Reader 4: I would agree with all of that; but for me, I am looking for the Bible to engage my heart and soul. It needs to speak to me and about me. I want the text to be my friend and my enemy! I need it to confront me about my sin, my faith, my behavior and my desires.
Reader 5: And don’t forget, the end goal here is for us to grow wise, so when I read the Bible, I want to grow wise so that I can live in the real world in a way that honors my commitment to God in our world today.
Reader 6: Hey guys, do you see what I see? We want to read the Bible to be ENTERTAINED, to DISCOVER things about God and us, and sin and salvation; to identify the proper GENRE, and we want to read the Bible so that it ENGAGES us–so that it speaks to us and about us. And then we want to use all of that to grow WISE.
Reader 2: Yeah, so?
Reader 3: I see it! Or should I say, because it is so ENTERTAINING, I DISCOVERED the GENRE and allowed the Bible to ENGAGE me and make me WISE, and I learned all of this at the EDGE.
Reader 4: EDGEWISE! It’s an acrostic for EDGEWISE! When you read the Bible, you want to be EDGEWISE.
Reader 5: Wait a second. I wanted to ask this earlier, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Is edgewise a real word?
Reader 1: Of course, it is a real word! Was your mother a Hittite? It means “sideways” or “barely.” Is it a real word? Are you a real person?
Reader 5: Okay, it’s a real word. Sorry. So, following EDGEWISE, you start by asking: “What is entertaining in this passage?” What is amusing or disturbing or fun or outrageous? And maybe we start by looking for a great turn of a phrase or a fantastic metaphor. In any case, we start by asking: What is entertaining in this passage?
Reader 1: You also want to ask: “What can you discover in this passage?” What can we learn about God, about us, about sin, about salvation? What jumps off the page at us and screams, “you need to think about this”? What can you discover in this passage?
Reader 2: You also want to ask: “What is the Genre?” Is it Law? Is it wisdom? Is it a prophetic warning? Is it a miracle story? Is it a promise? Is it a parable? What is it? What type of literature is it? What is the genre?
Reader 3: You also want to ask, “Where does the text engage us?” Where is it speaking directly to us? Where is it speaking about us? Are we the good guys here or are we the bad guys? Where does the text engage us?
Reader 4: And we want to ask, “What should I take away from this passage so that I can grow wise?” We want to learn from the Biblical account so that we can live out what the Bible says in our day and in our own way. How can I apply this text and grow wise?
Reader 5: It is as simple as EDGEWISE.
Reader 6: You’re right. It is simple, unless your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite!
Reader 1: Okay, we’ve gone on way too long. So, let’s end with a couple of our favorite Bible verses.
Reader 2: Here’s mine and there is no second choice: Isaiah 5:11 – “Woe to those who rise early in the morning.” The word of the Lord!
Reader 3: Mine is similar. It’s from Proverbs 27:14: “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.” Yes and Yes!
Reader 4: And to those who hated this blog, a great Bible curse. From Deuteronomy 28:27: “May the Lord afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, scabs and an itch for which you will find no cure.”
Reader 5: Snap, crackle and pop! And all God’s people said:
Reader 6: Amen and amen!
(© 2023, “Reading the Bible Edgewise” by Dane Lewis, River’s Edge Community Church)