Why is the Bible so…random?
Is it just me?
Have you ever thought to yourself ‘why is the Bible so random’? Why is it the way it is?…yeh, me too!
The Old Testament seems to be a bunch of random stories about some seemingly questionable characters and a historic civilisation called the Israelites, and then it’s finished off with a load of crazy visions and dreams.
The New Testament starts off well with four great books about Jesus (one wasn’t enough?!) but then the rest of it is a load of random letters from Paul and others guys to some other believers whose names I can’t pronounce.
All these letters and writings seem to randomly and luckily include all of the necessities required to form a set of doctrines, although piecing them all together can sometimes feel like doing a scavenger hunt!
Why does the Bible seem so…random? If I was God and going to write my Bible, I would make it a lot more explicit and direct in terms of what I wanted to say and what I wanted my readers to read.
Ahhh…perhaps this is why!
Well in Romans 15 Paul gives us a clue as to why the Bible is the way it is;
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us…Romans 15:4
So Paul says that everything written in the past (the Old Testament scriptures) was written to teach US. ‘Us’ being Paul and the believers he is writing to but this also includes me and you as New Testament believers.
Peter alludes to something similar in his letter too;
It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the [gospel that was coming to you]1 Peter 1:12
So Peter reveals to us that when the prophets of the Old Testament predicted Christ and prophesied about the gospel, they were not serving themselves (or even the people at that time) but YOU.
So what we can say is that the Bible was not written explicitly TO us, but it was written FOR us! We are not the direct recipients, but we are the direct beneficiaries.
A fly on the wall
We are the beneficiaries because the Bible is a collection of writings of God (and his representatives) talking, walking and being with his people. If you think about the sections of the Bible you will realise that actually very little of it is directly addressed to us, but is instead an insight into God talking and dealing with others.
- The OT narratives are about God dealing with the patriarchs and the Israelites.
- The prophetic writings are about God’s reactions and response to his people.
- The gospels are accounts of what Jesus said and did.
- The NT epistles are letters from apostles to other believers
Now what I’m not saying is that we should not take the instructions and examples of the Bible directly into our lives, because we should.. But what I am saying is that in the Biblical narrative there is a greater purpose at play than just instructions and examples of how we should live.
The amazing thing is that through the Bible we get to be a fly on the wall on the conversations and interactions that God has with his people!
Essentially, because scripture is the way it is, we get to see God BE. We get to see him speak, and move, and react, and respond, and through all these different interactions we get to see the character of God! We get to see God in action.
Put it this way: how would you know if I was a loving father or not? You would not necessarily believe me if I told you I was (in fact you might think I was prideful if I did!), but you would know by SEEING me be loving towards my kids. Character is revealed through observation, and through the pages of scripture we get to observe God’s character!
A perfect example
A great example of this being played out is Paul’s letter to Philemon. This is the shortest of Paul’s letters in the Bible and at first glance it can seem a little random and purposeless. Why on earth would God see it as important to include this in the Biblical canon?
Well, this is one of the reasons why…
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.Philemon 8-9
So Paul is appealing for Philemon to show compassion and mercy for his servant, Onesimus, who has ran away. Paul, being an apostle, could pull rank and order Philemon in Christ to do what’s right…but he doesn’t. He chooses not to pull rank but appeal on the basis of love.
This short letter reveals a godly and humble character in Paul who is filled with love and authenticity. The great thing about this little letter is that we get to observe Paul in action and see his character displayed, and his character is a reflection of God’s glory. You will see in Philippians 2 that Jesus did not pull rank either, but considered ‘equality with God nothing to be grasped but made himself as a servant’.
A scenic tour
So through the pages of scripture God is constantly revealing his glorious character in awesome splendour and colour. The Biblical narrative provides us with a scenic tour of who God is and what He is like!
The Bible is like a rainbow displaying the awesome splendour of His glorious character, or God is like a peacock who fans Himself out for us all to see and gaze at!
But we are not left just gazing at His character, but it calls us forward to be like Him through the redemption of man through the gospel.
Paul describes this beautifully in 2 Corinthians;
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:18
The Bible narrative shows that God is glorious, and that He is redeeming His people to share in that glory!
That’s why the Bible is the way it is.