Let’s admit it, there are certain parts of the Bible we skim because … well … because we think they’re boring. They’re repetitive, overly detailed, full of names and places we can’t pronounce. So why bother with them? There are many reasons—not the least of which is that even the parts of the Bible we deem to be boring are significant because they are God’s word to us. Here’s my top-10 list of the best things about the boring parts of the Bible.
After a poetic Creation and a cosmic disaster, the story of the Bible slows down in Genesis by tracing the sons of Adam and Eve’s son Seth through numerous generations. Why do we need to know this? Because God made a promise recorded in Genesis 3 about a particular descendant of Eve. The whole of the Bible is most significantly about this descendant. So, the 10th best thing about the boring parts of the Bible is:
Tracing the line of descendants from Adam and Eve forward keeps us tuned in to what is most important in the Bible’s story, or really who is most important—the promised offspring who will one day be born and will do battle with the offspring of the ancient serpent and win.
In Genesis 6-9, we witness the population of the world narrowed down to just Noah and his three sons and their families. The begats of the Bible pick up again in Genesis 10, focusing in on the descendants of just one of Noah’s sons—Shem—and finally on one descendant of Shem—Abraham—to whom God makes incredible promises. Further lists help us to trace the coming of the promised descendant through Isaac and Jacob and Judah and David until we read in Galatians 4:4, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman.” Keeping our focus on this promised One helps to keep us from making the Bible all about us instead of all about him.
The book of Exodus begins with the vivid story of a baby in a basket on the Nile River who becomes the deliverer of God’s people from their slavery in Egypt. On their way to the Promised Land, God gives Moses detailed instructions for the design of the tent they are to construct in which God will come down to dwell among them. In the detail of the design, we see gourds and open flowers woven into the fabrics, a basin made to look like a lily, lampstands made to look like trees with branches. The writer of Hebrews says the tabernacle and later the temple were “copies of true things” and “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 8:5). So for #9:
The detail of the tabernacle and temple design reminds us of Eden and fills us with anticipation for the beauty and perfection of the new heavens and new earth.
As we continue in Exodus we read exacting detail about the clothing that was to be made for the high priest who would serve in the tabernacle. It was to be holy, glorious and beautiful like God himself, which is appropriate since the priest represented God to the people. The priest also represented the people to God. He wore an ephod and a breastplate that had stones with the names of the 12 tribes on them. So when the high priest entered the Holy Place, it was as if he took the people and their concerns into the presence of God with him.
The detail of the high priest’s clothing assures us that our Great High Priest, Jesus, carries our burdens on his shoulders and our concerns on his heart as he intercedes for us in the presence of God.
In Leviticus 1-7, we find detailed instructions for offering sacrifices, which were like flashing neon signs saying: “sin brings death … sin brings death.” But the sacrifices also revealed that God accepts the blood of an innocent substitute to pay for sin.
The requirements of Old Testament sacrifices help us to see what sin costs as well as the fullness of our forgiveness made possible through the once-for-all perfect sacrifice of Christ.
Let’s face it—the laws about what make a person ceremonially clean or unclean found in Leviticus 11-15 are strange. Yet when we study them, we see that everything that makes a person unclean is something that reflects the effects of the curse of sin on this world. Animals fed on other animals only after the curse. Bodies bled and developed disease only after the curse. Mold and mildew, the visible evidence of decay, came into being only after the curse. Everything designated unclean in Leviticus demonstrated that things are not the way they once were in the Garden—the way God originally intended them to be.
The laws regarding clean and unclean in Leviticus give us hope that we who are unclean can be made clean through an acceptable sacrifice, and will one day be made holy to enter into the presence of God.