The more we wonder over the Bible, the more wonder-full we discover it is. That’s why we must think of the Bible more as a mine than a museum.
Museums Are Interesting
A museum is a very interesting place — assuming you’re interested in what’s on exhibit. All sorts of fascinating things are on display. You move from one artifact to another and read the plaques. It can be a beneficial, knowledge-broadening experience.
But for most people, a museum visit provides mainly a superficial understanding of history, science, technology, art, athletics, or whatever else. Even if they enlist a tour guide, the increased understanding is still relatively modest, as understanding goes. The amount of time spent at each exhibit is limited. Most visitors view a display for a short time and for the most part are content taking what they see and read at face value.
Repeat visits help. Regular museum visitors can become quite familiar with exhibits and even be able to converse fairly intelligently about the displays. To those less familiar with the subjects, veteran museumgoers might seem to be lay experts in the field. They may even consider themselves to be such. And yet, really, the knowledge base remains for the most part superficial.
Mines Are Enriching
Miners observe and gather with a different mindset than a museumgoer. To miners, the knowledge they acquire is not merely interesting; it’s vital. They aren’t merely enhancing their education; they are hunting for treasure. When they seek out expert knowledge, it is for a focused reason: Such knowledge leads to fortune.
Miners are trying to unearth wealth. They dig. They probe. They poke around. They pick up rocks and turn them over, looking intently. Mining isn’t a leisurely afternoon’s recreation. Mining is a diligent, persistent, and even tedious examination. Hours are spent carefully combing through a small area, because if looking is not done carefully, a gem might be missed.
Treasures for Those Who Dig
The Bible is as fascinating as the best museum. There is a lot to glean from it at face value. But it is enriching as a mine. Begin to dig, poke around, and examine, and it yields wonderful things that you didn’t notice at first.
Take the narrative portions, for instance. Why does the Bible contain so many stories? And why do they contain, and leave out, the details they do?
In the story of Joseph and his brothers and their father, Jacob, in Genesis, why is there so much family conflict in the story? What does God want us to see in their sinful dysfunction?
Why was Moses’s leadership experience so consistently hard and painful for almost his entire tenure?
When Nehemiah and his crew were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, why did God allow that process to be so inefficient and fraught with opposition?
In Luke 8, why did Jesus command the parents of the little girl he raised from the dead not to say anything, and yet made the hemorrhaging woman, who desperately didn’t want to say anything, announce her condition to the whole crowd?
Why in the world did the writer of Hebrews 11 list Samson, in all of his unfaithfulness, among the models of faith?
What is the crucial link between the healing of Naaman, the great Syrian general, by Elisha, the great Hebrew prophet, and a little Hebrew servant girl who had suffered the trauma of being ripped from her family by the Syrian military?
Why, in Judges 4–5, did God remove honor from Barak when all he seemingly wanted was just to have God’s prophetess close by during a crucial battle?
Why, in God’s name, did Jesus allow Judas to carry the ministry moneybag when he knew Judas was a devil?
If we read Bible stories like museum exhibits, always viewing them fairly quickly and then moving to the next display, our grasp tends to remain rather superficial. We might think that we’ve seen pretty much all that there is to see.
But when we really start sifting through them — when we mine them — we find that these stories are laced with treasures. We see that there is more than initially meets the eye. God buries riches in the Bible that a miner will find and a museumgoer will not.
Things Not Seen
Too often I’ve been a museumgoer in my Bible reading. But the gift of God-granted desperation can make a miner out of a museumgoer. And the new book Things Not Seen: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Trusting God’s Promises is one result of my desperate mining for the treasures of God in the Bible that I need in order to live — in order to live by faith.
Like Not By Sight from two years ago, Things Not Seen is 35 brief narrative meditations — narrative diggings — seeking to unearth the gems of faith from familiar Bible stories that may have become like familiar museum exhibits — things we think we know that still may hide things we’ve not yet seen. And like Not By Sight, and most of the books at the Desiring God site, Things Not Seen is available as a free PDF, as well as for purchase.
But you don’t need this book to be a miner. You need the Bible and a desperate desire to find all the treasure that God has buried in the field of his Word (Matthew 13:44). But maybe the book will be an encouragement to get the pick and shovel out again.
I’m not knocking museums for being what they are. But when it comes to the Bible, let’s approach it more like miners than museumgoers. There is life-transforming, sin-eradicating, hope-birthing, despair-destroying, eternal life-giving, love-fueling gold there for those who dig.