“Is it okay if I sort of skim through the end of Exodus?” my friend said. “Those details about assembling the ark and the curtains and the tabernacle get really long.”
He’s reading through the Bible for the second time. The first time took him three years. Now he’s doing it again to pick up what he might have missed. He was asking our Wednesday night men’s Bible study group. We talked about the challenge of lists of how many curtains and how many loops on each curtain (See Exodus 26 for a sample.) A couple guys agree with his assessment, a couple guys really like the detail.
A week later, Hope and Nancy and I were eating supper together before Hope and I headed to church. (Nancy’s my wife, Hope’s our daughter). I asked Hope about her gathering with friends the night before. These college and post-college people get together once a week to read the Bible out loud for an hour and then talk about it. They started the year in Genesis. They had been in the end of Exodus the night before we talked.
“It was great,” Hope said. “We spent an hour tracing how many times Moses went up and down the mountain. We talked about how the construction details were laid out by God. We wondered whether he showed Moses images of what the tabernacle looked like, so the words would make sense.”
“As I’ve been reading that section the past couple years,” Nancy said, “I’ve watched the story developing. The relationships between God and Moses and Joshua and the people.”
The three of us spent 20 minutes talking about the text.
When I talked with the guys that night, I told them this story and I made a couple observations. First, Hope and her friends listened to the words in community just like the first time people heard most of the Bible. Second, Nancy reads with ears looking for story, for communication, not lists of rules.
I’ll tell you more about those sometime. But have you ever read big sections of the Bible out loud in a group?