God

The Risk of Reading the Bible Randomly

From the LYWB.com team: Hey blog readers! Did you know that this blog has a Spanish counterpart? It’s true! Joven Verdadera is LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com for Spanish-speaking young women. Think of them like our blog pen pals. We love their posts, so we’ve translated a series of them here for you. ¡Disfrútalo! (That’s Spanish for enjoy.)

In a moment of sadness, anguish, or despair, have you ever opened the Bible to see if the page that appears is a message from God? Or closed your eyes and pointed at a random verse to see if what it says is related to what’s going on in the moment? I confess that during my teenage years I did this many times. Sometimes I found verses that encouraged me, but in other cases they just scared me (especially when I turned to the book of Judges and Chronicles).

This practice even has a name: bibliomancy. That’s a big word that means divination by books, especially the Bible. Gulp!

The Bible wasn’t written by God to be used as a magical book we use to predict what will happen to us or to try to guess what God’s will is for our lives.

Fear Disguised as Faith

The desire to guess or predict what will happen to us comes from an anxious heart that doesn’t fully trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God. Closing our eyes and pointing to a random verse is a pagan practice. It is actually fear disguised as faith. As innocent as it looks, it’s using the Bible as if it were a crystal ball.

All of Scripture (not just a random verse) is God’s counsel (2 Tim. 3:16). Every word is useful to reveal Christ and His gospel to us. You won’t be able to understand what He wants to communicate to you if what you’re looking for is a magic wand to clarify your future. All of Scripture (yes, even the book of Numbers) is useful to teach us what’s true, to make us see what’s wrong in our life, and to correct us when we’re wrong. All of Scripture teaches us to do the right thing.

We need much more than a random verse. We’re missing a lot if we don’t study God’s Word with seriousness and discipline. Here are three big risks of practicing “bibliomancy” with the Bible:

1. The Risk of Making the Bible About You

When you choose a random verse, you’re not really interested in what God has to say. Instead what you’re looking for is a quick response that calms your anxious mind. The Bible is about a single theme—Christ—and if you read only where “luck” takes you, you run the risk of making your reading something that’s only about you and losing Christ on the way.

2. The Risk of Misinterpreting What the Bible Says

Imagine a young man who’s trying to find out if it’s God’s will to enter a bodybuilding competition. He finds a random verse in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” What if he convinced himself that this verse was written for him and about his hobby?

Seriously? If that same young man were to read verse 12, he would realize Paul is talking about the strength God gives to stand firm for the gospel either in the middle of abundance or scarcity, not inspiration to lift weights.

Confusion is the only thing we’ll receive if we don’t understand what we’re reading.

We’re going to make a mistake if we don’t understand the context in which these verses were written.

3. The Risk of Running to the Bible Only When You’re in Trouble

When our reading of God’s Word is limited to moments of emergency, we’re taking a mighty torrent of water and reducing it to a faucet that just drips.

Don’t miss out on all the richness in the Word of God. If at some point you’re reading something that seems to have no application for your life, turn that text into a prayer for yourself or those around you. Keep those verses in your heart because they will become a sword of victory when bad days come.

The Word of God can be present in your whole day. It can become the continuous song of your heart.

Don’t Throw Away Spontaneity

Does this mean we can only read the Bible in order, book by book? Of course not! There are many ways you can read the Bible, and spontaneity is always allowed. But remember that the God of the Bible doesn’t do anything by luck or chance. His sovereign plan is always in action!

To help you put this into practice, we’ll be running a series of posts that look at 2 Peter verse by verse. We can’t wait to throw out bibliomancy and dig in to God’s Word with you!

About Author

Betsy Gómez

Betsy is a popular blogger and speaker with a passion to help others savor the Gospel. She manages the blogs and supervises Media for Aviva Nuestros Corazones (Revive Our Hearts Hispanic Outreach). Originally from the Dominican Republic, she now lives in North Carolina where she is (slowly) pursuing a Master’s degree in Women’s Ministries at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Most importantly, Betsy sees God’s grace in her life as His daughter and servant, as wife to Moises since 2005, and as mother to Josué and Samuel. She blogs regularly for Aviva Nuestros Corazones.

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