Have you ever wondered why the Bible is so filled with blueprints for temples and cities and nations? The entire book is obsessed with structural engineering. When coupled with genealogical records it’s like half the book! A cubit this, or a handbreadth that. Soandso begat suchandsuch. This many thousand cattle and that many hundred shekels of something. Why? Was the Lord killing time? Ensuring you couldn’t memorize the whole book? Did civil engineers get a crack after King James’ scholars? Or is there, perhaps, a critical truth we overlook?
The popular answer on why all the genealogy was to give us bloodlines. The common answer on precious metal and cattle: to give the scope of wealth. The dimensions? So we can rebuild, or at least picture. Alternate theories say it’s just purist history, given that we might know facts and provide depth to the story. Certainly all must share some truth; this is our history, after all. But can it possibly be true that this book He gave us to teach us about ourselves and about Him would contain such massive space reserved for intellectual history that is good for nothing save boring children (and adults) to sleep? It can’t be so. To establish that simplicity is tantamount to saying that the words themselves carry no weight, that large swaths of the Bible are simply fluff; fancy window dressing.
Surely if you’re an atheist that view is fine; maybe even if you are questioning faith. But for believers this presents an enormous and jarring disconnect between what we believe and what we know. We delve into the Word and these verses get an instant “nope; skip!” We chuckle to ourselves about how we read it through, but skimmed those parts. When we do read them it is dry, boring; it pulls us out of the connection to Him we typically find. They represent to us a break in an otherwise perfect and beautiful story. It implies errancy, dressed up as weightlessness, in the Word. But I tell you that ALL scripture is for our good. Doesn’t Paul tell us so in his second letter to Timothy? Every word breathed by the Lord for our reproof, correction, and instruction. “And,” not “or.” Not only is every word for our betterment, but every word is profitable, he tells us. Not just for you to slog through, but to enjoy and learn from. These verses carry more than historical value, then. How, though, can we see them in a deeper level?
It does no good to know you should be excited by these verses if you can’t see why; that just breeds insecurity, guilt, and shame that will drive you from the Word altogether. How, then, do I propose to convince you this stuff is worthwhile? First let me propose something to you: it is all, the entire Bible, architectural. That is, all of it is about how to build things. Some of those things are buildings. Some are cities. Some are fortunes. Others are flocks or families. Or faiths, or our very lives. Cover to cover the book informs how He made. It starts with the nothingness and ends with the final construction of man; our perfection in Him. Staying with me?
The book of Nehemiah is about how to rebuild a wall, but it is also about how to build a manager, how to build a prayer life, how to build a work ethic, how to build motivation, how to rebuild a church. The book of Romans is how to build a saint, Numbers to build a bloodline, Timothy how to build a believer, Deuteronomy to build a society. From start to finish, from the physical to the abstract, it is the story of how God made. Everything. It is His work log. And yet, it is not a book about Him, but about us. It is the instructions for making the Created, made for the Created. Take that in for a second. Have you ever made yourself a sandwich and then explained to it how it was made? Sound ridiculous? How about explaining to your kids how they came to be? Not so ridiculous, is it?
And there it is. We are His children, and this is His journal passed to us to tell us all the things He can’t say without shattering our minds. It is His explanation of His Love, a thing we can sense and know innately, but only if we stop to consider it and are open to accepting it. It is His explanation of how beautiful and amazing we are, which could otherwise only be known if we could accept ourselves. Can you interpret the scale of that? Can you feel Him right now? Do you hear the thundering beat of His heart in your ears right now? There is nothing — no feeling, no knowledge, no reward — that can possibly touch that. Can you possibly understand how much He Loves you? If only I could express it to you. Lost or found, saint or sinner, alive or walking dead. He. Loves. You. Shout “Amen!” at your screen right now; just take a minute to thank Him and glory in Him.
I think I got off-topic, but I hope my point carried through: the Bible is the story of His architecture of our reality. With that properly framed let’s go back to my premise that the begats and the cubits are exciting. I doubt you’re yet able to get there, so I have a final point to pitch. That is: these verses more than any other require study. You saw me spend over 4,000 words explaining a deeper, more rich view of a simple, three-question conversation between Peter and Jesus. You and I both know that I could have gone longer, and what’s more: whatever your favorite verse is, you could speak for hours on it. And that 10 years from now you will have an entirely different perspective on it to share. The depth of meaning, the levels of understanding to be gained, are limitless. It is our daily bread for a reason. But the verses we stick to — John 3:16, Isaiah 40:31, Joshua 24:15b… whatever — are the verses we feel most. No one is bumping into “Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh” (Numbers 13:6) and thinking “Wow. That’s my life verse!” And that’s OK; it’s probably also not going to be “Feed my lambs”, but you can still appreciate it. And such with all these verses, I say. They just require more study, more work, to get to the juice. They are more coconut than apple.
Knowing the thickness of the walls around the temple in Ezekiel’s vision in Chapter 41 — 6 cubits (10.5 feet) — doesn’t seem useful until you really get the scale and context of it. 10 feet thick conjures the image of bunkers, shadowy military facilities, and bank vaults. Even today we reserve such scale for the truly important or secret. God reserved it for His city, His house. Could any more precious belonging be imagined? He is giving this scale to tell us that His house is safe, secure. A worthwhile place to run in times of chaos, pain, and sorrow. It is His refuge for us. Not so boring now, huh?
And what about Caleb, son of Jephunneh? Perhaps you know that Caleb was one of the spies sent across the river to scout the promised land for Moses, and the girl with the scarlet cord who took him in to hide. But did you know he was the head of the tribe of the descendants of Judah at that time? That’s what that verse means; when Jephunneh passed Caleb became patriarch of that clan. He wasn’t just a kid sent off to scout, he had a name among the Jews. Did you know his name meant “dog”? And some scholars point out that the original Hebrew word carries some of the typical markers of the version of dog that goes along with “rabid dog”? You know that names carry weight, so consider that. He was likely a bit of a rough guy, kind of crazy. Perfect person to run a scouting operation, no? Not for exploration today, but do you see how these simple things have a hidden expanse of meaning? Just this one name shows how the Lord uses everyone to their strengths.
The meaning we pull from the Word is directly proportional to the amount of ourselves we are willing to invest in it, in Him. Am I arguing that you should throw down and focus on dissecting every verse all the way through? No; you’d go nuts and it would take years to read the whole Bible that way. But I do think you owe it to yourself to occasionally take a verse you typically skip and study it so that the next time you don’t skip it, but can appreciate the knowledge He gave you in that study. Deal? Prayer time.
Father, I don’t know how much we can really grasp this one; how we can truly appreciate the wealth of this precious book. But I see Your point and I hope I managed to share it in a way that others hear You, too. Every time You flood my mind with words I am in awe, Lord, and I thank You eternally for the opportunity to live in these times when we can so easily, and so completely, come near to You through Your Word. You are so amazingly, blessedly awesome and we Love You with all that we are. In the mighty name of Your Word and my brother, Jesus, I pray. I Love You. Amen.