How should you proceed when you reach a Bible passage that you simply don’t understand? Imagine for a moment that you’ve just run across a difficult part of Scripture. You’re like a tourist who has lost his way. Which way do you turn? What street do you go down? First, let me point out a few of the places you shouldn’t go.
The Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates.
These are the four rivers that flowed out of the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10–14). They are emblazoned on my memory. Why? When I was fifteen, I became a Christian through the ministry of Young Life. A year later, my Young Life leader left to lead the same ministry in another state. I hadn’t joined a local church yet, and so I was left churchless and mentorless. In his absence, I figured I should do my best to learn what the Bible taught since I was now a Christian. So, I started reading in Genesis, taking notes as I went. I stopped at chapter 3, because in that chapter I encountered a talking snake. I was vexed. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe the truthfulness of the Bible. Instead, I had simply reached a difficult part and didn’t know how to understand it appropriately. That simple but difficult passage derailed my focused Bible study until I finally joined a local church during my second year of college.
My story highlights the importance of learning what to do when you encounter difficult passages in the Bible. The Bible is a majestic and large book, covering centuries of time and numerous cultures. It’s been said that the Bible is a book wherein a child can wade and an elephant can swim. If you are a Christian, for the rest of your life you will come across passages in the Bible that will require you to do the hard work of studying in order to understand them.