The biggest surprise for many is how accessible this book is to those who simply open it up and read it.
Virtually anyone can read this Bible with understanding. The reason that new translations are made every couple of generations or so is to keep the language of the Bible current with the common speech we use, the very language in which it was first written.
We don’t have to be smart or well-educated to understand it for it is written in the words and sentences we hear in the marketplace, on school playgrounds, and around the dinner table.
Because the Bible is so famous and revered, many assume that we need experts to explain and interpret it for us—and, of course, there are some things that need to be explained.
But the first men and women who listened to these words now written in our Bibles were ordinary, everyday, working-class people.
One of the greatest of the early translators of the Bible into English, William Tyndale, said that he was translating so that “the boy that driveth the plough” would be able to read the Scriptures.
Some are surprised that Bible reading does not introduce us to a “nicer” world.
This biblical world is decidedly not an ideal world, the kind we see advertised in travel posters.
Suffering and injustice and ugliness are not purged from the world in which God works and loves and saves.
Nothing is glossed over. God works patiently and deeply, but often in hidden ways, in the mess of our humanity and history.
Ours is not a neat and tidy world in which we are assured that we can get everything under our control.
This takes considerable getting used to –there is mystery everywhere. The Bible does not give us a predictable cause-effect world in which we can plan our careers and secure our futures.
It is not a dream world in which everything words out according to our adolescent expectations—there is pain and poverty and abuse at which we cry out in indignation, “You can’t let this happen!”
For most of us it takes years and years and years to exchange our dream world for this real world of grace and mercy, sacrifice and love, freedom and joy—the God-saved world.
Yet another surprise is that the Bible does not flatter us.
It is not trying to sell us anything that promises to make life easier. It doesn’t offer secrets to what we often think of as prosperity or pleasure or high adventure.
The reality that comes into focus as we read the Bible has to do with what God is doing in a saving love that includes us and everything we do.
This is quite different from what our sin-stunted and culture-cluttered minds imagined. But our Bible reading does not give us access to a mail-order catalog of idols from which we can pick and choose to satisfy our fantasies.
The Bible begins with God speaking creation and us into being.
It continues with God entering into personalized and complex relationships with us, helping and blessing us, teaching and training us, correcting and disciplining us, loving and saving us.
This is not an escape from reality but a plunge into more reality—a sacrificial but altogether better life all the way.