When Verses Obscure Scripture

You might look at the title to this post and think, “What?!  The verses ARE the Scripture!”

No.  They’re not.

The division of the bible into chapters and verses is a much later development.  You can read some of that story here.

The original manuscripts were written by the original authors of the day according to communication standards of that time: little to no punctuation, no capitalization, and no division of the story, letter, sermon, or poem into to modern day chapters, verses, and indentations.

And with more frequency than we’d like to admit, the singling out of verses blinds us to the overall flow and even rhetorical brilliance of a biblical book.

The book of Hebrews is a case in point.

I’ve always been a bit leery of that book, considering its unknown author, its awkward placement at the back of the bible, and its bewildering use of Old Testament phrases and imagery while communicating a New Testament message.

Nevertheless, Hebrews has always had some great stand-alone verses which are relatively easy to memorize and preach on:

For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing sould and  spirit, joints and marrow . . . Hebrews 4:12

It is destined for man once to die and then to face judgment.  Hebrews 9:27

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

” . . . for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:29

Yet not too long ago, I read through the entire book in one sitting.

And it is so much more than a collection of occasionally brilliant verses.

It is instead a carefully constructed and masterfully delivered sermon that alternates expositions about Jesus with exhortations to live like Jesus.  The pattern and the intent is obvious when you read the book as a whole — yet for the 36 years I’ve been reading Hebrews, I’d only read it in isolated parts.

So plunge deeply and fully into books of the bible and you’ll see that they mean much more than the sum of their verses.