Wineskins Archive

December 20, 2013

Bogged Down in Leviticus (Jan-Feb 1998)

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by Scott Brunner
January – February, 1998

30I have resolved to read the Bible through this year, cover to cover. This will be the year I make it, from “In the Beginning” to final “Amen,” Genesis to Revelation, page one through page (gulp) 1,339. Why, I may even read the contents page and the index and the table of ancient weights and measures and those nine maps of the Holy Land and Jerusalem, with their mountain ranges in colorful relief and the tribal boundaries that undulate and ripple across five centuries of time.

And after all, even thought I gave up on War & Peace after a hundred pages (I couldn’t keep straight the relationships between all those foreign folks), I did finish Gone With the Wind, and it’s at least as long as the Bible.

I’d like to tell you that my motives are pure, that I aim to read solely for the edification of it, to expand my mind, maybe even increase my faith. I’m sure I will benefit – probably far more than I imagine looking at it from this side of Genesis. But that’s not the main reason I want to do it.

See, this isn’t the first time I’ve been so “resolute.” I’ve been here before, younger, greener, able to talk a good game, but lacking the conviction required to stay the course.

A few years back, on a January day, I glibly announced to anyone in hearing distance that I could read the Good Book through in a year and those who didn’t think so cold just eat my dust. I imagined myself racing through the patriarchs, the major and minor prophets, then crossing the border into the New Testament and across the four gospels and the epistles and straight on til that Great Gettin’ Up Morning in John’s Revelation, sometime 12 months hence.

And I burned rubber, too. For a while. At least through Exodus. And then, the cold realities of February and March set in, and I got bogged down in Leviticus.

Guess that explains why I’m much more familiar with the stories of Noah and the flood, of God’s promise of a child to octogenarians Abraham and Sarah, of Abraham’s faith in sacrificing Isaac, of Jacobs deception of his brother Esau, of the dreams of Joseph, his indenture in Egypt and ultimate rise to power there, of the trials of God’s people in Egyptian bondage and the selection of a tongue-tied Moses to lead the Israelites out toward the promised land – more familiar with those than, say, Habbakuk or Hezekiah. Although I do know Ruth and David and Gideon and Joshua, the rest of it gets a little blurry for me after the Israelites start wandering in the wilderness . Truth is, I’m not sure I could tell a major prophet from a minor one without a good concordance. And it’s all because of the rules and regulations of Leviticus. Bogged down.

Happens to the best of us, I guess. Who among us hasn’t, on a crisp January-the-first, resolved, no longer to linger, but to exercise more, eat less, stop smoking, be nice to your mother-in-law, finish out the attic, learn to play golf, spend more time with the kids, write more letters to Aunt Eva Nell, clean the baseboards or … whatever. Even read the Bible through in a year.

And how few among us actually stick with it when the going gets tough, when it becomes inconvenient, when the demands on your time get too great and other things entice and February comes and we get bogged down in Leviticus. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, I say.

January is hopeful, a season of fresh starts and clean slates; it fills and warms our souls with hope. Then February comes with a one-two punch to the belly and knocks the wind out of us. February truly is the cruelest month of all, for it makes us face up to our shortcomings, forces us to decide if our new commitments are really worth relinquishing old habits for.

Seeing that, I’ve summoned my resolve. Once, I was intoxicated with the mere challenge of it. That was all, and I failed. This time, I aim to read, with the conviction of a believer – because I’m convinced that a person should know all he can about any book on which he would pattern his life.

That, and the challenge of it. February’s coming. I want to survive it.

But never mind that now. I’m through January, a time of new beginnings, and I’m through Genesis. I’m optimistic! I know, today at least, that I can do it … if I can just make it through Leviticus.Wineskins Magazine

Scott Brunner is an Association Executive in Jackson, Mississippi where he attends the Meadowbrook Church of Christ and delivers four-minute essays on PRM, Public Radio in Mississippi, as breaks in NPR’s Morning Edition.

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