I am a skimmer by nature. I am all about getting to the goal at hand, the quicker the better. And boy does it get me in trouble from time to time. Twice this past week, I skimmed through some material, took an action and it was wrong. I had to double back and fix it.
And I am guessing that I am not the only one. Truth be told, scientists are beginning to worry about our propensity to skim. It seems that our brain’s ability to read is subtly and rather rapidly changing.
The advent of the ever-present screen has some implications. Less time and attention is being given to slower reading processes like inference and critical thinking. Students are avoiding classical literature because they just don’t have the patience to read those longer, more difficult texts. They are calling this problem, “cognitive impatience.”
I mention all that because of a couple of passages of scripture that I was teaching this past week: Acts 16 and Daniel 9. It was for two different settings but I tried to point out a common problem: We skim through our Bibles too.
And, skimming through the scripture can rob us of some very important nuances that enrich our understanding of what God has to say.
First case in point is Acts 16. Read it and slow down enough to pay attention to the pronouns. There is a “He” in vs. 1, a “They” in vs. 4, a “We” in vs. 10 and a different “They” in vs. 40. Figuring out who is in view throughout that chapter is important. (Hint: It is Paul; Paul, Silas and Timothy; Luke and the others and then just Paul and Silas.)
Another case in point is in Daniel 9: Notice that in verse 4, there are two occurrences of the English word “Lord.” But if you stop skimming, you will notice that one of those words is in all capital letters, “LORD.” And a few words later, the prayer begins with “Lord” (just capitalized on the “L”).
Our English Bibles are attempting to alert us that they are translating two entirely different Hebrew terms. The all capital “LORD” is the most frequently used word for God. It appears over 6500 times in the Old Testament. The Jews believe this name is too holy to pronounce, so they refer to it without consonants: “YHWH.” From that tetragrammaton (four letters) we get the term, Yahweh or Jehovah.
The second term in that passage is an entirely different Hebrew word, “Adonai.” It means master or lord. It only occurs about 400 times in the OT. Ezekiel loved the term and used it over 200 times in his prophecy.
The point is, if we skim through scripture we are going to miss things. We need to note who is actually in view? What is he or she communicating? Where are they? Does it matter when they are talking? Are there any clues in the text?
Our “cognitive impatience”(skimming) can get us all in trouble as we read and communicate with our world. And it is especially dangerous as we study the scriptures.
May I suggest that you join me in a “slow down” mode this week as we encounter God’s Word? Let’s all underline, highlight, outline and look up terms. I am certain the Word will be even more ALIVE as we take the time to read it CAREFULLY.