Let me start off by saying, absolutely, that the study of the Bible is a life-long quest and is what we should all be doing. We should be reading and analyzing and trying to understand what message God has for each one of us within the words of the text.
That being said, I am asking, “When does it become too much studying?”
Too much of anything can be bad for someone, and too much studying, even of the word of God, can end up misleading us from what God wants us to know.
Most everyone reading this probably knows about Gnosticism, and how that belief in hidden messages and secret knowledge being the pathway to salvation is considered a “bad” thing. Another “bad” thing is legalism, i.e. only through absolute obedience to the laws and rules is how we are redeemed, and that faith is not necessary.
I have seen many people who are good students of the Bible become lured away from understanding what is in the Bible because they want to understand absolutely everything in the Bible. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but what I mean is that their desire to know what every little detail means leads them to see only the individual trees and they lose sight of the forest.
Doesn’t God tell us in Deuteronomy 29:29 that those things he wishes us to know he will reveal, but the secret things of the Lord are his alone? The writer of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) says that knowledge and work and everything is useless. Do you know why he says that? It’s because Kohelet wanted to understand why God does what he does
I once read that any god that can be understood by the mind of man is not worthy of the worship of man. How true that is, and how unfortunate that so many people just don’t understand the implications of that statement.
What is the difference between faith and lack of faith? Well, that is an open question, isn’t it? For the purpose of this message, faith is accepting that we can’t understand some things and so we should focus on what we can, and weak faith is ignoring what we can understand and focusing on that which we don’t. In other words, God will let each and every one of us know what he wants us to know, and what he doesn’t want us to know will remain unknown until such time, if any, when God will reveal it to us. For me, faith is accepting that we won’t understand everything, whereas lack of faith (or a weaker faith) is to delve into minutia that isn’t going to edify or help anyone to know what God wants them to do.
Didn’t Micah tell us that all God requires of us is to love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with God? Didn’t Yeshua say to love God and each other are the most important commandments, and that by following
What God requires of us is faithful obedience and faithful acceptance that whatever he tells us is for our own good. When Yeshua said we need to come to him like a child he meant without needing to know “why” or with excess questioning, although anyone who has ever reared a toddler knows that endless questioning is part of their makeup.
I am sorry if this isn’t as “cut-and-dried” as I would like it to be. I am not saying we shouldn’t study the Bible, and I agree that understanding only comes with judicious study, as well as listening to others with knowledge to share. What I am trying to say is that when our desire to know what something means gets in the way of simply accepting that there are some things which aren’t necessary to know, some things which we will never know (such as the Chukim laws), then our “study” of the Bible has gone too far.
I am saying that faithfully believing God will let us know what he wants to reveal to us, if and when he does, is better than forcing ourselves to know everything we possibly can. Too much knowledge can lead to misunderstanding if it is for the wrong purpose, meaning for prideful desire to show others how “spiritual” we are, how knowledgeable we are, or how much better we know the “Word” than they do.
I pray that this message is getting through, and I am sorry that I haven’t been able to phrase it better. We all should never stop reading and studying the Bible, as well as extra-biblical sources, but only in order to know what God wants from us. We should not try to understand God, or try to know what he knows, or (especially not) try to see hidden messages or find secret truths within the numbers or words. That leads to Gnosticism and a system of legalism.
Never stop reading and studying the Bible and remember it’s more important to know what is in there than where it is. If you have a question about a meaning or passage, bring it first to God and ask for the Ruach HaKodesh to give you understanding. If God wants you to know, he will reveal it, and if it isn’t revealed then faithfully accept that you don’t need to know it.
God will let you know what you need to know, when you need to know it. That’s what he did with Moses, that’s what he did with David, with the Prophets, and that’s how Yeshua taught both the people and his Talmudim.
If it was good enough for them, it should be good enough for us.