The Boring Stuff

I was reading through Exodus recently—specifically, Exodus 38—where I found such scintillating words as these:

“Next they made the courtyard. The south side was a hundred cubits long and had curtains of finely twisted linen, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases, and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The north side was also a hundred cubits long and had twenty posts and twenty bronze bases, with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The west end was fifty cubits wide and had curtains, with ten posts and ten bases, with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The east end, toward the sunrise, was also fifty cubits wide. Curtains fifteen cubits long were on one side of the entrance, with three posts and three bases, and curtains fifteen cubits long were on the other side of the entrance to the courtyard, with three posts and three bases.” (Exodus 38:9-15)

Shoot me now.

Assuming that such passages were not written to help insomniacs get to sleep, or to give academic bores (like me) something to occupy their time so that they don’t get in the way of sane and normal people, I wonder about the need for anyone to spend time looking at something like that. After all, I’m never going to build a tabernacle, nor will anyone else on the planet.

And yet those words are a part of the Bible, which I believe is God’s message to humanity. If we’re honest, we have to admit that there are lots of boring words like that in the Bible. And not just in the Old Testament, either. In the New Testament, we have such wonders of meaty significance as when Paul, at the end of his second letter to Timothy writes, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.” (2 Timothy 4:13-14)

Not many sermons built on those words, either.

Although we are quick to quote Paul’s words in second Timothy that all scripture is inspired and that it’s all profitable for doctrine, reproof, and the like (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the sermons on the boring stuff in 1 Chronicles and Leviticus are non-existent in my experience. “All scripture is inspired” is a grand doctrine, but practically speaking, we really do treat some of it as more inspired than others.

So what’s the point of the boring stuff? Why did I have to read such insipid drivel like that in Exodus? How does it help me to get Timothy’s “to do” list from Paul? Why do I have to find out who Paul was mad at over a thousand years ago? So what that Paul needed Timothy to bring him a cloak? That needs to be preserved as part of divine revelation?

Why do we need detailed instructions on putting together an obsolete tent that is now three thousand years so much dust?

Was God being paid by the word?

If we assume that God knew what he was doing, then he must have a good answer to my query.

If nothing else, the sleeping sections of the Bible remind me that if God was concerned enough about such mundane matters as posts and hooks in the tabernacle, or Paul’s forgotten cloak—so concerned, in fact, that he made certain that those details became a permanent part of his message to the human race—then he probably really does care about the daily grind of our lives.

It matters to God if someone rips me off.

It matters to God when I need to spend hours in line at the DMV.

It matters to God when I need to do grocery shopping, run errands, and mow my lawn.

It matters to God that I’m having trouble getting the grass to grow in a certain bare spot in my front yard.

The day to day chores, the stuff that occupies most of our attention, that stuff that we perversely imagine is unimportant in the grander scheme, really does interest the creator of the universe today, even if our grandchildren’s grandchildren couldn’t and shouldn’t care less. The fact that it matters to us, even if only for this moment, is what makes it matter to God—even when it matters to no one else in the world.

God cares about our stuff because it’s our stuff. How come? God pays attention to us and lives with us today, in this eternal moment. And God simply finds us utterly fascinating—as utterly fascinating as our new car’s features are to us when we first get it. If it matters to us to get just the right measurements for the new blinds for that oddly shaped window in our bedroom, then it matters to God. And the fact that such things do matter to him—as the Bible clearly demonstrates by all the “boring stuff” it has inside it—I suppose that means he really does love us.

The boring stuff of the Bible might be boring to us. But for God, it’s like the slide show from our summer vacation, or the stack of photos of our grandkids that we insist on inflicting on everyone we meet.

As Karl Barth, one of the better known theologians of the twentieth century is quoted as saying when asked to express the most profound thought he’d ever had: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That’s what the boring stuff says to us.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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