Paul’s letters always start with the same greetings: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3).”

To our modern ears, that sounds like nothing but mandatory politeness. In Paul’s day, however, those few words carried so much theological and cultural weight. “Grace to you” was a standard Greek greeting; “peace to you” was its Jewish equivalent.

In the first century world, there were three relational hostilities: the Jews looked down on the Greeks, and the Greeks despised the Jews; men were dismissive of the women, and women were embittered toward men; free people saw slaves as sub-humans, and slaves resented the free people in return (Scott Sauls, 2015; Galatians 3:28).

[The problem with] twentieth-century Old Testament theology was its inability to come to terms with history as it had been understood in nineteenth-centry criticism and as it continued to operate rather uncritically in the twentieth century. We have already seen how, since Gabler in 1787, Old Testament study was generally understood as a historical study. The emergence of history as a primary co-discipline of Scripture study at the end of the eighteenth century signaled the determination of Bible scholars to break free of church interpretation that had longed regarded philosophy as its proper co-discipline.

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune- telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. —Acts 16:16-18 ESV

In a space of just two verses, the Bible gives us a glimpse into the nature and activity of evil spirits and how they could do something as mind-boggling as fortune telling. In the original Greek, the text says that the slave girl was possessed by the python spirit. The Macedonians believed that this serpent was the guard of the oracle of Apollo and it gives the power for second sight and ventriloquism to anyone it possesses, something eerily similar to Voldemort’s parseltongue in the Harry Potter novels. The fact that this slave girl had been widely recognized for her craft in Macedonia meant that the city was under the grip of her spiritual influence. This begs the question: How do we think Biblically about sorcery?

And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. –Judges 8:27 ESV

Gideon delivered Israel from the oppression of the Midianites. He was one of the big wigs in the book of Judges who won many battles in the name of the God of Israel. When the people asked him to be their ruler, he refused. He only wanted one thing: for people to give him their earrings, the spoils they got from the Ishmaelites. It was a seemingly innocent request, until he made an ephod out of it and snared himself, his family, and the nation with idolatrous worship.

In Romans 15, Paul mentioned that he has been meaning to go to Spain to preach the word of God. At that time, Spain was considered the end of the known world. No one knows if he actually went there but R. Kent Hughes believes it doesn’t matter:

To us arrival is everything, but to God the journey is most important, for it is in the journey that we are perfected, and it is in hardships that he is glorified as we trust him.

Everyone who reads the Bible knows the feeling of getting stuck with ‘boring’ names and measurements in some passages: the genealogies of Genesis 11, 1 Chronicles 1-9, and Matthew 1; the measurements of the ark of the covenant and the temple; the names of people who helped rebuild the wall in Nehemiah’s time; and many more. This begs the question: can we just skip them and get to the exciting parts?

I suggest not. I believe that reading the ‘boring’ passages of the Bible is a spiritually enriching exercise. Three reasons: