Over Christmas break, I ended up using gifts that were given to my husband and son more than they did. Alexa streamed classical music while a 750 piece puzzle became whole over the last week of December. A few nights I found myself up until 4am, drinking coffee and working on putting this puzzle together. Not much excites this 42 year old mom, but for whatever reason, a new place of peace was discovered during these hours of searching for, and compiling, these puzzle pieces as I watched them build into a complete picture. Just this morning, I realized while reading through Revelation, the similarities between the two time spenders of putting together a puzzle and repeatedly reading through the whole of the Bible have.
The thrill I feel when I’ve read portions of Scripture that fit perfectly, carefully woven together by the Author, sometimes jump out at me and, even though I’ve read these words multiple times, the pieces of the puzzle are always anew, forming a depth of understanding that I’d be ignorant of if I hadn’t given myself to what some may consider a mundane, perhaps boring, task of reading through His Word with intention and regularity. Life is like a puzzle; no, that’s not the metaphor of my choosing, although it could be seen as such. Instead, the Holy Bible is like a puzzle; this is a more fitting comparison, with a clear contention that there is nothing that actually compares, nor competes, with the mystery and majesty of what God gives us through His written word.
I’ve read Revelation several times, but each time the Spirit unveils added layers to this often confusing book saturated with intimidating imagery. At my last read through, I’d fixated on two verses and hoped to understand their meaning; “The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come” (Revelation 9:12) and “The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon” (Revelation 11:14). My obsession with these two pieces of the puzzle rested on the fact that there wasn’t a third piece, or verse, declaring anything about that third woe spoken of. I searched the remainder of Revelation for that verse, the proverbial last piece of the puzzle, but it was nowhere to be found. Almost cruelly, like a puzzle maker leaving out the last piece to bring it to completion. That third woe never left the back of my mind through the last few months, and was brought back today as I landed in the chapters of this book again. This time, though, I found it. Not in a succinct verse as I thought John should’ve revealed it, but in the context of his writings.
“Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” says an eagle in Revelation 8:13. This, after the first four of the seven angels had already sounded their trumpets. There were still the fifth, sixth, and seventh angels sounding their trumpets to come and the woes following the fifth and sixth are described in Revelation, chapters 9 through 11:13. The description of the third woe comes after the seventh angel sounds its trumpet in 11:15; not a single verse to wrap up this last woe, but instead, a glorious picture painted in the rest of that chapter where we read how that woe is interspersed among a tremendous blessing, “rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great” (11:18). This is where, when believers are reading Revelation for insight into our future, ought to lay our focus and hope in. Not in finding the cataclysmic woes that’ll be brought upon those left outside His kingdom when He decides to bring His decrees to a final fruition, but in finding where we fit in to His plans.
My goal in writing this post wasn’t, necessarily, to bring some special insight into how the world ends as revealed in Scripture, but to share how the understanding of God’s Word is available and ready to be pieced together like a puzzle if we’re to give our attention to it. As with tangible, cardboard cutout, pieces of boxed puzzles that are meant to be mindfully put together, with patience and perseverance, the Word of God awaits as the holiest and most worthwhile expenditure at our fingertips. Doing puzzles may be considered by some a dull, sedentary, and unrewarding waster of time; unfortunately, reading the Scriptures fall into that same category for many of us. Let it not be so. Contemplate on whatever task that rewards with feelings of completion, satisfaction, and contentedness and allow that, perhaps potential, idol to be replaced by experiencing those joys in His Word.
I’ll never attempt putting together the same packaged puzzle after I’ve completed it, as is the same case with reading a book or watching a movie more than once; however, each time I reach the last of the sixty-six books of the Bible, I eagerly anticipate starting all over again in Genesis to see more deeply what God has to say and show about Himself and His creation. Although this puzzle of the Bible will never be put together by its readers completely, even if it were to be read incessantly from birth to death, each piece He puts into its place is as wondrous as witnessing His sovereignty and providence in action in our daily lives. Piece by piece, peace upon peace.