I preached yesterday from Mark 7.14-30. In the midst of the sermon, I heard myself confess to the congregation that I didn't like part of that text, in particular the part about the Syrophonecian woman. It's kind of an off-putting story on first reading. And I read it, and read it and read it and read it and read it and read it. I did Greek. I did English. I did different translations.
Why are such stories and difficult texts in the Bible?
First, there is the human factor. We're living in 2010, not 45 AD. My culture is western, not middle eastern. There is a lot of distance between me and the text. Not every story or paragraph in the Bible is hard to understand, but some are - and the difficulty is contributed to by the distance between me and the author. It's rarely insurmountable, but it is distant.
Second, the humility factor. I think God, in His infinite wisdom, decided to put hard things in the Bible because it keeps us dependent on and humble before Him. Should we have it all figured out, we'd probably live in the pride He opposes.
Third, the relational factor. Were we to have every iota and minutiae figured out, our hearts would be inclined to relate to the text instead of the God who inspired the text. God didn't give us the Bible so we could love the Bible. He gave it to us so we could love Him.
Lastly, when you combine humility, relationship, and the pursuit of understanding, you find transformation. Working hard on what the Bible means, how an argument works in the text, how a Gentile woman is called a dog but still bold enough to keep asking for Jesus' help - these are processes that God uses for transformation in our lives.
So keep studying. Keep reading. Even when you don't understand it, the Bible still has authority over you and me. Stay humble. Be a learner, or, when you can't figure it out, at least a ponderer of these things.