Interview: Larry Crabb on God's 66 Love Letters

The books in the Bible can seem disconnected, even contradicting at times. Christian author Larry Crabb even admits some books, like Leviticus, are boring and he is not sure what God wants to say through them.

But after four years of pouring over the Bible, praying and trying to hear God's voice, Crabb thinks he has "connected the dots" between the 66 books of the Bible.

Crabb spoke to The Christian Post this week about his latest book, 66 Love Letters, and shared what he learned.

CP: While meditating and trying to hear God's voice for each book in the Bible, what message surprised you the most? What book was it from?

Crabb: Perhaps one of the most surprising books was the book of Judges, of all things. It is a very difficult book and the message of love that I got out of Judges is that God was saying, "You see how far you've fallen? You see how difficult things have gotten in your inner world? And I want you to know that no matter how bad things are I'm still there and I'm never going to give up on you."

I think I came out of that particular book thinking, I don't think I'm as bad as the people in Judges, but however bad I am, whatever difficulties I have, God will look at me as His kid and He will love me until the end of time.

CP: I like how you recall your father saying the Bible is a love story that begins with a divorce and continues to the end with a betrayed lover wooing us back. What else did your father say about the Bible about why he enjoyed reading it so much?

Crabb: Well that is one of the best illustrations that he gave me. But the other thing that I didn't mention in the book that is really real to me is when I was about 10 years old. One of the habits my dad and I have is watching the Red Skelton comedy hour – only the older folks will remember that. I went into the television room one night, turned on the TV, which took about ten minutes to warm up back in those days, and I called for dad to come join me to watch the Red Skeleton show and he said he was doing something else.

I was very curious, what would you want to be doing other than watching something as funny like the Red Skeleton. So I went to see what he was doing. I went to the living room and he was sitting there in a chair by the fireplace reading a book. And my first thought is why are you reading when you can be watching television. My second thought was I know what he is reading. He is reading his Bible. He was actually reading Leviticus. And I remember thinking, why would you read Leviticus. And I literally went and got my Bible and started to read it for a few minutes and got bored out of my mind so I went back to watch Red Skeleton.

But that impressed me and made me think there is something in that book that I just don't see. I had that strong feeling that there is something in the Bible that as a kid I don't see.

I remember when I was 14 years old dad was going to Bible study and on my own I asked, "Could I come with you?" He asked me to tell him why. I said, "You seem to want to spend time looking at this book and I can't figure out. I'm dying to know why you read the book so much." So I began to go to Bible study with him.

CP: You talked about "connecting the dots" between books in the Bible. How did the books connect? What is the thread that runs through all the books?

Crabb: When I began doing this project four years ago, I wasn't sure if the dots were going to connect. I was kind of scared thinking, how will I go from I Samuel to 2 Samuel to Kings to Chronicles to Ezra and Nehemiah. It always struck me as separate episodes where God was making some points. But as I looked to see the flow, I think I discovered the flow. I think I discovered the flow that I summarized at the end of the book. The essential flow, put very, very simply, is that God is revealing His incredible grace, His incredible love by letting us see how far we fallen and how far He goes in order to restore us from the fall back to the people we are meant to be.

I've been seeing that throughout the entire Bible. Even Obadiah, for example, how many people read Obadiah? There is something inside of me that is similar to the Edomites that God talks about destroying in the book of Obadiah. What I hear God saying in that book is that there is something inside of you that is just as bad as lethal cancer. And I'm just not going to let you die. I'm going to kill the cancer so you can live. I see that kind of thing all through the Bible, and I ended up finishing Revelation and thinking, I think I understand why John finished the last book of the Bible saying, "Come Lord Jesus, you are an incredible person. I'd like to be with you."

CP: Why do you feel the Bible teaches us to not fear failure? 

Crabb: Because failure is inevitable. There are several reasons but I think that is one. Failure is literally inevitable and I'm simply not as good as I want to be and I'm not going to be the person that I long to be fully until I'm in heaven. And so until then I'm going to fail. But I think what the Bible says is that every time you do fail you don't have to go hide in the corner and call yourself a failure. You can call yourself somebody who has been restored, someone who is still wanted, something still valued, somebody who no matter how severe the failure is can understand God's grace even more and respond more fully to the plan He has for your life. So if you fear failure, what you're going to do is to live not to fail. And if you live not to fail, you are never going to live to succeed.

CP: What do you mean God wants to make us holy rather than coddle us?

Crabb: I'm afraid that a lot of Christianity today we have gotten to be like a heavenly grandfather that wants all the kids to have a good time. Nothing is wrong with wanting to have a good time, but one of the ways I put in the book is that if in fact I do have cancer then my father should not take me to Disney World but he should take me to the hospital. God looks at me and says, "Larry, you really do have a problem. And I am going to make you holy so you can be the kind of person you long to be. I will deal with your self-centeredness (which is every one of our biggest problems), and I'm going to make you other –centered because you will not be alive as a human being, you will not get along in this world, you will not be the person you long to be, you will not have the joy you want until you learn to have a meaningfully love and until you are radically other-centered." And that is what I mean by holiness. And it is a holiness that must precede happiness. If I don't deal with the self-centeredness, that is natural for all of us as children of Adam and Eve, then I'm not ever going to be in the relationships where I can find the happiness that God has in mind for me. So holiness has to precede happiness.

CP: Where did you find Jesus in the Old Testament? How does the Jesus in the Old Testament connect to the Jesus in the New Testament?

Crabb: He is one and the same in every respect. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever; that is how he talked about himself. I do believe the Old Testament is a set-up for the New Testament. Another thing my father said is God loves His son so much that He wrote 66 books about him. So how do you find God's love, Jesus, his son in Genesis? Well, he is right there in the beginning when Adam and Eve sinned and God had to banish them from their happy existence. We were told that the seed of man would crush the head of the serpent. And most commentators and most Bible scholars hear that as a reference to Jesus who would come some day and crush our enemy so we can be set free.

In Exodus, the children of Israel got out of Egypt by virtue of the shed blood of the lamb. Well that is a clear picture of the lamb of God that John the Baptist talked about in John chapter 1. And I could go through every book in the Bible. I'll mention one more in Leviticus. The book talks about the offering that the Jews had to make in order to be in the presence of God. There is one offering that clearly reveal what actually happened when Jesus died on the cross. The sin offering, the trespass offering, the peace offering, all the offering mentioned there are lessons to help us understand when Jesus became the sin offering for all the people that trust him.

CP: Is there anything you want to add?

Crabb: The major thing that I feel about this book is that it is really not a Bible survey book. So when people take a look at it, I don't want them to think of it as a Bible survey book. But this is meant to be a conversation with God. That is what it is. Every 66 love letters. It is my effort to come to God as me and say, "God, right now I have a headache, I'm not feeling on top of the world and I don't know why I should read Zechariah." And from that point have a conversation with God. I tried to discern as best I can from studying the books of the Bible what God is saying to me in the middle of the actual journey.

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