There are many reasons for reading Scripture, but I think we often get the main reason wrong. Some time ago, I was meeting a woman every week to read the Bible together. While she professed to be a Christian, she did not attend church and had little understanding of the Bible. She grew frustrated with our time together because she just wanted to jump to the passages that told her what to do. She wanted three steps to a better marriage or four things to do when life throws you a curveball. She had little time for or interest in understanding the whole of Scripture as it tells one story about God's redemption of man. She just wanted her life to be better and she thought the Bible could tell her how.
While she wasn't wrong exactly, she skipped a very imporant reason for reading the Bible. The main purpose is to tell us who God is. The Bible tells us about his character, how he works in the world around us, how he has chosen to work in the lives of his people in various generations and how he is moving in our own world today. At it's heart, it's a letter to us from God about what he wants us to know about himself and what's he's doing in the world.
While we can - and should - learn from the characters of the Bible as we read their stories, all of these stories point to God and tell us something important about who he is and how he acts. Tim Keller writes "These Gospel naratives are telling you not what you should do but what God has done."* The danger from looking at them only as moral stories to guide our choices is that we usually fail to grasp the cultural differences of the time these stories took place. Often the way they chose to behave was dictated by culture and prevailing attitudes. And often, God made promises to certain groups of people that don't pertain to all believers as a whole. When we focus on reading Scripture to only tell us what to do, we can easily misinterpret the purpose the stories were included in the first place.
Another reason it's important to read the Bible first and foremost as a way to learn about God is that obedience through action becomes much easier. If your mother tells you to eat your vegetables you take her advice more kindly than if the waitress tells you to do so. Why? Because you know your mother and that relationship gives her the right to meddle in your business. And the same is true with God. When you know his character, you are more willing to obey his commands.
When you learn about how loving and gracious God is, it is easier to ask him for forgiveness when you fail. When you realize that God always keeps his promises, you are willing to trust him when all hope seems lost. When you understand that God is always good, your realize that whatever he allows in your life will ultimately be good as well. If you jump right to obedience before you understand who he is, it will always be more of a struggle to obey.
Everything in Scripture tells us some aspect of who God is. It's the best way to get to know him. Next time you're reading the Bible, instead of jumping into your normal study, pause a moment to ask, "What is this passage telling me about God?"