The best teachers I ever had struggled to get through the syllabus on time. The problem was that their lectures provoked so many questions. Some of our best classes were taken up by what one teacher called “chasing rabbits.”

Some of my happiest childhood memories happened when we went for a holiday on my uncle’s dairy farm in Bega. My uncle Garner had a wonderful kelpie dog named Pete. It was great fun standing at the fence and watching Pete go to work. Garner would curl his bottom lip and let go with a whistle that would break glass. Pete would dash away to round up the herd. He was brilliant at keeping them together, and heading off the occasional escapee. But there were times when he totally lost the plot. Sometimes, just as he had the herd moving quietly in the right direction, he would dash off and leave them to it. He loved chasing rabbits. While he was obsessed with his rabbits, the herd would scatter, and he would have to start again. It took a loud and persistent whistle to get him back on task.

As we read the Bible, we come across passages that raise all sorts of questions. They are confusing. They are also distracting. While we dash off to find the answers, we forget about the bigger picture, and lose the momentum of the plot or argument. Even if we keep reading and try to ignore these issues, they just won’t go away. We are like Pete and his rabbits.

There are some major rabbit warrens in place as we move through the Bible. One of my professors at seminary ran a whole postgraduate course on what he called “The Red Dragons of the NT.” These were the passages that had the best of minds stumped or engaged in endless controversies. He introduced us to scholarly humility. We are all still working on that course.

There are answers to most of the obvious interruptions to our understanding of the text. We know from experience where most of these occur because, over time, and many repetitions, we have had to deal with the FAQs of our first-time readers. It is helpful to finish the study and come back to these afterwards. But, we know that there is a little bit of Pete in all of us.

Pete didn’t catch every rabbit that he chased. It is hard to accept that the rabbit went down the hole. We aren’t going to have the time or resources to resolve every question. Sometimes we can only clarify what’s at stake, and leave it for another time. We are students and trainees together. The real challenge is that course in humility—learning to accept that there are some questions that we just can’t figure out. God does that quite deliberately because he isn’t accountable to us. There comes a point where we have to accept the line between the things that are revealed and those that God chooses to keep to himself (Deuteronomy 29:29). That doesn’t mean we don’t keep our eyes and ears open just in case.