How do you read the Bible?
No, I’m not trying to write one of those ‘you-should-read-your-Bible-more’ articles. I know Christians often feel they should read their Bible more. I also know that not everyone reads the Bible the same way. And some individuals don’t always read their Bibles the same way all the time. There are lots of ways to read the Scriptures but let me highlight one way that has really helped me.
For 2013, I decided (almost arbitrarily) to read through the entire Bible chronologically. That means, reading the Bible in the historical order in which things happened or in which things were written. Here’s an online plan for it. Reading through Scripture chronologically has helped me learn (and re-learn) a few things.
1) All the Bible makes up The Big Story. There are lots of stories, commands, prayers, poems, prophecies in the Old and New Testaments. Reading from beginning to end in chronological helps a reader see that they all make up One Big Story. When you read through 2 Chronicles and then scoot over to read some of Proverbs, it dawns on you that these sayings don’t come from nowhere. They had their setting in Solomon’s reign. Every part of the Bible is a part of One Big Story.
2) The Bible is big and not just filled with my favourite pet verses. If left to my own devices, I might just read and re-read the verses which ‘mean the most to me’ or ‘feel most relevant’. It’s totally great to have favourite passages; I have lots. But if the Bible is God’s word, than all of it is God’s word. This is why reading the entire is important every once in awhile. Leviticus might seem to drag but when we read it and ask ‘what does this mean in light of the Big Story’ it can maybe gain some new life. There was a lot of blood required for sin atonement! Oh, if only there were a sacrifice to end all sacrifices! Keep reading…there will be.
3) Books of the Bible are not arranged in a chronological order. Of course, we start in Genesis but did you know that the events of Job take place roughly in the same period as Abraham? Did you know that Matthew was not the first book of the New Testament (it was 1st Thessalonians)? Did you know that many of the Psalms correspond to certain times/events in the Old Testament? Reading chronologically helps to see how the events/teachings of the Bible actually played out in history.
4) You can see how things change, and how much they stay. God’s Story stretches out over a long time. Sometimes you have to read fast to see it from a bird’s eye view. Centuries pass in Israel’s history and Bible figures come and go. But God stays the same. He is gracious through the entire Bible, jealous and wrathful too. There’s Psalm 51 and 1st John 1:9. There’s Genesis 19 and Acts 5. But His way of relating to His people changes, and even who gets to be one of His people. Galatians, for example, marks a different way of being God’s people than does Exodus. Reading through chronologically helps us see continuity and change.
Bible reading is often difficult but it is always worth doing. One way to find new life in is to read it as One Big Story. It takes awhile but seeing the all the rhythm of the Bible can be very exciting.