Imagine sitting down with a brand-new novel and opening up to page 105, reading three paragraphs, and then closing it. The next day you might jump to the activities of page 455 (it’s a big novel, you’re very impressive to be reading it), where you’ll consume a few sentences here and there.
Ask yourself: What would you get out of this experience? You might get a vague sense of the plot and characters involved. If the novel is good at repeating key points, you may even get a glimpse at the larger picture. But your impressions of that book would be fragmented and unhinged from the author’s intended chronology.
Yet this is how many Christians read the Bible. We flip open to passages and pick out a few verses or paragraphs to digest, and then the next day (or week), we’ll be somewhere else completely. If we do this enough, we may start to get a sense of how the Bible connects and see the larger shape of God’s redemptive plan, but we’ll be missing out as well.
The Bible is not a novel, of course. It’s a collection of 66 books of varying genres, from poetry to historical narrative to letters. Sampling little morsels of scripture here and there benefit us, but not nearly as much as consuming the Bible as it was written: front to back.
While the men’s Bible study has issued a challenge to read the Bible cover to cover, I’ll toss out my own suggestion. In your personal studies, pick a book of the Bible and read it from the start to end. Don’t pick and choose, don’t leap around the Bible like you’re throwing darts and selecting passages at random, just… read it. See how a book begins and ends. Get a sense of its context and how the author links thoughts and arguments and stories together. Invest in a study Bible and read the notes — and maybe even do some cross-comparison with connected verses elsewhere in scripture.
For some of us, this may require significant retraining. I think we develop bad Bible reading habits from a young age that carry on through adulthood. But it’s never too late to start!
You’d be amazed how this simple act can transform our perception of “boring” or “non-applicable” books into fascinating narratives. I found myself hooked on books like Ezekiel and Jeremiah as I wound my way through them. Every time I read through Romans, I am convicted by Paul’s linked argument all over again. And as we’re studying in adult Sunday School and hearing during the sermons, the gospels take on a breathtaking quality when you go through the entire account of Christ’s ministry.
May God bless and spiritually nourish you as you devote yourself to the reading of His Word this week.