Happy New Year! First, thank you for reading, commenting on and sharing the blog throughout 2017. Your thoughts, challenges and encouragement have been a blessing. I am looking forward to – no, that’s not quite right – I am excited about where we’re going next. Our church, Twickenham, has launched an initiative to be in the Word in 2018. We’ve committed to reading the Bible cover to cover, from the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the City of God in Revelation. I am inviting you to join us. But I wouldn’t blame you if you had some doubts.
Lots of people start the New Year with a read-through-the-Bible resolution. And they get off to a great start. Genesis is full of fascinating characters and captivating stories. It’s just as easy to keep turning the pages through the first twenty chapters of Exodus. The plagues, the Red Sea miracle, the Ten Commandments. But by the time your calendar flips to mid-February, the winter landscape outside your window isn’t the only thing that has turned barren and cold. So has the Bible.
You start reading regulations that seem to be spectacularly irrelevant (what to do about a habitually goring bull), deeply offensive (the care and keeping of slaves), or just down right odd (don’t boil a young goat in its mother’s milk). And then you get to Leviticus – the place where resolutions to read through the Bible in a year go to die. If the Bible is as important as we think, why is reading it cover to cover so difficult?
To start with, the Bible is old. The youngest parts of it date back to the first century. The Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi, is centuries older than that. Since it was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, we miss not just the subtleties a first language reader would immediately see, but sometimes even the plain meaning. Add the vast cultural differences between the world of the Bible and the one we live in and it’s no wonder we struggle to get through it.
But it’s not just the age, language or cultural differences of the Bible – it’s how we read it. We think, “Okay – there are 66 books. Fifty-two weeks in a year. If I read a little over one book a week, I can do this.” Or, “There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible – that’s 3.25 chapters per day. I can do this.”
And then we don’t. The Bible is comprised of 66 different books and 1,189 chapters. But the books and chapters are not isolated units that can or should be ticked off a to-do list. The Bible is a narrative – a Grand Narrative about what God has done, is doing and will do to solve the one problem humans cannot solve by themselves. Every odd story, strange regulation or offensive ordinance finds a place in that unfolding drama of what God is doing. It’s no accident that the Bible starts with, “In the beginning . . .” and, in its closing chapter, ends with “for ever and ever.” It’s a story. The whole thing is a story!
So the Bible is old. We read it like a checklist. And then, the degree of difficulty becomes exponential because, like so many other resolutions, we try to go it alone. That’s why I’m inviting you to join us in this resolution. How?
First, each week, this blog will focus on some part of the story from that week’s reading. Next week, for example, I’ll catch you up on what happens in the first 12 chapters of Genesis and how they introduce the story of the Bible.
Second, we are following The Bible Project’s reading plan. The Bible Project is an excellent resource for understanding how each section of the Bible fits into the grand narrative of scripture. You can find more information on our webpage or theirs.
Finally, every Wednesday night in 2018, Twickenham will be meeting together to discuss what we’ve been reading, to ask questions and to encourage each other to keep it up. If you are in the Huntsville area you are more than welcome to join us. If you aren’t, why don’t you recruit a few friends to join you and do the same?
Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, once said, “The book to read is not the one that thinks for you, but the one that makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.”
Is reading the Bible cover to cover going to be easy? No. Is it worth it? Let’s find out. We can do this.