Have you read the Bible from beginning to end? I am sorry to say that I have not, despite being a Christian my entire life. (Nothing like starting off with a huge confession, right?) I have read parts of the Old Testament and the entire New Testament, but I have not read the entire Bible. It’s interesting now to reflect on why I haven’t.
I remember the first time I tried to read the Bible from start to finish. My parents had given me my first nice leather Bible for Christmas when I was in 4th or 5th grade. This was way back before there were as many translation options as there are today, and my new Bible was the King James Version. It probably won’t surprise you to know that I barely made it past Noah and the Ark!
As an adult, I purchased the NIV translation of a “Read the Bible Through in a Year.” I remember keeping up with it for a couple of months, but I found that reading several chapters of the Old Testament, then a couple chapters of Psalms and Proverbs, before skipping over to the New Testament each day was cumbersome. Maybe it was something about me, but I found it difficult to pick up the next day where I had left off in 3 different places!
Amid my attempts to read the Bible from start to finish, the majority of my group and individual Bible studies were more “topical” in nature and based on the New Testament. Topical studies were more appealing, I think, because I could choose what I wanted God to speak to me about. Although I enjoyed Psalms and Proverbs, I came to believe that there really wasn’t anything pertinent I was missing from the Old Testament. It’s really all about Jesus anyway, right? But, I’ve also recently learned that there’s a whole lot to learn from the OT and it IS relevant to today!
Some time towards the end of last year, I felt the desire to begin with Genesis and read through the entire Bible- start to finish. This time, I chose a modern translation (New Living) that takes the reader through the Bible chronologically, with no skipping around. And there is a daily summary, as well as a practical application commentary, that has satisfied my need for the topical part of Bible study. What I have learned is that the insights, encouragements, and lessons from reading the Old Testament are every bit as relevant and applicable to anything that I have learned from the New Testament!
This is a big transitional year for our family. My daughter, Emily, will enter middle school next year and for the last several years, my husband and I have been considering moving both of our girls out of public school to a private Christian school, where they can obtain a faith-based education. To us, it makes sense that if we are going to move to a new school system, the time to do it would be when Emily is moving to a new school anyway. Along with this decision has been another to possibly to move from our current neighborhood to another. We have had our eye on another neighborhood for years and now that the girls will be changing schools, it seems like a good time to decide whether we should move or not. Now, I went into this idea of reading the Bible through without really thinking there would be anything God would say to me about these decisions in the Old Testament. Turns out I was wrong.
In Genesis 12:1-4, God calls Abram (Abraham) to pick up and leave his native country and to move his family. Abram was obedient and did what God told him to do, but what’s most interesting about this passage is that Abram didn’t know where God was telling him to move! Hebrews 11:8 says, “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land… He went without knowing where He was going.” Abraham exhibited true faith and I felt like I was being encouraged to do the same: God was telling me that we just need to keep our eyes on Him and follow where He leads—even if that means staying where we are. But wait, there’s more!
God makes a promise to Abraham that his descendants will be many and also that he and Sarah, who were both really old at this point, would have a son of their own. God repeats His promise many times, but time passes and nothing happens. So, Sarah and Abraham get impatient and take matters into their own hands. Abraham and Sarah’s servant, Hagar, conceive a son and this creates a situation that brings much heartbreak. (Genesis 15-17) God does eventually fulfill His promise to Abraham and Sarah, but the consequences of their impatience impacted them for years.
Meanwhile, although there were a few “hiccups” with the private school application process, God continued to lead us forward. However, the process of looking around at houses became overwhelming. Initially we were considering just one neighborhood, but then one house/builder lead to another, and we started looking at several other neighborhoods. With so many possibilities, it was hard to discern if God was leading us to any of them. Many times along this journey, builders and agents would have loved some money and a signed contract, but so far, we haven’t felt God’s hand on any of the houses/neighborhoods we have seen (nice as they are!). This passage about how Abraham and Sarah failed to wait upon God came at the exact time that I was feeling the most overwhelmed. Abraham and Sarah took the control from God and the consequences of this lasted for years. This passage served as a strong reminder for us to walk with God through this process, and not to run ahead.
How amazing is it that God knows us and loves us so intimately that He speaks to us about exactly what we are dealing with in life and at the perfect time! I will admit that I have not read my Bible according to plan every single day, so I’m a little behind. In spite of this, God brought the right message at the perfect time. It is it now May and I am still so encouraged! Now, I will admit that Leviticus is a challenge (smile!), but I continue to believe God is using the Old Testament to speak into my everyday life.
What about you? Whatever part of the Bible you are studying, I pray you are hearing God speak to you, too. And if you haven’t read the Bible all the way through, I hope you are encouraged to pick up whatever translation/plan inspires you, and get started— you don’t even have to wait until January!