I’ve never read the Bible through in a year.
I’ve also never tried. Partly because I don’t like to play games I can’t win (I knew deep down I would likely fail), partly because I’m terrible at sticking to a daily, scheduled plan (particularly one created by someone else), and partly because I didn’t care enough to try.
But mid summer of this year, July 15 2017 to be exact, I figured I would give it a try.
3.5 months later I was done.
The deal I made myself was that I would…
…not follow a plan. Rather, (and yes, this is telling about myself) I would read it through on my own terms. Reading when, and how much, I wanted to read.
So to be clear, this is not that impressive. I may never do it again, and I most likely won’t even read the Bible through again next year.
Three things converged in this season that really powered me through it:
- I have more time than normal. (shout-out to Austin, Bill, and Hunter for leading businesses so well)
- I’m interested to grow in the knowledge of how the truths of God & His Word should intersect our daily lives.
- I wanted to. Not sure how else to put that. Again telling, but I’m not good at doing things I don’t want to do, and tend to do things that I want to do. I simply had an appetite to read the Bible.
Being naturally competitive helped too actually. About one month in I had completed Deuteronomy and thought about how cool it would be to read it through in 6 months. Two months later I had finished Isaiah and thought it would be even more cool to read it through in 4 months. Then it was off to the races for the final 2-3 weeks.
The setup was basic. I have a medium size, leather-bound, ESV Bible. The Thinline Edition published by Crossway. There’s something about the ESV that makes you stare the big truths straight in the face and forces you to grapple with them. You may disagree, and I’m good with that. But one thing the ESV doesn’t seem to be, is watered down. And that’s something I can appreciate.
I simply read it front to back, knowing that not all books are in chronological order, but wanting to simply read it cover to cover, left to right.
I’m not a speed reader, but I tried to read it at about the pace of a book. So of course some areas you slow down, or re-read a small section, letting it soak just a bit. Other times you realize your mind has wondered and you have no idea what you just read, so you read it again. Other areas you’re speeding up a bit, and occasionally you get in the zone and can really make time.
In the past I’ve only ever read the Bible a book here, then a book there. A chapter today, then nothing for a week, then another chapter. At most reading through Proverbs with some consistency, and reading through the New Testament (front to back) a time or so.
However, (and ashamedly) I didn’t expect the experience of reading the entire Bible through, cover to cover, left to right, at a somewhat consistent pace and in a somewhat compressed timeframe, to be as good as it was.
I didn’t anticipate the themes of the Bible to stand out like they did. (At least the one’s my small mind could catch)
The net result was simply this: There were themes that became apparent that never would have presented themselves with the same clarity if I had continued to piece-meal verses, chapters, and books together over the same period of time.
Here are those themes that stood out to me: (do with them what you will)
In no particular order…
(Final disclaimer: I am no scholar, theologian, preacher, or teacher. In no way do I want to pretend to be an expert in areas I am not, or create a personal, slip-shod theology for yourself or myself. The Bible is the authority, and there are many men and women (most dead, some alive) to be referenced and highly considered for their thoughts on these matters. Feel free to contest or correct me at will.)
Again, the themes:
-The whole Bible is raw, messy, honest and unflinching. Particularly the Old Testament. Yet somehow deeply beautiful and hopeful.
-Our Creator cares about material design, aesthetics, flow, patterns, and beauty. A lot.
-The Bible really does read more like a grand narrative comprised of stories, parables, examples and truths, than it does a list of disconnected commands, instructions, imperatives, laws, and ‘gotchas’.
-The Bible is not shy about mentioning or describing a person’s physical appearance, stature, or beauty. Particularly women. (I have no idea what to do with that, but there it is)
-The bigness and absolute sovereignty of God is an undeniable, in-your-face theme throughout the entire Bible.
-God reveals his truths to some, and hides them from others.
-One’s motivations really, really matter to God. (To the extent it seems why one is doing a thing matters as much as what they are doing)
-Nothing; man or beast, king or judge, nation or tribe, city or scheme, business or plan, can stand or have lasting significance if God wants it to fall.
-Paul wrote a lot of the New Testament. (thought, not a theme I guess -sorry)
-We are complicated, hateful, depraved, hopeless, flawed and lustful human beings outside of Christ.
-There is a Redeemer.
-God is the source of anything beautiful.
-At the end of the day, the blessing of God will always matter far more than a lifetime of smart, skillful, masterful work.
-God is a very committed, jealous, and focused God.
-Salvation is from God, and God alone.
-God will not be trifled with.
-God’s promises, covenants, and salvation are eternal. (And when God says eternal, He doesn’t mean ‘or until you change your mind’.)
-The forgiveness God extends over and over to a contrite and repentant heart is staggering.
-God hates pride and idolatry.
-The ultimate reward is Christ himself, not simply the benefits of Christ.
-We will quickly be forgotten apart from the eternal significance available only in Christ and works done in His name.
-God is not a God that ‘blankets’ everything, a mere umbrella -over it all. Rather, He is a God that works in the details, the nuances, the motivations, the trenches, the small corners of our hearts.
-God uses regular, imperfect, ambitious, restless, sinful people all. the. time.
So that’s it. I’d be curious to know what strikes you from the Bible. Facebook is probably as good a place as any to leave your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear them.