With the start of the new year, I began reading through the entire Bible one more time. This will make the fifth trip through in the last eight years. The first three times were with the aid of the Bible on CD as I went through the New International Version. My fourth time through I read the English Standard Version with devotional for men. Now I am trying the One Year Chronological Bible in the 2011 New International Version.
I will be the first to admit that after Bible college my Bible reading was limited to what I was teaching for the week or what a daily devotional placed as the passage for the day. I tried reading the One Year Bible along with numerous Bible plans, but I would always stall in Leviticus and Numbers until I finally gave up. I did read through the New Testament a couple of times and thought I was doing well. To be honest, I wondered why it mattered if I read it for a second or third time, I mean, wasn’t once enough. I was familiar with most of the stories and had a general knowledge, and that felt good to me.
On my latest trip through the Bible, I have noticed a few advantages of reading through it one more time.
1. Starting to see the big picture. It is easy to think of the Bible as a collection of books that are disjointed and have little connection. I am starting to see how the law ties to history. I see how the prophets connect to history. I slowly understand how the Old and New Testament tie together. The Bible is one harmonious story and should be read together.
2. Learning theology from the whole Bible. Because of my emphasis on the New Testament, I often saw God and his work in Jesus with no connection to the Old Testament. While reading through those old stories, I am amazed at how many times God’s grace is mentioned. My view of an angry God in the old covenant and a grace-filled God in the new one was shattered.
3. Noticing the details in the stories. When you first read through the stories found in God’s word, there is a focus simply on learning the story. Okay, Jacob and Esau were brothers and didn’t get along. Now I see things like, Esau knew his parents wanted him to take an Israelite wife and yet he purposely married not one but two Hittite women. Recently I have been reading Job, and I notice how much of what he says is true, but how my theology lines up with his friends who are wrong.
4. Greater familiarity. I noticed how much more of the stories are attaching themselves to my long-term memory. I have heard this before, and it is starting to stick. God blessed me with a strong memory, but it is tremendously aided by repetition.
5. I hear something new every time. My personal situation has been different with each reading. My relationships have changed, the people I serve in ministry are involved in different struggles, and my leadership is growing. Because of the changes in my life, I find that different lines and phrases touch my heart more with each reading. I underline different verses with every reading. God speaks to me in just the way I need with every page I read each time.
These are my reflections. Some of you have been through the Bible much more than me. What would you add to my list?
I always encourage people to read their Bible, but I would also suggest you read it more than once.