When we look at all the historical evidence, when we look at the men who labored and gave their lives for the God of this Book, when we see how methodically God worked to give us His Word, and when we see that the One who loves us chose to communicate through the Bible, we can do nothing but praise Him for His faithfulness.”
—Charles F. Stanley, Handbook for Christian Living, “Canon”
Though a voracious reader, for many years I felt intimidated by the thought of reading the entire Word of God from cover to cover. But I finally undertook a thru-the-Bible-in-a-year challenge one January 1st, using the traditional Genesis to Revelation approach. Things went smoothly for a while. Genesis is amazing––beginnings are always exciting, and the beginning of everything is a stirring account, revealing much about both God’s character and human nature. And the exodus in Exodus is, in all senses of the word, epic. The relationship between God and His stubborn people was something to which I could readily relate.
However, the further I progressed into the Old Testament, the more I began to lose momentum. Toward the end of Exodus, I read about goats’ hair fabrics, acacia wood, and other exotic ornaments and construction materials for the tabernacle. The painstakingly precise laws in Leviticus that followed, then the seemingly never-ending numbers in Numbers, weren’t easily digested, either, though for vastly different reasons. But I forged on, until I reached my one-year-Bible-reading speed bump.
The beginning of 1 Kings was easy enough—until men with the tongue-twister names Elihoreph, Elonbeth-hanan, and Ben-abinadab appeared in chapter four. Chapter six provided the exact measurements and composition for each wall, door, and floor in the new temple. The carvings, cherubs, and juniper doors of Solomon’s house were likewise described in meticulous detail. I read the cubit measure for every beam, window, and pillar, yet my mental picture of these structures failed to develop. Ultimately, the language didn’t coalesce into real people or places, and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be learning from the details. I stalled in 1 Kings for an uncomfortable amount of time, then gave up entirely.
Since my unsuccessful first attempt, the smart folks at Tyndale House Publishers glommed on to the fact that while a goal to many, reading through the whole Bible was a challenge to some of us. When I first discovered a copy of their One Year Bible, organizing 365 days’ worth of readings with chapters from the Old and New Testaments, plus some psalms and proverbs, felt revolutionary. Today there are a variety of versions, incorporating themes and accommodating any tactic you might wish to take toward a Bible-reading goal.
By taking the Bible and breaking it down into smaller parts, it finally became a whole book to me. The conversations differed wildly, but it was the same God speaking and the same Holy Spirit weaving the stories together.
Daily reading a few chapters of disparate stories from different sections of the Bible might not seem like the most profitable way to take in such sweeping narratives. The One Year Bible’s organized readings might, for example, progress from some impossible-to-follow Levitical laws to a psalm of praise, then to a word of proverbial wisdom, finally closing the day’s assignment with Jesus teaching about the first, second, and greatest commandments, in Matthew 22:35-39. On another day readers might find Old Testament prophecies of a Savior’s coming, followed by the New Testament fulfillment of those same prophecies.
But as I read, something unexpected began to happen. By taking the Bible and breaking it down into smaller parts, it finally became a whole book to me. The conversations differed wildly, but it was the same God speaking and the same Holy Spirit weaving the stories together. It was the same Jesus from front to back, whether a chapter was presenting our desperate need for Him or describing the wonder of His miraculous birth, His purposeful death, His triumphant resurrection, and His imminent return.
I worked my way through each day’s reading until eventually the year’s end coincided with my finally reaching the maps. My goal was complete, and I no longer felt intimidated by Bible reading plans. There is plenty I still do not understand about how God operates in the world—or, for that matter, in my life. And sometimes when friends tell me they intend to start reading at Genesis and make their way through to Revelation, I find myself laughing and asking, “Have you considered other strategies?” But no matter the approach or timetable, the God of the universe began a conversation with us many years ago. He is still speaking, and He delights when we listen and join in.
Illustration by Adam Cruft