I have never read the entire bible. At least, I don't think that I have. I grew up in a VERY religious home where the bible played a central role in our family ( time out always involved being exiled to my room and forced to read a chapter in Proverbs). This had the dual effect of making me both extremely "well-read" scripturally speaking, and extremely indifferent to the bible. It wasn't until the late spring of 2009--the moment that God changed my heart and called me to himself--that my interest in pursuing a heart-driven love of God AND this singular book sparked. Still, all too often I find myself nibbling on snatched bits, a verse here and there, with no true hunger or intention of feasting my mind upon the word. Even now, even with my heart drawn to Christ, in love with his overwhelming mercy and power, I find the familiar reflex to surrender to "boredom" when reading the bible.
I find it almost impossible to read the old testament; it's lack of commentary maddens me continually. There's no proffered explanation for WHY many of the events occur. They just happen, causing corresponding reactions. The narrative leaves a swelling silence--made painfully louder by the utter absence of a clear "point." It requires so much interpretation, which accordingly necessitates wisdom, and the beginning of wisdom = the fear of God, so I'm left with this:
God should always be the starting point of any biblical interpretation.
The bible is his sketched portrait, meant to tell the ultimate story of this beautiful, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God. It's humbling when I see it this way, thinking about every chapter as a microcosm, a bite-sized lesson in understanding life, the universe, and everything. I'm sure that's why so much of the Bible is without obvious interpretation. I suppose God gave us the challenging bits to grow and mature our wisdom and love of him as we search for meaning. Regardless, yesterday during my quiet time, I felt this pressing need to read the bible thoroughly and grow my understanding and love of God. I'm nervous at the prospect of starting this task because this is a text-book case of the kind of project I tackle enthusiastically only to abandon it two weeks in. Hence my feeling of humiliation at my weakness and wandering attention but joy in his strength. Let it be known: if in fact I accomplish this endeavor it is not because of my own dexterity. I have none. Only God could give me the desire to read a book I found so boring for so long. Only God could give the energy and drive to actually read it.
I pray that he won't leave me to my own devices but will fix my heart so steadfastly upon him that I will WANT to be in the word. I want so badly for David's words to be my own:
"My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;" - psalm 63:5-6
And "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. ... I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. ... Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." - psalm 119:11, 14-15, 19
Today, Day one of my attempt, I read Genesis 1 through 15 ( I admit, though, that I've read 1 through 6 so many times in my life that I had trouble focusing and not letting my mind drift off into a mental holiday). Here's the rough outline:
Phase 1 - God sets the rules and predicts the outcomes
A. Creation Narratives (1:1-2:25)
1. Mankind as end of creation (1:1-2:4a) 2. Mankind as center of creation (2:4b-25)
B. Fall of Adam and Eve (3:1-24) C. Cain and Abel (4:1-26) D. Descendants of Adam (5:1-32) E. Flood Narrative (6:1-9:29) F. Genesis of Nations (10:1-32) G. Tower of Babel (11:1-9) H. Genealogy of Abraham (11:10-32)
Phase 2 - God Chooses a People
A. Abraham (12:1-25:18)
1. Promises to Abram (12:1-9) 2. Abram in Egypt (12:10-20) 3. Abram and Lot separate (13:1-18) 4. Abram wages a coup and rescues Lot (14:1-16) 5. Abram and Melchizedek (14:17-24) 6. Promises of Abram's lineage / offspring renewed (15:1-21)
Thus far the resounding theme is God saves and blesses ---> man sins ----> sin compounds on sin ----> God shows mercy. And what mercy! Over and over again. Mercy to Adam and Eve, to Cain, to Cain's descendants, to Noah, to Abram, to Sara ( what if she hadn't been barren and had instead conceived a baby with Pharaoh during the "she's my sister" episode). Again and again, God shows unbelievable amounts of grace, both to those who love him and those who don't.
I feel about the size and cosmic importance of a mosquito ( an all too painful analogy since I currently have about 20 mosquito bites in various districts of my body.
Oh God, why are you so kind and compassionate to us?