This is the first in a series of three pieces by the Reverend Randy McCloy, offering some approaches to reading the Bible.
Many of us have had honorable intentions of reading the Bible regularly, starting with Genesis and plowing right on through Revelation. Along about Genesis 10, we tend to get bogged down in the genealogy, and our good intentions wane.
I suggest starting with a short, but very meaningful Old Testament book such as Ruth. Located between Judges and 1 Samuel, it is only four chapters, occupying only about five pages including footnotes. It is a beautiful story about surviving hardships through faith, and with loyalty, love and kindness to strangers. Perhaps very few verses in Scripture are more stirring than these words: “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”
Next, move on to another short book in the New Testament: Philemon, only one chapter, with 25 verses, but containing an important message. One of Paul’s authoritative letters, it is the story of how God wants us to respond to those who have wronged us… with love, forgiveness and reconciliation. Philemon, a man of great wealth and owner of many slaves, is asked not only to take back his runaway slave, Onesimus, but also to free him. In the U.S., it took us over 1,800 years to act upon Paul’s civil rights message!
Ready for a little longer read (13 chapters)? Turn the next page to Hebrews, a book which emphasizes maintaining one’s faith in the presence of hardship. Thoughtful and beautiful words are present here as well. Two of my favorite passages are: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen,” and “do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Now you’re on a roll, and can proceed to reading the Gospels, or Acts of the Apostles… or, go back to the Old Testament and read one book of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament) at a time, perhaps alternating with a New Testament read. Skipping around like this may hold your interest more than the traditional plowing through from cover to cover.
Photo Credit: “Full Book of Isaiah 2006-06-06” by Trounce – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons