My coworkers and I made a pledge to read through the Bible in a year. The idea was simple. We all shared the same reading plan, could use any version of the Bible we wished, and would check in occasionally to make sure everyone was keeping on track. Thousands of people have read this epic work in less time than that. We should have no trouble completing this task. In fact, we should all love this experience that will bring us closer to each other and closer to God. I am now about four months in to this event, and I would like to share some things I have learned and experienced so far.
I must warn I am not of the school of thought that takes the Old Testament completely literally. For example, I don’t believe a farmer should be stoned for planting two different crops side by side. Nor do I believe having a period makes me unclean. I believe instead many of the OT laws are metaphors for spiritual laws. I believe the OT is an important basis for the New Testament as they are both important parts of a whole. The OT gives us a genealogy of Jesus. It can help us to learn about consequences of sin and the sadness God feels when we sin.
I am also in no way a biblical scholar. I do not claim to understand every word of the Bible. In fact, there is much of the Bible so far I do not understand at all.
The Old Testament (OT) is hard! Much of the OT deals with historical events, locations, and people. Don’t get me wrong, it is very interesting and I am enjoying it. However, the OT is not light reading. There are some extremely serious things happening in these books. There are many times of great strife where entire tribes of people are being wiped out. These are instances of incest, violence, false idols, and sacrifice. God is laying down the law amongst the sinners of the world. There are lists of names and places that even a linguistics professor would struggle with. The Old Testament is incredibly important, but by no means simple to read. The main lesson I have learned thus far is that God will stick with the righteous at heart. The people God chooses are not all powerful, rich men. Some are poor men or men who have corrupt behaviors before they choose to listen to and obey the Lord. However, they all love God, trust God and are willing to follow God.
The advantage of working with a group is the accountability it creates and the support that exists. If I am especially confused about something, I have others in the same place I am to go to. If I get a little behind, they encourage me to catch back up. The disadvantage is that it can be tough for everyone to stick together. Since we began this challenge, two of us have moved on to other employment. Without seeing each other daily, we have lost much of the accountability. If you choose to do something like this in a group, I would suggest making sure it is people you see regularly. Otherwise, you may want to schedule actual meetings so you can all keep up with each other.
Another suggestion I have is to set aside a time each day specifically for your reading. If you are going to attempt a challenge such as this, you must have time to focus. If you don’t pick a time, you may end up getting so far behind you decide not to catch up. This is not completely necessary to do, however I think it is a good way to guarantee you stick with the plan.
One last reflection I have to share is the number of popular phrases and clichés I have found with origins in the Bible. I am only about half way through the OT, yet I have run across several of these. For example, did you know the idea of being “My brother’s keeper” came from the Bible? How about, “An eye for an eye?” What about “How the mighty have fallen?” All of these sayings originate in the Bible, and there are many, many more.
Whether you are a newly devoted Christian, a life-long follower of God, or even not the least bit religious, I recommend reading the Bible through at some point in your life. I have already learned a lot about my religion and really the world in general. This is a book containing history, formation of laws, beautiful writing, and some great adventures. I can’t wait to continue my reading and I will make sure to update as time goes on.