As I've already mentioned, Meagan and I recently embarked on a challenge to read the Bible from cover to cover in 40 days. I ended up needing an extra day, but in 41 days--starting on March 28th and ending on May 7th--I read the Bible from cover to cover. It was one of the most challenging and life-changing things I've ever done, and I'd love to share with you all a little more about the experience. And ideally, maybe I'll convince you to do it too.
First of all, if you're anything like me, you're probably thinking, "I don't have time for that. I have a job/ school/ social life/ kids/ all of the above. Are you kidding me?" But you know what? I always think I don't have time to read the Bible. And if you keep thinking that, before you know it, months have gone by and you really haven't been in the Word much at all. You haven't picked up the sword of the Spirit except maybe a time or two in church. I don't know about you, but time or no time, I don't want to live my Christian life that unequipped. If I have time, so do you. If you have time to watch Netflix or use Facebook or post a picture on Instagram, then you have time to read the Bible.
Second, reading the Bible in 40 days gave me a beautiful image of the big picture of Scripture and God's plan for the human race, from start to finish. I wouldn't recommend a Bible challenge like this to be the way you always approach the Word--it would be too much to take in and would prevent you from doing a deep-dive into areas that require a lot of further study. But in terms of getting a general understanding and deep insight into the whole of Scripture in a short time, this challenge can't be beat. I understand so many things that I have never grasped before, including the full saga and historical timeline of what happened to the Israelite people; who went into exile and when and where (Ezra and Nehemiah were written AFTER the exile and chronologically go AFTER the major prophets, which I never understood before); and how so many Old Testament prophecies are fully and completely fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
Seeing how the prophecies of the Old Testament came alive in the New Testament was one of my favorite parts of this whole experience. You see, we almost always read the Bible in fits and starts. In bits and pieces. We may generally understand (and believe!) that Jesus came to be the light of the world and to save His people from their sin, but think about this . . . reading the Bible from cover to cover, and getting through the entire Old Testament before Jesus Christ jumps on the scene, will show you in a whole new way how much the world needed a Savior. How much the world still needs a Savior.
The Old Testament can be a bit depressing because it describes a world with only the promise of a Savior--but before that Savior came down to ransom the world He created. Once you've read through Leviticus, you realize how desperate and hopeless the state of the world is without Jesus. I read the Bible with completely fresh eyes this time--I know the ending. I know what happens next. But while reading the Old Testament, I could feel the desperation for the promised Savior as if I were living it myself. You realize fully that this system of sacrifices was never going to be the final solution. Over hundreds of years, literally rivers of blood of sacrificed animals flowed down from those altars to atone for the people's sins. And of course, the people continued to sin. The people continued to live in bondage. Broken under the oppression of evil, the oppression of a sacrificial system that was a precursor of what was to come, but nevertheless a system that could never truly atone for sin.
You've got to slog through it, folks. The first number of books of the Old Testament are hard. Hard in some places to understand, and most of all hard because you realize how truly burdensome life can be when you're a sinner without a Savior. How burdensome it can be to try to follow every aspect of the law, knowing that you never measure up, knowing that God requires righteousness and no amount of animal sacrifices can make anybody righteous. How dark it can be. Yes, just how dark it can be.
But then--but then! "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this . . . the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners . . . to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
(from Isaiah 9 & 61)
Yes. Yes. YES. The people HAVE seen a great light. Oh, they have. When I got to this passage in Isaiah 9--one of the first direct prophecies of Jesus Christ--it felt like I was letting out the breath I'd been holding since Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, bringing sin and shame and despair into the world. And I realized in a way I never have before just how great that light was. Because I had seen, more clearly than I ever had, just how great the darkness was.
But we have a Savior! We. Have. A. Savior. Hallelujah! God has seen the oppression of His people, and He has sent us a Savior to rescue us. A Savior who gives us His robe of righteousness and is the perfect, complete, and final sacrifice for sin. A Savior who exchanges our ashes for His crown of beauty, our mourning for His joy. And you know what? That Savior did not come from a long line of perfect people. God did not choose to make His Son the (earthly) descendant of a bunch of perfect folks. No, He chose for His Son to be the direct descendant of people whose lives were desperately scarred by sin--liars and prostitutes and murderers and people who had made a terrible mess of their lives. But He redeems everything. Nothing is wasted. And those people--people like you and me--were part of the direct line of Christ. The Messiah. Quick side story--my favorite person in the line of Jesus Christ is Leah. This story is in Genesis 29. She was married to Jacob, who never really loved her, but only loved her sister instead. Leah's father tricked Jacob into marrying her. Leah gave birth to a son, and said, "Maybe my husband will love me now that I have borne him a son." She gave birth again, and said, "The Lord gave me this son because my husband doesn't love me." Her life seemed beyond redemption--alone and forgotten by the man who was supposed to love and care for her. But then, Leah had a third son, her last son. When she had this son, she didn't talk about how Jacob didn't love her. She didn't even talk about how she wanted her husband to love her since she had given him three sons. No, she said, "This time, I will praise the Lord." This time, I will praise the Lord! Spoiler alert--the third son was named Judah, which means "praise." Jesus was born into the line of Judah, and became the Lion of Judah. Because a lonely and rejected and forgotten woman praised the Lord, she was written directly into the story of Christ. Isn't our God amazing? Isn't his redemption profound? Can He not make broken lives so beautiful?
And finally, reading the Bible all the way through in a short time gave me so many beautiful pictures of the heart of God. Don't you want to know His heart? Don't you want to see firsthand how kind and loving and holy and pure He is? I know I do. I want to be a woman after God's own heart, and to do that, I need to be able to know His heart. And His heart is put on display most clearly in His Word.
The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us. And out of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. Read God's story from start to finish. Please, please read it. Dwell in the darkness awhile, feel the oppression and the sorrow and the longing and yearning for hope. And then sit back and watch the light break through, because it does! Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Watch how the hope unfolds, because it does. It unfolds in a way I've never fully appreciated when I've tried to read the Bible in fits and starts, like I talked about before. Read it from cover to cover. And it will deeply increase your hunger for the Word and your desire to read it more in the future and to incorporate it into your daily life. He has given us grace upon grace--and a true light that can conquer any darkness. Read about it.