One of my favorite aspects of the end of the year is deciding on a new Bible reading plan. In 2020, I decided to read the Bible chronologically, something I have never done before. After reflecting on my reading, I wanted to share a few insights I learned.
The Bible begins and ends the same way, but the stories throughout aren’t always chronological based on the order they are compiled. For example, the book of Job is found in the middle of the Old Testament, but it most likely took place in the Patriarchal (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) time period found in Genesis. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther take place towards the end of the Old Testament instead of before the Psalms. The New Testament letters to the church while written in the same time period, are not in order based on when written.
However, don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with how the sixty-six books of the Bible are compiled, that’s not the point. The point is to better understand God’s redemptive story contained in His Word, it is a tremendous help to see the chronological timeline.Reading the Bible chronologically, in my opinion, helps the flow of reading and helps connect the dots to the overall timeline of the Bible. It reads more like one large plot instead of choppy short stories.
Before I get into what I learned, here’s how I approached the plan.
I used a 5 day reading plan
Once the weekend hits, I’m out of my routine and often get behind on my Bible reading plans. Eventually I grow frustrated for being so far behind and end up changing plans halfway through the year. This year, to avoid that frustration, I went to a five day reading plan. This was much more enjoyable and rewarding and I plan to continue reading this way in 2021.
I mainly read out of the ESV, but sometimes other translations
I’ve been reading out of the ESV for my devotions for the last decade. In 2021, I’ll read out of the CSB. While I love the ESV, there are passages that become difficult to read. Whether it’s a genealogy or measurements, there are important parts of the Bible that are just down right challenging to read through. To help with the monotony, I would switch translations, mainly to the Message Translation by Eugene Peterson. In fact, the Message made the prophecy books (Daniel and Revelation) a whole lot of fun and helped me stay more attentive to the text.
I would also read a different translation with passages I was familiar with. When I got to the book of John, the book I’m currently preaching through at Grace Life, I switched up the translation to help my focus be on the text. If I was rereading a text of Scripture or the same story (as seen in the Kings, Chronicles, and Gospels) I would read in the ESV and in another translation.
I listened to difficult passages
Lastly, I listened to difficult passages. It’s a well known fact that Bible reading plans get bogged down in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It happens to the best of us. (Except Jesus, He used passages from Deuteronomy when Satan was tempting Him in Matthew 4.)
When I noticed I was getting bogged down or I was skimming through just to get through (we’ve all done this!), I would listen to the text using the Bible App or the Dwell Reading App. Changing the way I took in the passage changed the way I understood it and helped me focus in on what God was saying in that particular text.
With a specific and intentional plan to read through the entire Bible chronologically, I was able to learn and remember some incredible truths of God’s Word. As I was reading, I noticed I was reading with the overall plot in mind. It could be because I read it chronologically or it could be because it has been a few years since I’ve read through the whole Bible in one year. In recent years, my plans have been through a few books, a book, or a condensed version of the whole Bible (the F260 plan has been a favorite of mine over the past few years).
Here’s what I learned from reading the Bible Chronologically.
God is always at work in the hearts of his people
From Adam and Eve to the wandering Israelites to the early church and everywhere in between, God is at work in the hearts of His people. On every page you see the mission of God to bring His people to Himself. In Leviticus, God calls for His people to live in holiness, just as He does in 1 Peter. In Judges and the Prophets, God calls his people to forsake their sin and return to Him, just as He does in the Gospels and in the Church Epistles. God is working in the hearts of His people. He’s creating a people after his own good pleasure. In the Old Testament it’s Israel and in the New Testament it’s the church. And He establishes His people through His Son Jesus Christ.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”. – 1 Peter 2:9–10
It’s all one big story of God’s Redemption
As you read through the BIble chronologically, it is easy to see what God is doing; he’s on a rescue mission to save mankind from their sin. We immediately see it when Adam and Eve sin and he promises that the offspring of Eve will crush the head of the Serpent (Gen 3:15). We see glimpses of the redemption story when God provides himself a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son Isaac (Gen 22), when He frees His people from Egypt (Exodus 1-14), and when He provides a way of salvation in the wilderness (Numbers 21:9; John 3).
The story of redemption continues when God establishes David as King. David fails and is an imperfect king, but God will send His true and perfect King in Jesus. The prophets point to the one who will be slaughtered for the people of Israel and the one who will be the the promised Messiah.
The mystery of the Old Testament is revealed when Jesus is born of a virgin, lives a perfect life, dies for the sins of the world, and then conquered sin and death when He rose again three days later. Jesus is the main character in God’s Story of Redemption, the Old Testament points to Him and the New Testament praises Him. As Sally Lloyd-Jones says in her incredible Children’s Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible, “Every story whispers His name”.
God is committed to his glory
Finally, I was reminded that God is committed to His glory. He punishes sin and He celebrates righteousness. Through the redemption of mankind, He is making His name great in all that He does and He is commanding that we do everything for His glory.. King Solomon says,
“I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” – Ecclesiastes 3:14
Every act of God is for the world to see His glory. John Piper says in this helpful article on the Glory of God in God’s Word,
“Probably no text in the Bible reveals the passion of God for his own glory more clearly and bluntly as Isaiah 48:9-11 where God says,
For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
The more I read the Bible, the more I see the glory of God and the pride in my own heart. I want everything to be about me, but the Bible shows me that everything is about God and in humble obedience and thankful devotion, I seek to now live my life for the glory of God.”
God’s Word never changes. Every page is always the same. But the more we read it, the more we eat it (Jeremiah 15:16), the more the Holy Spirit changes our hearts to be like Jesus.
* We’re a few weeks into the New Year now and you may or may not have a Bible reading plan in place. That’s okay. The best way to begin reading the Bible is to pick it up and open it.