For the past several years, I’ve done some form of “reading the Bible in a year.” This started with my Grandfather making a family calendar each year that included all the birthdays and anniversaries, classic family photos, and Bible reading on each day. I loved that I could read the Bible with my grandparents from miles away. In the past three years, I’ve done a Bible reading plan on the YouVersion app (FREE) with my friends. The Bible in a year plans vary, some are in straight “canonical” order, some are chronological (when they occur in history), and some have a mix of Old and New Testament readings each day. I enjoy reading, listening to, and studying the Word more each year. Here are some of my observations.
Rebellion, Judgment, and Deliverance
Throughout the Old Testament, we see a pattern. The people do well for a time, then they each begin doing what is right in their own eyes. God sends judgment and they face the consequences of their rebellion. They cry out for God’s mercy and redemption, and He delivers them. This cycle repeats so often that reading through it can make you dizzy. That is, unless, you recognize that people are not any different. How many times do we make the same mistakes over and over? How often do we allow ourselves to fall away, making excuses? Then when we see the chaos of consequence, we cry out for help.
We may not receive a miraculous intervention, but we can still see God at work. He has given us His word, to provide us with all the answers. He has given us the church, to help meet our needs. He provides for us, sometimes in unexpected ways. Oftentimes, we call out as the last option after trying to solve the problem on our own. One of my favorite quotes is “Prayer is a first response, not a last resort.” Be a first responder.
As we read through the Word of God, two simple words change the course of circumstances (44 times). Here are just a few of those times.
But God remembered Noah… (Genesis 8:1). All the people of the earth were wicked, with only evil thoughts all of the time, EXCEPT for Noah. God saved the human race with a second chance through Noah and his family.
But God meant it for good… (Genesis 50:20). Joseph‘s brothers sold him into slavery and he became the second most powerful man in Egypt. In their jealousy, they wanted to hurt and punish Joseph. BUT GOD used the circumstance to once again bring salvation.
ButGod led the people… (Exodus 13:18). When the Israelites fled Egypt and the armies of Pharoah, God deliberately led them through the wilderness, even though going through Philistia would have been nearer. God chose not to lead them from one victory into a war, even knowing all that would happen. He used the time in the wilderness to prepare them for the battles ahead.
At least five times in the psalms, this phrase occurs. The psalmists follow a pattern: stating the problems and conflicts, discussing all of the negatives, then praising God. BUT GOD will ransom my soul (49:15) and strike the heads of my enemies (68:21) because He is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (73:26).
ButGod raised him from the dead. (Acts 13:30). As Paul recounts the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, he emphasizes the power and providence of God. Not only that, butGod shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) AND But God, being rich in mercy redeemed us “even when we were dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:4-5)!
A Choice, a Change, and a Challenge
Between the Testaments is 400 years of silence. Those who studied the Scriptures knew the time was ripe for the Messiah. When God became flesh, the majority of people didn’t remember the Scriptures to recognize the Savior. Through the Gospels, Jesus teaches the disciples how to live and share God’s love with all people. Through the book of Acts, we learn how to become a part of the church. Through the letters, we gain instruction and encouragement. In each of these teachings, we have a choice to make: continue living as “dead in our trespasses” OR “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1) to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). The choice to change your life and follow Christ includes significant challenges, specifically living contrary to the world. Jesus offers all people a choice. Each chooses whether or not to make the changes necessary to follow Him. Repentance means to turn from sin, agreeing with God that sin is sin, and leaving that lifestyle behind. This change will come with challenges, but He has given us all we need and provides a way out, and works the circumstances for good, according to His purpose. We may not always see the good, certainly not at the moment, but we can walk in Hope and trust that God does not change.