Here at YWAM Louisville, we’ve resolved to grow in knowing God’s Word in 2017. So we’re tackling a challenge: together, we’ll read chronologically through the Old Testament and Christ’s birth.
Why the Old Testament?
Most Christians are far more familiar with the New Testament than the rest of their Bibles. There may be large sections of the Old Testament that you, like many, have never braved. While it may seem daunting, the fact is your own spiritual heritage is wrapped up in those stories – even the confusing or obscure ones. Having a grasp of the whole Story helps us know its Author more deeply. It also roots us more firmly in our own role in his narrative.
There are a lot of reading plans out there that guide you through the whole Bible in a year. Since we read through the New Testament in every DTS, we wanted to focus on the Old Testament, keeping the daily readings accessible and familiarizing ourselves with our B.C. roots.
Having a grasp of the whole Story helps us know its Author more deeply.
We’ll move chronologically through the Old Testament, reading events in the order that they occurred or were recorded. Most of the books are kept intact so that we can read them as they were written, picking out recurring themes and identifying the intentions of the individual authors.
Occasionally books are split up for greater understanding; for instance, 1 & 2 Kings is interspersed with the writings of the prophets, enabling us to read those prophecies in their historical context. Psalms and Proverbs are distributed through the entire reading plan so that we can reflect on them throughout the year.
The reading slows down just before Christmas, allowing us to reflect on Christ’s coming and prepare our hearts to celebrate His birth and enter the new year. We’ll read about Jesus’ birth in the Gospels as well as in Revelations; then we’ll finish our reading in the first part of Colossians, meditating on who Christ is, what he’s done for us, and our response to him.
Many of the psalms are scheduled alongside the part of the Story that they were written. A few are placed thematically corresponding to the narrative. The rest are distributed at random. Between the Old Testament and the Advent account, we’ll pause to meditate on Psalm 106 and its overview of God’s faithfulness throughout Israel’s history.
The initial exhortations in the book of Proverbs are longer and are split up accordingly. Chapters 10-29 mostly include collections of shorter sayings, so the reading assignments are sometimes as few as two verses. This helps us reflect on them in bite-sized portions, while still keeping them within the whole.
Whether you hate to read or simply don’t want to commit to something you might just fail, a reading plan like this can be intimidating. See if any of these tips resonate with you.
Don’t Go It Alone
The same Holy Spirit who inspired the words of Scripture is alive inside of you. Surely that means he can bring his words to life. As you read, invite him to help you understand and grow.
And that’s not the only help we need. As in any endeavor, most of us will give up by Leviticus if we don’t have some encouragement and accountability from others. Here at YWAM Louisville, we’ll be discussing what we’ve read in our staff small groups, so that we can process and apply what we’re learning and keep one another on track.
Don’t Sweat It
It’s really ok to read through a long genealogy without encountering life-changing insight. God can certainly speak to you through lists of temple measurements or super-specific laws regarding skin disorders, but you’re not unspiritual if you’re not getting major revelation. Sometimes instructions for the disposal of excrement are really just that.
You’re not unspiritual if you’re not getting major revelation from laws regarding skin disorders.
So don’t feel pressured to study each verse in depth. Make it your goal to get a big-picture overview, while remaining sensitive to God’s leading so that you can slow down and consider what he wants to speak to you each day.
Don’t Give Up
If you’ve ever started a read-through-the-Bible plan with New Year’s zeal only to give up halfway through Numbers, take heart: you’re not alone! Like a lot of new habits, it’s easy to start with enthusiasm in Genesis but lose resolve.
If you get behind schedule, don’t quit! Whether it means catching up over the weekend or finishing a little bit later than you planned, don’t let discouragement keep you from being a finisher. You’ll grow in perseverance, and you’ll celebrate alongside Israel as the wilderness gives way to the Promised Land or the faithful finally greet their long-awaited Messiah.
Who did Cain marry? Why did God insist that Israel utterly destroy the nations that occupied the Promised Land? What’s the deal with polygamy, even with “good guys” like Abraham and David?
Let’s be honest: there’s some Old Testament content that can get sticky. Don’t brush past it, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. God’s not petty or insecure, so you won’t intimidate him by asking him (and others!) why he said or did something. Just be sure that you run to him with your questions, not away from him. Any time we start inspecting a messy question the Bible raises, we have do so under the bright light of his good character as it’s been revealed to us in the whole Story.
Cultivate Grace-Motivated Discipline
A robust reading plan has peripheral benefits. Not only do we get to know God better through his Word, but we also develop self-discipline as we do it.
But like any area of self-discipline, it’s easy to get puffed up when we’re successful and then deflated when we fail. That’s why it’s crucial to remember that God’s love for us has never depended upon how much we study his Word. It has always depended on his steady heart.
Don’t let the checklist be what makes you feel good about yourself.
You may be naturally motivated by the satisfaction of checking off a list. That’s not necessarily legalism; it’s how God designed you. Let it keep you going when Ezekiel gets tough. If you’re less disciplined, let the challenge of this reading plan refine your habits and priorities.
Either way, don’t let the checklist be what makes you feel good about yourself. No amount of self-discipline can add to what Jesus has already done to redeem you. Reading the Word should make us more aware than ever of his mercy and our need for him.
“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” – Dallas Willard
Look for Jesus
Jesus was “in the beginning with God,” and his fingerprints are all over the Old Testament. His coming is predicted broadly, of course, from prophets as diverse as pagan Balaam, barren Hannah, and eloquent Isaiah. But he’s also hinted at on nearly every page. He’s the Ark that saves us from the flood of death, the true Passover Lamb, the only perfect King, the Wisdom that cries out to us, the Bridegroom who redeems us, the promised One who turns our tears into laughter. As author Sally Lloyd-Jones puts it, “Every story whispers his name.”
As you read the Old Testament, identify with God’s people who are waiting for their Messiah, and your heart will learn to long for him more than ever.
Join us in praying that we would fall more in love with Jesus this year as we read his Story.
Updated 1/3/17 with a revised Old Testament reading plan.