For better comprehension & engagement of the Bible, read through a chronological version

The Bible is one Story, with one primary theme: God redeems. But we oftentimes lose sight of the unified Story of the Bible in our varied attempts to read it straight through.

  • If we start in the beginning, then by the time we get to the Psalms, we have forgotten the story of David’s life from 1 & 2 Samuel, which we probably read months before.
  • If we “hop around” reading a different book from the Old Testament (OT) one month, then a Book from the New Testament (NT) the next, by the time we get back to the OT, we’ve forgotten what we read 2 months ago…
  • If we go straight through, the OT prophetic books are filled with many riveting stories of God’s interactions with His people, but it is difficult to remember which prophet spoke to which king (from 1 & 2 Chronicles) – and at which point in Israel’s history did these prophetic messages come…?
  • In the beginning of the NT, we read 4 disciple’s personal accounts of the story of Jesus’ life – and they are beautiful eye-witness accounts on their own… But read them back-to-back, and by the time we get to the resurrection in each one, we have forgotten how the earlier ones described it…
  • We read about Paul’s missionary journeys throughout the Book of Acts, then we read the Letters he wrote to those churches he visited at different points along his 3 journeys… In our minds, we’re thinking, “now when did he go there? and what was going on again? wait, when was that?” And we have to flip back & forth between Acts and Paul’s letters to try to remember what was happening when he wrote, say, Philippians, or 2 Timothy…

All this hoping around, forgetting what happened several books before, and getting frustrated that you just don’t “get it” – yeah, I have experienced every bit of that.

I have read through the entire Bible, from cover to cover, four times in my life so far:

  • The first time, it took me 2.5 years.
  • The second time, 3 years.
  • The third time 4 years.

In all of these instances, I had no real plan. I would just pick up the Bible and read a couple of chapters, as I had time. Usually 3-5 times per week.

Two Christmases ago, I felt the Spirit of God challenging me to read through the entire Bible in a year, and to follow a pre-established year-long Bible reading plan.

Now, I don’t say this to boast; I say it to spotlight two things: the power of going in with a plan, and the value of a chronological version of the Bible.

That Christmas, I was given a copy of a chronological Bible as a gift, which had a year-long reading plan built into it. I photocopied the plan and stuck it in my Bible as my bookmark (and so I could check off each day as I went).

I was nervous that by having a set daily reading plan, it would become legalistic. But it never did! I really found myself eager to read each new day! I found myself often sad when I reached the “end” of the reading for that day, that I couldn’t just keep reading!

And most importantly: I found myself “getting” the Bible.

I personally LOVE the chronological version of the Bible! More than just keeping my attention, it helped my mind string together the narrative of the Bible into a single continuous Story, as opposed to a collection isolated stories. God redeems! This is the golden thread woven through all 66 “Books” of the Bible. Every character, event, setting, and plotline in the Bible points to God’s redemptive work on our behalf.

  • The stories of the prophets (from the second half of the Old Testament canon) are ordered with the kings they advised in the books of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles.
  • When David is running for his life from Saul in 1 Samuel, you get to immediately read the very Psalms that David wrote about God being his refuge and protection while hiding out in the caves.
  • The 4 Gospels are re-ordered to share the story of Jesus’ life in one beautiful, continuous, unbroken narrative.
  • The letters of Paul are ordered within the happenings of the Book of Acts – when they were actually composed and sent, at different times throughout the course of Paul’s 3 multi-year missionary journeys.

Reading through the chronological Bible according to a pre-determined year-long reading plan has been the most successful approach to comprehensive Bible reading for me so far in my life.

What has been your most successful technique for reading through the Bible? I don’t think there is a single “right way” to do it. We each have different personalities that engage God’s Word according to our varied preferences. What works for me may not work for everybody. What have you found is the best way for you to read God’s Word through?

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