As we get closer to the start of 2020 and our “Through the Old Testament” reading plan, I’d like to share some tips that might be helpful to you. The unfortunate truth for us as people is that often when we start something we struggle. It’s only after time invested that we come to understand things that are helpful in keeping going. The hope of this series is to provide some help in that beginning stage and start off on the right foot. So, what are some tips to keep in mind to gain more from our reading of the Old Testament?
Each story or situation given to us is there for a reason. It’s easy to start reading and think that something was just randomly inserted or that it doesn’t have any application to my life. While I will freely admit there are places that are definitely difficult to understand and the application may not be obvious, the other side of the coin is that there were countless things that could have been included in scripture but the things we have were the ones that were chosen. They are there for a reason. It might be teaching us something valuable about God or about people or making a connection to something previous or in the future.
With that in mind, there are two things I want to encourage as we start this process:
First, Look for themes. I’ve read or heard said before that the Bible is one big story. While I agree with that on a theoretical level, I also understand how someone could open the Bible and start reading and feel differently. In reading a book as extensive and deep as the Bible it’s not always easy to pick out the themes and overarching message being pointed to. So how do we look for themes? One of the easiest ways is to consider repeated words or phrases. When something is repeated there is usually a reason. When an idea comes up over and over again, there is something there God really wants us to understand. An example of this in the New Testament is found in chapters 13-17. As Jesus is speaking to His disciples right before His crucifxion one of the things he says several times and in several ways, is he is telling them these things now so they will remember He knew what was coming. As a result of His death, their world is about to be rocked and He wants them to look back and realize, this was the plan. That’s just one example of repetition pointing a theme out to us.
Second, try asking questions. Questions create opportunities to learn. When we ask questions about a passage or reading, we are forced to dig in and seek understanding. Most of the time when we ask questions we are going to feel compelled to find an answer. The challenge in reading, especially when reading something like the Old Testament, is to not simply read it; to only see it as something to accomplish or a task to fulfill. We can very easily treat it like we can with schoolwork and read to learn so we can regurgitate it and then move on to the next idea. While that method may work well for taking tests, it doesn’t tend to work well for long-term comprehension and growth in our faith. Our goal in reading isn’t simply to have read but to have learned and then as Jesus makes clear in His sermon on the mount, put it into practice.
To help with both of these points during our Wednesday night series we will be trying to point out some of those themes from the previous week’s reading as well as supplying some questions that might help us better understand the text. Our goal in 2020 isn’t simply to read through the Old Testament but to come to a greater knowledge of God as a result of spending more time with Him. We hope you are blessed by this series!