I have read the entire bible in the past 90 days.
Moreoever, several people have read the entire bible in the previous 90 days, along with me.
It really feels like I have completed a marathon. I am exhausted, exhilirated, eager, needful, seasoned, and hungry for more.
There was never a doubt that I would complete the journey. But there were days when I wondered …
God, I believe, called me to this challenge. I also believe God called me to issue this challenge to students, families, and our entire church. I did so, and fulfilled what God laid on my heart. Now, four months after the challenge was issued, and three months after the challenge began, here I am, standing like a man in the dessert, wondering if there are others in the vastness, and if they feel the same as me.
I want to share with you a few things I’ve learned through these ninety days. Thank you, in advance, for reading, and for even being challenged by some of the things that now, at the end of this journey, I am feeling.
Here are just a few observations about reading the Word of God itself. Following this, there are a few observations about the challenge of reading the entire Word in ninety days.
- The bible is large. Expansive. It just isn’t a large book, but the story of the bible is big and thick. My mind cannot seem to settle on just one single story, not now, anyway. Instead, my thoughts flip through the stories and the readings like the scattered musings of a five-year-old. I just can’t settle on anything, without that thought disappearing quickly.
- The Old Testament is largely a treatise on the covenant God made with the Hebrews. They called to God for deliverance from slavery in a foreign country. God delivered them, then gave them the stipulations of that rescue. The story of Mt. Sinai, in Exodus, is that covenant. The Hebrews, even though they were rescued without knowing the price of their freedom, still agreed to the requirements God set before them. Those commandments, and subsequent laws, may be strange to modern sensibilities, but they were necessary for a group of people who had been subjected by the whims of another country. To be sovereign, they required sovereign laws. Even so, they abandoned that covenant, and the books and passages from Judges through Malachi are the story of their abandonment of the covenant. Even though I knew this, to read it with such intensity highlighted this in sometimes colorful ways, and, at other times, very sorrowful ways.
- God is an emotional, passionate God. The words of God, through his prophets, prove God’s love and pursuit of a mended relationship. His judgment upon the broken charter was not personal. The Hebrews broke their part of the covenant with God, and God had no desire to see the subsequent consequences — though angry, and vengeful, God not only made the covenant, he also delegated the retribution of the broken covenant. That, dear friend, is passion. God was completely invested in the covenant, the keeping of the covenant, and the breaking of the covenant.
- There is a tremendous amount of violence in the Old Testament. Not only does God use the Israelites as the instrument of his vengeance, but also, as various individuals battled for the kingship of both Israel in Judah, the violence was the result of personal greed, and a further highlight of the broken covenant. I almost got the sense that the prevalence of violence was precisely the point — there are series of destructive behaviors that occur when one breaks the God-covenant.
- Reading the New Testament has given me a different perspective. The four gospels are the story of God’s expanding kingdom through the visitation of Himself among humanity. Jesus was concerned with social justice and the sick and those on the fringes of society. He never paid much attention to how that kingdom was to “look,” other than it should simply be filled with love and compassion. As this kingdom grew from the pages of Acts, it took an interesting form, with groups of people meeting together in homes, and, if you are to read the letters of Paul, those groups of people were not always in sync with each other. Each letter contains variations on order and synergy, and even has differences on how to approach leadership and such. It makes me wonder– really, become almost lost in wonder — at how God would ever unleash the forces of this kingdom through groups of people who are, essentially, out of order, and, at times, out of control. Yet He did, and here we still are. Today’s church is a testament to that kind of struggle between being the vessel of God’s love and purpose, and the friction of selfishness and greed. The church, this constant, 2000-year-old church is really quite amazing, considering its survival and persistence.
- There is a complete story with the pages of the Word of God. From the beginning to the end, the Word is dedicated to the overwhelming presence of God throughout humanity. The first word of the bible is God’s creative energy, before creation occurred. The final word of the bible is God’s redemptive energy, even for the fallen creation. The bible’s ability to communicate such a story, such a passionate, redemptive story, has just been overwhelming to me through these ninety days.
- The Word of God has demanded my attention, every day through these three months. While I have always spent time reading, these past ninety days have been spent thinking about the time I will read, or the time in which I will need to read, if I needed to regain the pace after not reading for a day or two. It has never before, in my life, garnered this much of my time and attention. And that, I think, is a good thing.