Ready to read?

The Mona Lisa is more than a smile. If you simply look at her, you will of course see her. But you will see more of her if you look at the whole picture. Apparently the background has been painted in such a way that the light draws the eye to her face and the hills are shaped in a way that patterns and so draws out the detail of her shoulders.

Reading the Bible is rather like this. If we read only the New Testament we will see something of Jesus. But God has gone to the trouble of painting the background – of inspiring the Old Testament in such a way that patterns and draws the eye back to Christ. And so by reading the Old Testament we don’t simply learn more of God, we see more of his glory in the face of Christ.

This is why your commitment to read the whole Bible this year is such a worthwhile one. However it is a big one, and you may feel slightly nervous about having made it. Of course big commitments should make us nervous. They should be stretching. But I do want to give a few pointers to help before we begin:
  1. Because the Old Testament is generally more inaccessible, all that I write will be based on the Old Testament reading. Obviously the New Testament one no less important, so I hope you will still give it as much attention.
  2. It is all too easy to read the Bible like the person driving when they are overtired. They find themselves home but can’t actually remember driving the previous few miles. To maintain focus you may find it helpful to read the text out loud. Often, you hear nuances this way you wouldn’t otherwise pick up. You can actually listen to the readings on the YouVersion App if you are using it. You could also pause to pray home each sub-section of the reading. This forces you to think about what it has actually taught you.
  3. If time is short, please skip the notes and just read the Bible itself. It would be ironic and tragic if my attempt to help you into the Old Testament ended up keeping you from actually reading it!
  4. If you do read without the notes, the best question to ask of any text to keep you attentive is: “What’s the main point God is making here?” I once read through the whole Bible jotting down an answer to this question in my Bible against each reading. I learnt so much. Other questions you could ask are: “What is this teaching me about God?” “What is this teaching me about God’s purposes?” “What does God intend this passage to be doing in me?” If time is short you could note down some answers to these in the margin of your Bible.
  5. To help imbed what you learn, it is very helpful to just recall it and pray it home again as you go to bed. If you can’t remember what you read, skim reading it again in your Bible should (I hope) be enough to bring it all back.
For now, why not pray this prayer for illumination used by the great reformer John Calvin:
“Almighty and gracious Father! since our whole salvation stands in our knowledge of your Holy Word, strengthen us now by your Holy Spirit that our hearts may be set free from all worldly thoughts and attachments of the flesh, so that we may hear and receive that same Word, and, recognizing your gracious will for us, may love and serve you with earnest delight, praising and glorifying you in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Yours in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Jon Hobbs