If you know me at all, you know I love talking about the big story of the Bible—the one that starts in the garden and doesn’t end until we see God on his throne in the new heavens and new earth. This big, overarching story—also called the metanarrative—is beautiful, vast, and shows us a God who spans eternity and holds all things in his hands. But does it do more than simply astound us? Are there reasons to understand it other than merely marveling at it? In other words, does understanding the metanarrative of Scripture make any difference in my day-to-day life? The short answer is, it should. Understanding the biblical story helps us read our Bibles well, remember God’s love, and reminds us there’s more going on.
Read Our Bibles Well
The Bible is God’s self-revelation. We don’t “discover” God; we can’t. He’s completely other-than us. He’s the Creator and we’re the created. Any knowledge we have of him is because he has chosen to reveal himself to us—because he wants us to know him!
The way he chose to reveal himself is through a story. In this story, he sometimes tells us who he is (i.e. Ex. 34:6-7), but mostly he shows us who he is. If we’re reading our Bibles well, we’re supposed to know more about God by observing what he does. He creates, protects, rescues, promises, speaks, provides, and engages in real relationship with his people. We are meant to take those actions and ascribe them to God. He is a creator, a protector, a rescuer, a promise maker (and we’ll see promise-keeper, too!), a provider, etc. He doesn’t come right out and tell us most of this, we learn it as we see God act….
Last Spring, as the restrictions of the pandemic lockdowns and isolation began, I was so grateful for the means to meet virtually with my people. There were a few brief weeks of quiet, and then the Zoom meetings began, slowly at first. Once we realized the potential, we were zooming all over the place! Book studies, Titus 2 meetings, ministry team meetings, Bible studies—if two or more were gathering, Zoom was there. I even got our far-flung family into the act and we had weekly visits with our kids who live all over the country, and my husband and I even started reading bedtime stories to our grandsons.
Before we knew it, “Zoom fatigue” set in, and it wasn’t so much fun anymore. The meetings became more difficult. From poor connections and frozen screens, to the true psychological effects of staring at a screen without the ability to make eye contact or pick up nonverbal communication, virtual meetings grew wearisome. Now, don’t get me wrong, we were glad to be able to at least see one another’s faces as we visited. But when it comes to most of our meetings, nothing replaces being in person.
God’s Word is Not Bound
As our women’s ministry prepares for our Fall Bible studies, we don’t yet know if we will be able to meet in person, and even if we may, for how long. There’s a strong possibility that we will need to use virtual means in order to offer our studies to our women. The thought of this grieves me. I miss being with our women and sharing together over God’s word. Muddling through an hour of Bible study through a camera and screen feels like talking through prison bars.
And yet, even if we must Zoom our studies, I have hope, because, as the apostle Paul reminded Timothy while writing from prison, “the word of God is not bound!” (2 Tim. 2:19)….
Many years ago, when our four children were ages four to then, I decided we should embark on a year of reading through the Bible. I chose the One Year Chronological Bible in the New Living Translation, hoping that the simpler language would help our children understand the reading. Leviticus is notoriously challenging, even for adult readers. One night, we were in Leviticus 18, and after the fifth or sixth repeated command, “Do not have sexual relations with…[your daughter, granddaughter, uncle, etc.]” (Leviticus 18:6-18), our ten-year-old son burst out, “Do we have to keep reading this?” I had to admit, it was a good question.
Should we read the whole Bible? Do we really need to make our way through all the begets and begats and the barely comprehensible Levitical laws? While there are many good arguments for reading the entire Bible, I’m going to focus on one here, and then offer some tips for doing it, along with several plans to consider.
A Really Good Reason to Read the Whole Bible
Why read the entire Bible? Because it is the one true overarching story (meta-narrative) that defines the life of a Christian. Authored by God himself, it introduces us to the complexities of his character and grows our wonder and worship of him. Not only that, but through the work of his Holy Spirit, the Bible transforms us into the character of Christ—every single word of it. Let’s consider how knowing the overarching story of Scripture helps us to live as glory-giving creatures of God.
When we read Genesis 1 and 2 and see how marvelously and majestically God designed everything in the cosmos, we are awed at the Creator. We also reclaim our sense of self, our own God-shaped beauty and purpose, since we were created in his glorious image (Genesis 1:26-27).
As we move on to Genesis 3 and read of Satan’s seduction of Adam and Eve, we recognize our own temptation to doubt God and to do things our own way; that is, to sin. The “fall” addresses our questions about the brokenness we see in our own lives and in the world around us. It also grows our gratitude for God’s abundant mercy and forgiveness of sins.
Even plodding through the laws of Leviticus and the headcounts of Numbers reveals something about God and something about us: he is a covenantal King who counts his people as precious. Moving on through history and the prophets, we continue to see our King’s faithfulness to an unfaithful people….