If you’re new at Shades or have been here for a while, we love to read the Bible. It’s the best book ever written because it’s a tale of kings, creation, prophets, death, persecution, faith, parables … the most grand, dramatic, and hopeful story ever told with a main character, Jesus, who came from heaven to earth to save us from our sins. This story is unparalleled, and we believe it has power to transform each of us as we read.
This year as a church, we’re walking through the Chronological Bible Reading Plan. We’ll be posting a weekly blog on Sunday mornings so you have a guided daily look and question prompts for each day of your reading.
*You can begin this plan at any point throughout the year. Simply begin at week one and follow the plan for a year!
We begin our year of reading where we always do – with Genesis’ account of creation and primordial history. The grand sweeping vistas of God’s powerful words in Genesis one zoom into a personal involvement in the creation of human beings in Genesis two. The key conflict of world history and a hint at the solution emerges in Genesis three. After the world spins nearly out of control, we’re introduced to Abram through whom the world will be blessed. Before moving on to Abram’s story, we’ll take an interlude to look at the life of Job to see a picture of faithfulness and steadfastness in a world gone wrong.
The first three chapters of the Bible set the foundation for everything that follows - including how Christians understand God, the world, and humanity. I love how Greg Gilbert explains this in the ESV Story of Redemption Bible: “Right from the beginning the Bible plants its flag: There is no mere tribal god or one who can be safely ignored. This is the Almighty Creator, the Sovereign God of all the universe … He is not merely taking preexisting material and shaping it into something new. God simply and powerfully speaks the cosmos into existence.” In Genesis three, temptation to dis-trust God’s word nurtures the destructive desire to be like God and ultimately leads to brokenness in the relationships between God, his people, and creation.
Because the Bible is an epic story of redemption, the major conflict of the Bible has cosmic consequences. The first human family is dysfunctional as Cain murders Abel out of jealousy. But the Lord provides another righteous descendent in Seth, through whom people call upon the name of the Lord. Even still, unrighteousness increases until God’s righteousness overflows in judgment.
The flood receded from the earth and Noah’s family emerged from the ark to be fruitful and multiply under the blessing of God’s new covenant with all creation affirming his intention to never again strike down every living creature - especially humans who are uniquely created in God’s image (9:6). Noah’s family indeed becomes fruitful and multiplies, but they do not “fill the earth.” Instead, they settled at Shinar and create the Tower of Babel to make a name for themselves. In response to their pride, God confused their languages and scattered them across the earth. In the first 11 chapters of Genesis, humanity moved from a Garden to a City in all the wrong ways. But the stage is set for a new covenant in Genesis 12.
These first few chapters of Job are familiar because they’re easiest to follow. It’s the narrative introduction before we read the “poetic” discussions between Job and his three friends. James 5:11 summarizes a major theme we should pay attention to in Job: “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” As we read in the coming days, keep Job’s steadfastness and the Lord’s compassion in our mind.
In chapters six and seven, Job responds to his friend Eliphaz saying his request and complaint to God are right/just because he’s asking sincerely from a place of hopelessness. In chapter eight, another friend names Bildad interjects calling Job to repent for his foolish words because if Job were actually blameless, God would not be punishing him. Job affirms Bildad’s view of God’s righteousness and judgment – but still calls for God’s compassion and requests someone to arbitrate between them.
Job continues his plea in chapter 10 expressing his feeling that God has hidden his kindness and love from Job while being exacting in judgment against him. Job recognizes his life is short and longs for just a bit of happiness before he returns to the dust. In chapter 11, Job’s third friend speaks up saying “God exacts less of your than you deserve” (11:6). Job affirms this in chapter 12 recognizing God holds all things in his hand and controls all of creation. Despite all this, Job is committed to his steadfast hope in the character of God.
Job continues reasoning from his relentless hope in God. Though death comes to all and God alone knows the day, Job asks to be left alone to enjoy its brevity. Humans only live once and there is no hope after death unless God restores our life. Job’s reflection here strikes me as a vague, but complex, belief in life after death (if not resurrection!). Chapter 15 records Eliphaz’s accusation that Job speaks wrongly of God because nothing on earth is pure or right in God’s eyes. Instead, Eliphaz affirms the worldly wisdom that the wicked are justly punished by God in this life. But Job dismisses his friends as miserable comforters and looks to God himself as his witness and comforter.