As we settle into the new rhythms of 2023, I have enjoyed hearing how other women are trusting God to grow them spiritually this year. Whether spending more time in prayer, becoming more familiar with the Bible, or being committed to a Bible Study, the month of January always offers such a refreshing, hopeful start to the year!
Each year, it is my goal to grow in love for God’s Word. Maybe it seems redundant to have the same goal year after year, but I know that the Bible is so rich, deep, and alive that it will take me an entire lifetime just to scratch its surface! One of the ways I have worked towards this goal the past two years is to read through the Bible in a year with a group of friends. Even though I am in my second consecutive year of reading through the entire Bible, I never cease to be amazed by how many new things I learn!
In my early years of being a Christian, I attempted to read through the Bible in a year many times. I prepared well, finding a Bible reading plan to help keep me on track. As I sat down with my new journal and multicolored pens in hand, I would eagerly open my Bible to Genesis 1 and begin vigorously seeking the treasures to be found. At first, I would even read ahead in my plan because I loved reading the narratives, history, and stories contained within Genesis. After devouring Genesis, into Exodus I would go! The plagues, the splitting of the sea, the story of Moses’ life…it was all fascinating! I would finish my daily reading encouraged and excited to finally be reading through the entire Bible.
Then came Leviticus.
My reading pace would slow to a crawl as I read through the laws and offerings of Leviticus. They didn’t make sense to me and seemed irrelevant. Even the laws I could make sense of were not nearly as exciting to me to read as the stories in Genesis and Exodus. If I did make it through Leviticus, the genealogies and hard-to-pronounce names in Numbers would cause my pace to slow even further and by the time I reached the laws of Deuteronomy my ambitions felt like a lost cause.
I would like to say this only happened once, but I can count multiple attempts of my Bible-in-a-year dreams that never made it past Deuteronomy. In college, I remember hearing Christian speakers talk about Leviticus and Deuteronomy as boring.
The friends and leaders I spent time around seemed to primarily focus on the New Testament anyway, so was it really that important to read through those hard Old Testament books?
Did laws about mold and skin diseases really have anything to teach me?
The Mindset of “Boring and Irrelevant”
Although those college years were 10 years ago now, it seems like Christian culture’s attitude towards the Old Testament hasn’t changed. When was the last time you saw an instagram post quoting a verse in Leviticus? How many Christians do you know who have actually read through the entire Old Testament?
While many Christians will emphatically agree that the Bible is living and active, there is often a tendency to avoid parts of the Bible that have been deemed “boring” or “irrelevant.” After all:
–“Why spend time reading about the law? Don’t we have grace now? Didn’t Christ free us from the law?”
-“Leprosy isn’t common in our culture…why spend time reading Old Testament laws about it?”
-“I just need to be reminded of the Gospel every day, so isn’t it better to spend my reading time in the New Testament than in the Old Testament?”
-“The Old Testament was the old covenant, and now we have the new covenant…so reading the Old Testament is interesting but not really that beneficial.”
When we adopt attitudes like these towards the Old Testament, we miss so much of God’s character. All of His Word is living and active, not just the parts we find easier to read.
Maybe you’re heading into this year excited to read your Bible more, but feeling unsure about those books you’ve heard referred to as intimidating or not interesting. What if, instead of just skipping those books or saving them for last, we asked God for wisdom, understanding, and excitement in reading His Word?
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, and is a beautiful, eloquent praise for God’s Word. As I was studying it this fall alongside a group of women at church, one verse in particular struck me:
“Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.”
This verse struck me because it shows a deep love and desire for God’s Word. Not only that, but at the time, the psalmist would have been reading primarily from the first few books of the Bible (including Deuteronomy and Leviticus!). The events of the New Testament hadn’t even occurred yet! Nevertheless, the psalmist saw wonderful things worthy of praise all throughout even the small portion of the Old Testament he had access to. He saw even these challenging books as wonderful! Which led me to ask myself:
Do I believe the book of Numbers has wonderful things to teach me?
Do I believe the laws of Leviticus are wonderful to read through?
Do I treasure the book of Deuteronomy?
I asked God to change my heart to reflect the attitude of the psalmist. I asked Him to open my eyes, and show me the wonderful things from His law. He is faithful, and has been showing me incredible, wonderful things in the Old Testament books I once regarded as uninteresting:
Leviticus 11:35 speaks about laws regarding dead animals. It says that “Everything, moreover, on which part of their carcass may fall becomes unclean; an oven or a stove shall be smashed; they are unclean and shall continue as unclean to you.”
What do dead animals falling on stoves have to do with my life today?
It turns out, quite a bit.
Stoves in the days of Leviticus would have been extremely valuable and hard to come by. They were instrumental in preparing meals for the people…there were no microwaves or air fryers. If a stove broke, there were no appliance stores to visit to purchase a new one.
Yet God, not Home Depot, was the Israelites provider and He is our provider today. He called the Israelites to be clean from things of death, and likewise calls us today to be clean from sin. He called the Israelites to destroy anything (even their precious stoves!) that became tainted with death, and He calls us to be willing to give up anything in our lives that causes us to be tainted with sin. Often these things are valuable. But do I value Christ as more valuable? Are there “stoves” in my life causing me to be dirty with sin that I need to get rid of?
Deuteronomy 7 contains a long list of warnings for the Israelites about living in the land of their enemies. But because I don’t need to worry about “the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites” and the call to “utterly destroy them,” this chapter is just a list of people groups that are hard to pronounce, right?
How do you even say “Girgashites”?
Is instruction for living in the land of the Hittites relevant to me today?
Actually, this chapter in Deuteronomy was very convicting to me.
Verse 25 says “The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
We don’t live in the land of the Hittites. We don’t commonly see golden statues of gods. But we do live in a culture that similarly hates the things of God. Just like the Israelites, we are immersed in a culture that worships false gods and revels in sin. The warning in verse 25 is relevant for my life today like it was to the Israelites. How easy it is to desire and worship the things of the world: money, a bigger house, nicer cars, sports, influence, power…the list is long. Do I truly detest the gods of our culture? Or do I covet them, justify them, and allow them to lead me to sin? We live in a culture that loves social media, anxiety, and making much of ourselves. How do I allow these things to creep in my life? Am I asking God to help me detest these things?
Reading in 2023
Reading the Old Testament lately has almost felt like reading it for the first time. It has been like reading it with fresh eyes. Asking God to help me see and behold the wonderful things of His law has allowed me to learn much about God’s character and my own sin through reading those books of the Bible I once viewed as boring and intimidating. Of course, reading can still be challenging. There are still many laws, genealogies, and very detailed descriptions of buildings that I don’t understand. But I pray that over a lifetime of reading God will continue to teach me through His Word and give me deeper understanding.
As you read in the Bible this year, my prayer is that you view it as an opportunity and a joy…not a burden or as intimidating. I hope that God will show us all even just a fraction of the wondrous things contained within His Word.