Wide-Angle Bible Reading
Have you ever sat down, put on a movie, then fast forwarded to watch just a 15 minute segment in the middle of the movie? Me neither.
Have you ever cracked open a novel and decided to skip the first 9 chapters and just read chapter 10? Me neither.
Yet, this is how we treat the literature of the Bible. From an early age, we are trained to open up the Bible and read just a few verses or a chapter and meditate on that passage for a few minutes. This can be very nourishing: the Spirit of God has innumerable times used this method to bring verses to me that just exploded in my mind and pierced my heart.
But since the Bible is also filled with different "books," should we not also treat these books with the same reading skills as we apply to other literature? This is why I advocate for, what I call, "Wide-Angle Bible Reading."
Wide-Angle Bible Reading
Simply put, Wide-Angle Bible Reading challenges us to remember that these individual books of the Bible were originally written and intended to be read as a whole book. It challenges us to include in our diet of Bible reading select times when we sit and read an entire book of the Bible in one sitting.
When I was in college, a professor made us read through each of the Gospel accounts in one sitting. Without overstating it, this changed my life. For the first time, I saw the big picture of each of the Gospel narratives about Jesus. I saw the glorious dimensions of Luke's Gospel and how it differed from Mark's.
Then began a practice for me that has shaped my understanding of the Bible to this day: every Sunday afternoon in college I read through at least one whole book of the Bible. I lumped together some of the shorter ones (1-2 Timothy, etc.). Mt. Everest appeared before me when I decided to tackle Isaiah: 7 hours later it was done (it's possible!).
Each Sunday afternoon I had intimate encounters with God as he unfolded before me an entire book; for the first time I felt in my bones the climatic tension points of Genesis, Judges, or Romans, and then was blessed by seeing how God put things together by the end of my reading. At times I was moved to tears, seeing page after page how great God is. When I read the entire book of Psalms in one sitting and read repeatedly how the LORD reigns and is king, something strange began to happen: I actually believed it and knew that the LORD reigns over every inch of my life.
Though not on Sunday afternoons anymore, I have continued this practice ever since, regularly reading (and re-reading) whole books of the Bible in one sitting.
And now for the moment you were waiting for: I want you to do this too! This summer, carve out time in your busy schedule and read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting. Perhaps begin with whatever book of the Bible Pastor Rich is preaching (right now, Daniel). Then move on to other books. I guarentee you that this practice will change your spiritual life forever. When you've done your first one, tell me about it! Share with me and with others what God teaches you as you read his Word this summer.
**As an aside, you may want to check out the new ESV Reader's Bible. This Bible was created to help people read the Bible in a more fluid way, without the distraction of verse divisions, headers, etc. I've not tried it out myself, but it looks like a promising way to encourage you in reading whole books of the Bible.