Devotion - June 29

(Our devotion today is from David Brenner)

Jesus asked, “Are you starting to get a handle on all of this?”
They answered, “Yes.”
He said, “Then you see how every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.”

Matthew 13:51 (The Message paraphrase, by Eugene Peterson)

Ever since college, I’ve tried to maintain a weekday morning regimen of reading the Bible. Often, I’d read three Psalms and a chapter of Proverbs, until many Psalms and certain Proverbs became like old friends. For a long time I used a devotional called Tabletalk as my guide, in which R.C. Sproul or his staff would elaborate on a given passage. I often bridled at what seemed like too much certainty and too little mystery in Sproul’s uber-Calvinist analysis. But there were gems of insight along the way that kept me reading, and having a devotional gave discipline and structure to my reading.

After more than 40 years of pretty regular Bible reading, and several decades-long small group Bible studies, I was pretty sure there wasn’t much in scripture that would surprise me.
Hah! Foolish me. Because last year I picked up a devotional Laurie had lying around called Living the Message – Daily Devotionals with Eugene Peterson. The reading for May 14 ended with the verse at the beginning of this devotional. Something about that image of familiarity – being able to put my hands on anything I needed and knowing exactly where to find it - really stuck with me. Then toward the end of last year, using the Message I read First and Second Chronicles. I loved the fresh language and imagery so much that I decided that 2020 would be the year I’d finally read the Bible through from start to finish and that I would do so with The Message.

I’m so glad I made that decision! My method was simple: I started reading several chapters in the Old Testament for each chapter of the New Testament. As I did so, I began to see new connections between the early history of the Jews and Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels. For example, one day I read the story of how Jacob gave a field with a well to his son Joseph, in Genesis, and then found myself reading the same day about Jesus encountering the woman at the very same well two thousand years later. Almost every day I’ve found surprising new insights gained by reading the books in order and by moving simultaneously through the Old and New Testaments.

Recently, realizing I was nearing the end of the Old Testament history books with their fascinating stories, I began to spread my readings to include a history chapter, several Psalms, a prophet (Isaiah) and a New Testament chapter (by now Paul’s letters). That gave me even more insights into how the laments and praises in the Psalms and warnings in Isaiah coincided with the cycle of good (few) and bad (many) kings of Israel, and how much Paul used these passages in explaining God’s new covenant in his letters to the New Testament churches.

Now I get up in the morning eager to get to my reading, excited about how the pieces will fit together. Each day, I’m getting a little closer to that very organized store owner who can put his hands on everything in his stock. And I feel remarkably refreshed.  Next year, I think I’m going to use a chronological Bible in the NIV translation and start again. I’m already thinking about how that will give me a further grasp on the marvelous inventory of wisdom, praise, and guidance for life that we can access every day.
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