For many of us the Old Testament Challenge really presents two challenges.
1. Finding time to do the reading.
2. Interpreting what we are reading to make it meaningful to our lives.
I want to offer several suggestions to help with each of these challenges.
Finding the time
1. Use a modern translation such as the New Revised Standard Version which is easy to read. Reading from a paraphrase such as the Living Bible can make the reading even easier. However, some accuracy is lost in a paraphrase.
2. Download a Bible App to your smart phone so that you can read scripture anywhere (e.g., while waiting in a doctor’s office or to pick up children from school, etc.). YouVersion is an excellent free app. You Version offers a variety of translations as well as a host of other study helps.
3. Use Audio Bible CDs to listen to in the car while traveling. Our church library here at First Baptist has some which can be checked out.
4. Consider fasting from a regular activity, such as Facebook or a TV show, to create more time for Bible reading.
Making Reading Meaningful
The Old Testament was written in cultures very different from our own and, consequently, some statements or passages can be difficult to understand. While time to do in-depth study may be limited when surveying the Bible in this way, I still encourage you to dig deeper when you can. A variety of study resources can be very helpful.
1. A Study Bible has notes at the bottom of each page to conveniently address common questions. Several good study Bibles are listed below. All of these are available for browsing or check-out in our church library. The library reference numbers are listed.
NIV Study Bible – 220.5 Bib
Harper Collins – 220.5 Bib
New Interpreter’s Study Bible – 220.5 New
2. Bible Commentaries provide more thorough scholarly insights to interpret passages. Several excellent commentaries in our church library are the following:
New International Commentary of the Old Testament – 220.7 New
The Interpreters Bible – 220.7 Int
The Broadman Bible Commentary – 220.7 Bro
3. Online resources are also available if you are on the go. The YouVersion App has commentary resources. BlueLetterBible.org is another online resource for in-depth study.
4. Talk with other Christians about what you are reading. Noel and I love good Bible questions. A box will be in the Welcome Center soon so you can submit written questions as well.
Finally, as with any scripture reading, begin with a prayer that God will use the scripture to speak to your heart and life. When you are finished reading, reflect on any items that have “jumped out” that you never noticed before, and on what this passage might say to your life. Baptists have always believed that God still actively interprets and speaks through his word to our individual lives. I’ve found that when I open my heart and seek God’s leading, scripture frequently speaks to me in very practical ways.
However you find time to read through the Old Testament, it is an effort well worth making. I know it will lay a foundation in your life that God will use again and again!
Minister of Christian Formation
First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, TN