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In fifth grade, my Sunday school class entered The Bible Bowl, a competition where you compete against other churches based on Bible trivia.
Our team had one too many members, and so we selected one person to join another church’s team. In order to choose someone, we did a practice quiz to determine the lowest score. I was a pretty good student in school and attended church every Sunday and Wednesday for the past nine years. I had this in the bag.
Only I didn’t.
The scores came in and I was dead last. Booted from my own church peers. Embarrassed, I spent the next month dissecting the books of Acts. I printed out the entire test booklet, answered every question, looked up every verse, made flashcards and studied it until the morning of the tournament.
Over a hundred kids gathered in the chapel and I shuffled over to my new team members. At the end of a long day of trivia, the winners were announced in each category. I sat low in my seat after buckling under the pressure of the oral exams. But to my surprise, I tied for second on the written exam!
Turns out sitting in church week after week wasn’t what taught me about the Bible. It was actually READING it that did the trick. Who knew?
LET’S TACKLE THIS THING
For those of you feeling like there’s no way you can ever make sense of the Bible, I challenge you to look at it with a new perspective. For this lesson, don’t try to figure it all out.
And for those of you who have read these stories time and time again, don’t think you can’t discover more. Be a student learning about a new topic for the first time so that you can see the pages with fresh eyes.
Before you tackle anything new, it helps to get organized.
So where do we start?
There is a disclaimer: the books of the Bible aren’t presented in chronological order.
They’re sorted by genre rather than historical order. These groups are based on law books, history, poetry, prophecy, gospels, and letters.
Look at the Bible as a collection of connected documents that tell the same stories in a different way. Some stories are told as poetry (Psalms), others as circumstantial rules (Leviticus), while others repeat the same story from different viewpoints (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
Click the image to print your own Old Testament Timeline:
Now look over the chart again using these notes:
- No one is exactly sure when Job was written, but most agree it was probably before the exodus from Egypt.
- Exodus through Deuteronomy are all books during Moses’ life
- The story of Ruth occurred during the time of the judges
- 1 and 2 Chronicles mirrors a lot of what is written in 1 and 2 Kings, but it also covers the details of the Kingdom split into Israel and Judah
- The Israelites in both kingdoms were eventually captured by Assyrians, then the Babylonians, and then allowed to return home when they were taken over by the Persians.
- After the exile, Jerusalem was restored and then there were 400 more years of silence before the New Testament began.
That’s ok! You were just presented a LOT of information in one tiny chart. Print it, study it, and refer to it when studying your Bible. It takes practice to learn anything! The Bible is no different.
God doesn’t require perfection of us, he requires relationship. One in which we are learning more about who He is each day. What better way to learn about His character than through His Word!
So where do you want to start?
Instead of reading it cover to cover, you might want to learn more about the details of the kingdom split and its relation to the rest of the world history you learned in school.
Or you may relate to David and feel distant from God right now and want to read how he coped with his feelings of love, anger, fear, and desperation toward the God who still called him “a man after God’s own heart”.
You may want to skip the psalms and head to the proverbs of the wisest man who ever lived, David’s son, King Solomon.
Or maybe the Old Testament timeline is finally coming into focus and you want to dive straight into the New Testament with this new viewpoint.
There is no wrong way to start–what’s important is that you simply start.
So keep reading, and keep learning with me.
For further study, check out some of my favorite Bible research tools:
- Historical Atlas of the Bible
- Baker Illustrated Commentary
- Book of Bible Charts, Timelines, and Maps
- Cruden’s Complete Concordance
- Manners and Customs of the Bible
- The Story
- Bible Dictionary
- Seamless by Angie Smith
BEFORE YOU GO…
Make sure to catch up on all the posts in the series:
- Choosing a Bible That’s Right For You
- Understanding the Old Testament Timeline
- Navigating the Events of the New Testament
- Five Ways Jesus Practiced Self-Care
- Creating a Bible Note-Taking System That Works For You
- How to Navigate the Bible as a Self-Help Resource
- Why Memorizing Scripture Doesn’t Have to be Hard and Why You Need To Do It
- Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts and How to Use Them
- Designing Your Spiritual Goals
You can also sign up to be notified when the new ones post (and you get some FREEBIES for signing up!)
See you next week!