The Bible in 40 days

In early Lent,  I read about a challenge to read through the entire Bible in the 40 days of Lent. The notion intrigued me, so I took it on. My Bible has 1220 pages of text,  so that meant just over 30 pages a day.

It often felt like I was going too fast. I read over many familiar and beloved passages without even noticing them. I may not do this again.  But I did notice a few things doing this:

1) It reinforced the conclusion I'd come to that waiting is part of God's promises. Thinking about the centuries between Abraham and Moses, then between Moses and David, then from David and Solomon to the exile, then to the time of Christ, seems to suggest a pattern. God proceeds slowly to work out his plan. Wondering why the plan takes so long is a common concern. It certainly isn't that God needs to rest between  major events, or needs a long time to prepare all the details. And it doesn't seem like progress is linear either. When "now is the time," God can act quite quickly. But I think, as unpopular as the idea is in our American culture, the default experience of faith is waiting -- knowing God has acted in the past, knowing he will act sometime in the future.

2) I got a new respect for the Books of Chronicles. I had an attitude in my heart that these two books were less complete and more biased than Samuel/Kings. One sign of bias I felt; Chronicles omits the whole scandal of David and Bathsheba (except for one hint in 1 Ch 20:1). But as I skimmed through Chronicles, I did notice the story of David's census bringing a plague on the people (1 Chr 21). That too was a scandal, David's disobedience bringing judgment on the nation, perhaps a greater scandal. And Samuel/Kings doesn't cover it.  So these two accounts of David's life complement each other.

3) How short the New Testament is. I've known for years that the New Testament isn't really half of the Bible, much less than half. But going by the page count, it isn't even a quarter. (1220-950 = 270 pages, one  quarter of 1220 pages is 305).

4) That the New Testament brings a major shift in emphasis. The Old Testament is predominately about the nation of Israel, about the patriarchs, then Moses, then the judges, kings and prophets. God does deal with individuals, but the central thrust is about the nation. Then in the Gospels, the focus is on Jesus reaching out to individuals, and forming disciples to reach out to other individuals. The individuals are supposed to form a community, so I wouldn't say it is individualistic. But I think there is a shift of emphasis.

5) There are many more miracles in the Gospels than there are in any part of the Old Testament.

One surprising difficulty. I had expected that 31 or 32 pages of Leviticus or Deuteronomy would feel like tough slogging. But the hardest book to go through 31 pages at a sitting was Proverbs.

Margaret Feinberg, who apparently launched the challenge, talks about what she learned here.

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