In the Beginning
Am I overthinking this? Should I carefully select which reading plan for the Bible I will use, and then take even more time to map out exactly how I will “blog about it” measuring out each detail, making sure each entry flows exactly like its predecessor? My answers to these questions came to me with the words “too much human though, not enough prayer.” I (hopefully) will come forth to God each time, and ask for my heart to be opened to what He is revealing in His word, or “read prayerfully.” This blog will be a medium (see what I did there?) for my thoughts or “findings”, the things and ideas that spoke to me, or “what I got out of it” as I read through the Bible.
Thus, I chose the plan “Read Through the Bible” from the Bible App, a la YouVersion. This plan was chosen mostly based on the deeply spiritual doctrinal basis of “I liked how it sounded.” The actual Bible I will be reading from will be my personal copy of the Quest Study Bible published by Zondervan, in the New International Version translation. I like that particular bible because it has wide enough margins for me to leave notes, and includes book introductions, time lines, maps, side column notes on various verses, articles, dictionary, concordance, and a bunch of other studious stuff, which may or may not give me a false sense of intellectual superiority.
My reading for today was Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and Matthew 1. In reading Genesis 1, I noticed I must truly focus on my reading, and not become callous to the creation story or other verses and stories I have read before or know well. It can be easy to just “breeze past” these because “I already know that” and selfishly think there is nothing new to be learned. Reading prayerfully can help prevent this from happening.
Genesis 2 brings us to Adam and Eve. Their hometown is Eden, which seems like a pretty nice place to live. There are a couple theories as to the modern day location of Eden, my selfish vote being in Turkey, because then I could say I drove by it on my way to Istanbul a few years ago. Both Genesis 1 and 2 are perfect in that there is no stress, no true conflict, and everything is harmonious. Creation was truly without flaw or blemish.
Matthew 1 brought me the same feeling of needing to be more focused on the book, and less on what I think I already know. Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus, which can read as “bland” for some. I personally will never forget how Matthew begins because of a funny situation in my “Art and the Bible” class back in college. There was a seminary student in the class, and he always rubbed me the wrong way (i.e. he was kind of mean.) The professor had singled him out, acknowledged his future career as a pastor and believing he knew a bit of the bible asked him point blank how Matthew began. The boy thought about it, but ultimately didn't have an answer. Now I just so happened to have read Matthew 1 the evening before, and was more than eager to give the answer. I did, the professor was impressed, and the student looked down a bit shamefully because this loudmouth girl that he had been rude to one-upped him in a category he should have had mastered (or at least that’s how I remember it happening.)
Interestingly, the verse that stood out to me was the naming of Jesus, Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from all their sins.” This verse struck me due to the word “because.” The word “because” is a conjunction explanatory in nature. Why was this word used? It joins Jesus’ name to the meaning “he will save his people from their sins.” “Jesus” is the Greek form of the name “Joshua” which translates as “the Lord saves.” For me, the name Jesus had always just been accepted, and I had never really given it a second thought. That is particularly ironic due to the fact that I enjoy knowing the linguistic heritage of words and names. How fascinating that even His very name is not arbitrary, but rather carefully considered and beneficial to understand.
So overthinking this isn’t useful, but “under-thinking” will result in missing huge aspects of the Bible. Just becuase I’ve already read something or heard it in church at least a dozen times does not give me license to think I am above learning and gaining insight. On a different note, I wonder if that bible-student from my college class remembers how Matthew begins.