Years ago Noel Piper recommended a way to read the Bible that helped her, and, as I eventually discovered, helped me as well. She introduced a strategy that turned Bible reading from duty to delight:
I became a hunter, and my blue highlighter was my weapon. The prey was God’s attributes. I set out to underline everything the Bible says about God (didn’t want to set my sights too narrow!). . .I was awakening to the power of God in disability, disease, and suffering, so I chose that as a theme to keep on the lookout.
This “hunt for God” was irresistible to me. It drew me like a magnet. And once I was inside the pages, it kept my mind moving — no more drowsing and waking up two chapters later.
In short, read the Bible searching out a theme. Or apply that idea to a single book.
A couple of days ago I was doing some catch up Bible reading and in so doing, read the second half of Deuteronomy in a single sitting. It's such a beautiful book. I was swept away by God's tender loving kindness for his people.
On first spec it looks like a lot of rules and instructions. But it's not a series of barked out commands. In addition to the oft mentioned encouraging refrain of "do this and you will live long and well in the land I am giving to you" - the promise of blessing - there's a softness of tone as well.
I got it first when I read one particular verse describing a bad situation that might arise between people (two individuals or two groups) and how not to respond in that circumstance. As I read it I was convicted because given that situation, I know in my sinfulness I would respond badly. Yet I didn't feel condemned. The words were gentle and kind. "Don't respond in such and such a way. Instead you should do this." I felt encouraged to think rightly and to respond in a godly way, should that situation arise.
And then I saw it. God, not barking out harsh commands, but lovingly and kindly teaching His people how to be kind and loving towards one another - teaching them tenderly and carefully, knowing our every inclination toward sin. God dealt with His people with such tenderness.
It reminded me of Jesus' tenderness in his despair as he looked down upon Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
It's true. God is love.