This Lenten season, I’m going to read the entire New Testament. That’s 7 chapters every day for 40 days. I’m normally terrible at sticking to things like this, but I feel like I can do it this year. I’ve been studying the Old Testament for the past several months, and I miss reading Jesus’ words. I’m ready for this mad dash through His life, His teachings and the Church’s beginning.
I normally approach Bible study from a “digging” perspective. I sit down in the middle of a chapter (around 20 verses or so) and dig deep to mine out all I can from it. This race through the New Testament will be different.
I’m reading 7 chapters a day in only about 30-45 minutes, so I’m approaching it from a “gather as you go” mentality. The author of the reading plan suggests focusing on the big picture of God’s story as you read so much at once, rather than trying to squeeze every drop of lifeblood out of each verse. Every day, I’ll write down a few main ideas that jump out at me as I run along the books’ path.
This morning, I read the first six chapters of Matthew (reading Chapter 7 tonight!), and a couple of things struck me.
Did they doubt? There are so many people listed in Christ’s geneology who we don’t hear about in the rest of Scripture. God had given a promise to Abraham that was ultimately fulfilled in Christ. But in between were 36 generations of people — people who were in the direct line of that promise but nowhere near its fulfillment. What about Jeconiah, Zadok and Eleazar? They knew about God’s promise to Abraham, but they hadn’t seen any progress towards its fulfillment in their grandfathers’ or fathers’ lives. I wonder if they ever doubted that God was staying faithful to them, that His promise would come. Because they’re in the middle of the generations, I wonder if they struggled with God’s timing or fearing He’d forgotten them. They couldn’t see the whole picture — that Christ was coming just generations later — and I could see how they would struggle.
I prayed that God will give me His perspective to see that when things seem like they’re not progressing, He is working through the waiting. We may be in the middle phase of His timing, but the fulfillment will come.
Be different. So many things that Jesus said were different from what His listeners had been taught. The law had told them one thing, and He was telling them to go even further. Don’t just not kill people — don’t even get angry. His instructions focused on our hearts, not just our actions. So many times, He tells us to do things that are the opposite of our natural instincts. When provoked, don’t get angry but rejoice in the persecution because it can bring Him glory. When wronged, forgive immediately without seeking retribution.
Living like this requires self control and the presence of mind to choose your actions when confronted with a stressful situation. When overwhelmed, I can get frustrated and pitch a fit (mostly just in my mind!) Or I can have the presence of mind to set aside that knee-jerk, human reaction and ask Him to help me approach the situation calmly and get through it with His strength. That’s what I prayed for today in the middle of a hard week.
So much happens in the book of Matthew that it seems crazy to read seven whole chapters in only 30 minutes. But this season won’t really be about learning everything. I’m praying God will bring a few things to the forefront every day that He wants me to see.