Cover to Cover

For my Lenten practice this year, I decided to read the entire bible, starting with Genesis on Ash Wednesday and finishing with Revelation on Holy Saturday. On previous occasions when I’ve read the bible from cover to cover, I’ve done it over the course of the year, reading around four chapters a day but this time I took an accelerated schedule, aiming to read at least one book of the bible per day. While there were some days where I fought to stay awake hours past my bed time, thinking more about finishing the book I was reading than about the content, overall I found this experience valuable and rewarding. It had been a few years since I last read from cover to cover so it was nice to re-familiarize myself with the general arc of the bible and to revisit more obscure passages that I had forgotten about. I have a lot of thoughts about this experience and don’t know quite how to connect them all to each other so for my blog post today, I simply present a list of things that I drew from my reading during Lent:

  1. Quite a few of my favorite verses are small snippets of hope amidst large sections of doom and gloom. For example, Amos 5: 18-24: “Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the LORD? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatter animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” On the one hand, reading the context of the final verse (Amos 5: 24) changes the way I view the verse—it is a justice and righteousness that seems to be rolling over us—washing us and our ceremonies, rituals, and solemn worship services away before the rushing tide. However, this verse is so familiar and close to my heart that it also provides me comfort amidst these words of judgment and darkness. The verse is something that I can hold onto, that anchors me amidst the rushing waters and keeps me from being swept away. It is a moment of grace amidst the darkness.
  2. There are a lot of puns in the Old Testament where two similar sounding words in Hebrew are used in connection with each other. For example, Amos 8:1-2: “This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit (qayits). He said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end (qets) has come upon my people of Israel; I will never again pass them by.” The writer uses two similar sounding words (qayits and qets) in this passage and a footnote in my bible pointed out that a play on these Hebrew words for “end” and “fruit” is “eternal winter.” Every time I came across one of these puns, I was reminded that the bible is not a stuffy old faith textbook but rather a text full of human stories, beautifully crafted poetry, and whimsical wordplay. In my head, I imagine some Old Testament writer thousands of years ago, writing these words in Amos and walking around grinning for the rest of the day, pleased with themself because of the clever pun they thought up. It makes the bible feel more tangible and accessible.
  3. The people in the bible are just as human as anyone else. The Old Testament is full of stories of people loving, fighting, dying, failing, and struggling to find their place in the world. But my favorite example of human-ness comes from Acts 20 when Paul is preaching and talking for hours in a house. Many people are listening to him and one of them—Eutychus—falls asleep and plummets out of the window to his death. Paul heals him, which is probably what the writer of Acts wanted us to focus on, but I like to focus on the events before the miracle—it’s comforting to me to know that people in the bible fell asleep during sermons sometimes too.
  4. Isaiah mentions hedgehogs twice—once in Isaiah 14:23 and once in 34:11. It just makes me happy to know that hedgehogs are in the bible.
  5. Anytime I encountered language that grated on me, that tried to tell me that I, as a woman, am restricted in ways that men are not, that tried to cut me out of a connection with the divine, out of leadership within the church, or even out of humanity (anytime the word ‘mankind’ is used, for example…), I thought back to the long litany of women who didn’t let that stop them—Eve, Hagar, Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, Esther, Abigail, Mary Magdalene, the virgin Mary, and so many others. The other thing I kept going back to was Proverbs 1:20: “Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.” The Greek and Hebrew words for “wisdom” are feminine and I love that wisdom is personified as a woman here and throughout the scriptures.


I have so many other points and insights that I gained through this process but, in the interests of keeping this blog post a reasonable length, I will pause here. Needless to say, my bible reading gave me a lot to think about. In the journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter, it was quite illuminating to take this cover to cover journey, placing me in the context of the scriptures and reminding me that the events of Holy Week and Easter are not isolated occurrences, but part of a long, arduous scriptural journey stretching back centuries.


I end with a prayer from Psalm 19:14:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.


One Comment

Daryl D Daugs posted on April 17, 2017 at 10:14 pm

Wisdom comes from many voices wherever she is.

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