Welcome to Lighting the Path, our yearlong Bible read-through! We are excited for all that God would teach us through the Word this year. We plan to publish reading notes at the beginning of each week to guide and encourage you. And we hope you will join in one of the discussion and learning groups that arise, so that you can bring any insights or questions into community with others. Let’s learn together!
As we embark on this journey, please remember that God’s Word is a gift to you—a treasured communication from the One who created you and loves you. God wants us to understand and experience the rich blessings of this love. The Bible is the written testimony of God’s people, inspired by God, to convey the truth about God, our world, and our lives in relation to God’s loving rule. We invite you to approach these readings seeking and expecting God’s presence and God’s blessing.
Since the Bible is a gift of God’s love, please do not allow this reading schedule to become a burden to you! Engage it as you are called and able to do so. If you miss the readings for a day or a week, feel free to jump back in as you can: you will always be able to read any missed sections later. If you desire a more deliberate pace, you may choose to focus on only the Old Testament or only the New Testament. However this opportunity works best for you, please feel free to use it that way.
As we get started, please know that your church staff is here to help, encourage, and respond to you. We are praying for each one who joins us in opening God’s Word this year.
Old Testament Readings: Genesis 1-15
Our Old Testament readings start at the beginning, in Genesis. The word genesis means beginnings, and the book seeks to lay the groundwork for God’s people Israel to understand the world and their place in it. The Book of Genesis records the generations, or beginnings, of the created world, human beings, and the nations of the world.
Chapters 1-11 constitute a prehistory, or primeval history of the world. Here we encounter the Creation (chh.1-2), the Fall (ch. 3), Cain and Abel (ch. 4), the Flood (chh. 6-9), and the Tower of Babel (ch. 11). The stories portray how the loving God purposes to establish a world for the blessing of human beings, and how sin distorts and perverts the world from its essential goodness.
Take time with each story to imagine God’s feelings—from the restful delight in Creation’s beauty and goodness on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2), to the disappointment at Adam and Eve’s ruinous sin and Cain’s murder of Abel. See how the story of Flood portrays both the divine verdict on human sinfulness and God’s saving purpose in protecting Noah. The last story in this section, the Tower of Babel, offers a picture of human culture organized to achieve its own goals, not to receive obediently the blessings God wants to give. God’s judgment on the builders spreads them abroad throughout the earth, explaining the existence of different nations, cultures, and languages.
By the end of this prehistory, Genesis has established the pattern: human sinfulness consistently disrupts God’s intentions for blessing his beloved people. The prospects for human beings seem bleak. Yet this backdrop sets the stage for a new movement—God’s choosing a people to receive God’s blessing and share it with the nations of the world. The rest of Genesis, chapters 12-50, constitutes the patriarchal history—the story of God’s choosing and calling Abram and Sarai, aged and childless, to become the head of the family that becomes Israel, the chosen people of God.
These early chapters (12-15) portray the tenuous nature of the early years of Abram’s family. As nomads they depend upon their own craft and others’ hospitality to survive. The promise of God’s call and blessing (12:1-3) will be tested throughout the entire book, but God proves faithful to his Word, preserving his people that they may fulfill his desire to bless the world.
Questions to Consider:
o Genesis portrays God’s creation of the world differently from current scientific explanations. Does this difference challenge your understanding? Does it necessarily invalidate science, or the Bible, as untrue?
o How do the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel illustrate timeless truths about human beings? What do these stories teach you about your own living?
o How do you experience the character of the Lord so far in Genesis? How does this portrayal compare to your personal experience of God?
New Testament Readings: Mark 1-5
Our New Testament reading schedule begins with the Gospel of Mark, the shortest and earliest of the four gospels that open the New Testament. Early Christian authorities describe Mark serving as a scribe for the apostle Peter. If so, this gospel likely presents the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection based on Peter’s recollections. Scholars believe that Mark’s gospel predates the others: the gospels of Matthew and Luke largely adopt the timeline of events that Mark offers.
Gospel is both the genre and the content of Mark’s writing. Mark essentially invents this type of literature: the story of how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection communicates and accomplishes God’s victory over sin and death. Like a positive report from the battle front, this story is “good news.”
The style of Mark’s gospel is spare, fast-paced, and action-packed. Mark presents the ministry of Jesus through a series of short scenes and images that dramatize Jesus’ spiritual encounter with the powers that bind people—including the religious authorities. As we read through these stories, it is clear how disruptive Jesus was to the religious leaders and political rulers in Jerusalem.
In our readings this week, look at the tension created around Jesus’ ministry. The scribes and Pharisees are constant observers and critical commentators on all the action, but Jesus’ popularity grows with every deed of power he performs. This tension mounts throughout the gospel until it becomes unbearable for the leaders who are threatened by Jesus and his message.
This week’s readings offer examples of Jesus’ healing the sick, proclaiming God’s rule, casting out demons, and calming the storm. Imagine yourself as a participant in these stories: perhaps you are receiving the blessing of God’s wholeness from Jesus’ hand, or he saves and calms you when the storm threatens your life. Take time to allow these encounters to become personal—God’s love for you through Jesus’ powerful care.
Questions to consider:
o If you were a faithful person in Jesus’ time, how do you think you would have responded to his bold, disruptive proclamation of God’s rule?
o What scene or story in these chapters particularly touches you? Why?
o How do you understand the stories of Jesus’ casting out spirits (e.g., 1:21-28; 5:1-20)? Does this way of describing God’s healing help you or challenge you?
Psalms: 19, 104, 148
Psalm 19 celebrates the glory of the Lord in the creation (vv. 1-6) and the gift of God’s law (torah, or instruction) (vv. 7-11). Through both the world around us and testimony of scripture, God is at work to guide us in ways of living that please and honor the Lord (vv. 12-14).
Psalm 104 is a grand expression of thanksgiving to God. The detailed description of the world and its creatures displays God’s intricate design and generous provision: “These all look to you, to give them their food in due season” (v. 27).
Psalm 148 offers the image of all creation, including God’s people, joining together in unison praise of the Lord who made us and gives us life. Such praise is both our privilege and our purpose as God’s people.