Every January a lot of Christians resolve to spend more time in God’s Word. No Christian really discounts the need to read the Bible but good intentions don’t always lead to action. One reason a lot of people fail to read the Bible regularly is that they begin with Genesis. It seems to make sense since Genesis is the first book in the Bible. However, I know Genesis and its seemingly endless genealogies have been the undoing of many a New Year’s resolution to spend more time in God’s Word.
Here are three reasons why Genesis is and isn’t a good place to start a Bible reading plan.
It is the beginning of the Bible. It tells the tale of how everything came to be and answers some of life’s biggest questions: “Where did we come from?” and “Why are we here?” From the beginning of Genesis we see how God was working in this world, his desire to be in relationship with people and the beginnings of his plan that would redeem the brokenness wrought by sin. Genesis is a great place to start because it is the beginning.
Sex and Violence
The first people we come across in Genesis are naked. Then, the second two people we come across are involved in a murder. The first couple chapters of Genesis are like an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Things start off with a bang in Genesis, perhaps literally. There are the creation narratives (Big Bang), Adam and Eve (naked), the Fall (talking snakes) and Cain and Abel (murder). Genesis definitely doesn’t bury the lead but it has a hard time maintaining its initial momentum.
Not only is Genesis the beginning of everything but it’s also the beginning of the biblical narrative, the coherent story woven throughout the entirety of scripture. The climax of the biblical narrative takes place in the person of Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection. But that narrative has its beginning in Genesis with the calling of Abraham and his covenant with God. Beginning with Jesus has tremendous value but it’s like starting in the middle of the story. It’d be like beginning the Star Wars saga with the assault on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi.
As stated above, Genesis starts off full of excitement and energy. That quickly begins to fade, though, as Genesis devolves into nothing more than the world’s worst family tree. People excited about reading the Bible lose that passion as they’re subjected to verse after verse of some unpronounceable name begetting another unpronounceable name. People thought that they were going to be reading God’s word but there are parts of Genesis that read more like an ancient phone book.
Every part of the Bible is good for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training. Some parts, though, are far better than others. Beyond the litany of names, Genesis does have a lot of great stories about God interacting with people. As far as practicality, though, there are more practical and more applicable sections of scripture. Sure we can take a nugget of truth away from Noah’s story but none of us (except for Steve Carrell) are going to be called to build a giant boat. And hopefully, unlike Lot, not too many people are worried about drunkenly impregnating their daughters. There’s truth in Genesis but the truth in a book like James is a lot easier to apply to our lives.
One of the worst reasons to start in Genesis is that it doesn’t have that much to do with Jesus. Yes, Jesus is absolutely present from the beginning. However, his life and his words and his actions and his death and his resurrection aren’t found in Genesis, they’re found in the gospels. For this reason, whenever anyone asks where they should start reading the Bible, I encourage them to start in the gospels. If someone is just starting to get going on reading the Bible, then beginning with the one who changed everything is the best place to start. There’s not as much nudity or murder with Jesus, but there’s no better place to begin a journey in God’s word.
As I said earlier, quoted from 2 Timothy, all of scripture is good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training. Wherever we start God is more than capable and more than willing to speak to us. Some places, though, are easier to start and will be more conducive to long-term success with spending time in God’s word.
God’s waiting to speak to use we just have to be willing to pick up his word and listen.
What starting point has been most beneficial in your reading of the Bible?