If there was ever a time men needed hope, it is now. So much unrest, turmoil and tragedy seem to have become a regular part of daily life. However, the Bible is a constant reminder that even in the midst of this world’s mess, our lives can be filled with HOPE. In his epistle to the saints in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Hope is to be found between the covers of your Bible.
This Bible reading plan will help you draw closer to God as you come to better understand the “big picture” of His will revealed by the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to help you understand the Bible’s over-arching theme as it pertains to redemption and hope for an eternal reward. This Bible reading plan is designed to keep the redemption story foremost in the reader’s mind. Our wish is that you will commit yourself to daily Bible study and thus grow closer to God. Let the journey begin!
Week 1 — Genesis 1 thru 6 (Dec 31, 2017-Jan 6, 2018)
In Luke 24:44-47 Jesus indicates the Bible story is about Him. Although He is not mentioned specifically in the beginning of the Bible, John says, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:2,3). The Bible story begins with the creation of our world and it tells us what went wrong. Genesis is often called “the book of beginnings”. Genesis 1 stresses the infinite power of God and the unique nature of man compared with other living creatures. Only man is said to have been created “in His own image” (v. 26). Genesis 2 adds more details pertaining to the creation of humans and tells the story of woman’s creation. Genesis 3 is a chapter worth special attention as it introduces us to the commission of the first sin. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God is fractured and they are forced to exit the garden of Eden. From their introduction of sin into this world, all men have followed suit and have sinned (Rom. 5:12). Genesis 4 portrays sin spreading in the lives of man. This chapter also traces the lineage of two people: Cain and Abel. We will find that Cain’s people were wicked while Seth’s descendants worshipped God (v. 26). Genesis 5 traces the descendants of Adam to Noah, while Genesis 6 introduces the story of Noah and the flood.
These sections of our reading plan are designed to help us determine ways to make application of the readings. You may find “conversation starters” in the ideas mentioned in these sections. We encourage you to consider them as your family discusses the reading assignment for the week. This week we should focus our conversations on God the Creator and His power and authority over the world (especially over us!). As our Creator, God has given us the duty of serving and worshipping Him and He expects us to do it. Children should be taught about sin, what constitutes sin and what it does to our relationship with God. As you get further into the reading assignment, discussion should focus on how sin grows.
Week 2 — Genesis 7 thru 12 (Jan 7-13)
This week we continue the story of Noah and the great flood (Genesis 7-9). In chapters 6 and 7 we find that Noah was a righteous man who walked with God and did all God com-manded him. Obedience and God’s grace are themes to watch for in your reading assignment. Genesis 10 recounts the genealogy of Noah’s sons who were saved from the flood. In Genesis 11 we learn that even the knowledge of God destroying the earth and almost all mankind did not deter people from defying God and sinning again. Because of their pride and arrogance, God confused the languages of those attempting to build the tower of Babel and dispersed them over the face of the earth. Genesis 12 introduces the steps God took to begin implementing His plan to save mankind. God called on Abram of Ur to leave his homeland to a land He would show him, then promised to make a great nation of his descendants. The blessings promised in verse 3 will someday be fulfilled in Christ (Gal 3:16).
Do you regularly consider God’s grace and mercy in your life? It was God’s grace and mercy that saved Noah and his family. It was God’s grace and mercy that caused Him to call Abram to leave his home and to make promises to save mankind from the penal-ty of sin. If you have children in your home, they will undoubtedly be fascinated by the story of Noah’s ark. It is important to help them rec-ognize that Noah’s obedience saved him from destruction. Finally, it is good to emphasize Abraham was not a perfect man. In spite of this fact, God worked with him. Help your children see God can work with us as well, even though we are imperfect. He can help us develop and grow our faith as He did Abraham!
Week 3 — Genesis 13 thru 17 (Jan 14-20)
While Lot becomes a key figure in our reading, the focus must remain on the promises made to Abraham. God keeps his promises of protecting and caring for Abraham in Genesis 13 and 14. God restates and reaffirms the promises in Genesis 15, empha-sizing their significance. Abraham makes another mistake in Genesis 16, but we find God still working with him in the following chapter.
Don’t get distracted by speculating about Melchizedek. We will learn more about him in Hebrews. The main theme of this sec-tion has to do with the faithfulness of God and Abraham. God repeats the promises which will shape the remaining events of the Old Testament. As we read, we will see these promises fulfilled. Make sure your family understands this is the “map” for the rest of the Old Testament.
Week 4 — Genesis 18 thru 22 (Jan 21-27)
Genesis 18 will reveal the depth of Abraham’s relationship with God. Despite many obstacles, God’s promises will be fulfilled! We are introduced to a discussion of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and see how Abraham interceded for the people. However, in Genesis 19 we read that Abraham was only successful in helping save his nephew and his daughters. God protects Abraham again in Genesis 20 and the account of the birth of Isaac is recorded in Genesis 21. God gives Abraham’s faith a great test in Genesis 22.
Although we might be in awe of how Abraham passed the testing of his faith, we need not loose sight of the fact that his faith had grown over a long period of time. Look at your own faith development. What temptations can you resist today that you could not in years past or when you first became a Christian? How is God working through His word and providence to strengthen your faith? Children may have difficulty understanding the sacrifice of Isaac. Help them see Abraham believed God would have raised his son from the dead even if he’d killed him (Heb 12:17-19). However, it was not God’s intention to have Isaac killed, but rather to present a means for Abraham to show his faith. Children should learn that sometimes obeying God means we may have to do difficult things.
Week 5 — Genesis 24 thru 28 (Jan 28-Feb 3)
The narrative in this section redirects focus on a new character, Isaac. Genesis 24 shows us the elaborate precautions his father takes to prevent him from marrying a Canaanite woman. Once again, God answers Abraham’s prayers and blesses his family. In Genesis 25 Abraham’s story comes to an end and we are introduced to his twin grandsons, Jacob and Esau. You will note the promises made to Abraham are repeated to Isaac in Genesis 26. Isaac promptly follows in his father’s footsteps by lying, but is also protected by God as was Abraham. As the story continues, it becomes evident that lying and deceit are a regular part of Jacob’s life. In fact, Genesis 27 reveals that he lied to his father in order to steal the blessing. However, in Gen-esis 28 we see the providential working of God as he sends Jacob away to a land where He will give him the promises He had given to Abraham (verses 3,4,13-15).
Already we see distinctions between Abraham’s people and the people of Canaan. Is there a lesson to be learned by us? (see James 1:27). Jacob’s lying and trickery provide good illustration to the idea of “the end justifies the means”. Help your children see the fallacy in this behavior. Children often follow the example of their parents! Another point of emphasis when you discuss this section with your children is the providential working of God in the lives of men.
Week 6 - Genesis 29 there 37 (Feb 4-10)
Genesis 29 tells us how Jacob the Deceiver ends up being tricked into marrying two wives. That story continues in Gen-esis 30, in the “Great Baby Race.” The heartache and strife in Jacob’s home is plain to see. Genesis 31 puts a heavy emphasis on God’s care for Jacob, because he is the recipient of the promises of God (see vv. 5, 7, 13, 24, 29, 42). Genesis 32 has Jacob and Esau preparing to meet again (and they are reconciled in ch. 33), but the dominant note in the chapter is Jacob wrestling with God. We may not understand much about this incident, but the key seems to be Jacob’s name being changed (vv. 27-28). He no longer will be Jacob, which means “tricks” but in-stead “Israel” which may mean “strives with God” or better, “God fights for you.” Chapters 33-36 discuss Esau and his family and the ter-rible defiling of Jacob’s daughter (ch. 34), along with God restating the promises to Jacob (35:11-12) and the deaths of Rachel and Isaac (35:16ff). We resume our reading in chapter 37 where we meet a new and tremendously important character named Joseph.
Chapter 31 really lets us think about our own dependence on God. Do you see all you have as a result of God’s care and bless-ing? Chapter 37 gives us an ironic fulfillment of “you reap what you sow” (Gal 6:7) as the man who deceived his own father is now tricked by his sons. How often are we tempted to try and fudge a little here, or cheat a little there, as if deception won’t ultimately come back to hurt us?
Jacob believed in the promises of God and then gave credit for what had happened to him for being the fulfillment of those promises. What has God promised us today? What do we see as tangible fulfillment of those promises? Later in the week it will be time to start talking about Joseph. He provides numerous opportunities to talk about character. Was he wise in 37:2 and 37:5-7? Ask your children how they would feel about Joseph as a brother. Emphasize that Joseph was not the first born (so important in Bible times) but he is being treated as a first born (the coat of many colors probably signified that, v. 3). Envy and jealousy were running rampant in Jacob’s house! What can be done to keep us from being envious of the good others are getting?
Week 7 — Genesis 39 thru 43 (Feb 11-17)
We are skipping the Judah and Tamar story in chapter 38 this week, even though it figures in the Lord’s lineage (Matt 1:3). Chapter 39 refocuses on Joseph, as he prospers and then suffers even more in Egypt. Chapter 40 gives the reader a glimmer of hope that Joseph may eventually get out of prison. In chapter 41 Jo-seph’s phenomenal faith and determination to always credit God for all things comes to the front. We finally begin to see God’s plan for Joseph take shape! 42:57 reveals why we are learning about Joseph. There is famine everywhere which means the family of promise is threatened with starvation back in Canaan! In Chapter 42 Joseph’s brothers begin traveling to Egypt where he will save his family. Those trips continue in chapter 43 where Joseph tests his brothers. He intends to determine if they are the kind of evil men who will give up a brother to save their own necks. Will they do to Benjamin what they did to him so long ago?
How will you react if your reward for doing the right thing is sever punishment? That is exactly what happened to Joseph in chapter 39. Are you ready for that? These chapters also provide much food for thought on the subject of forgiveness. Could you forgive someone who mistreated you in a similar way Joseph’s brothers wronged him? Do you recognize his schemes are designed to deter-mine if they are genuinely repentant?
Let’s keep the main thing the main thing here. The entire Joseph story is told to help us see how God kept the promises to the house of Abra-ham alive. God insures that Jacob and his family don’t starve in the great famine. God foresaw everything and sent someone ahead to make plans and prepare for the famine. The lesson for us to take home is God wants to use us to accomplish His purposes. Our realization should be this: sometimes life can take very unexpected turns when the Lord is positioning us to serve Him where He needs us.
Week 8 — Genesis 44 thru 46, Exodus 1 and 2 (Feb 18-24)
Joseph’s story wraps up successfully in chapters 44-45. Note his faith in 44:5-9. In chapter 46 the family of promise moves to Egypt, but not without God’s special permission (v. 4). Genesis closes with the family settling in and Jacob blessing Joseph’s children as well as his own. The book concludes with a strong state-ment by Joseph. The family of promise doesn’t belong in Egypt and some day must return to the Promised Land (50:24). Exodus 1 starts the next chapter of God’s story. One of the key ideas in the chapter is the multiplication of Israel’s population (note verses 7, 10, 12, 20). The promise to Abraham to make his descendants a great nation is coming to pass! Yet, in the 400 years that have passed, God’s people have be-come ruthlessly enslaved. How will they get back to where they be-long? Exodus 2 begins answering that question with the birth of Moses.
As we try to understand the “big picture” and especially the hope God offers, remember the Bible is the story of God’s plan of salvation. From Genesis 50 to Exodus 1 more than 400 years of history elapses, yet the Scriptures say virtually nothing about it. Why is God silent? Certainly this period contains historical events involving interesting people! The Bible doesn’t talk about those years because it doesn’t advance the story of redemption. The Bible isn’t a storybook about random happenings. It is the inspired history of God fulfilling His promise to bring the Messiah and salvation to the world. Remember the promise made in Gen. 3:15 of One who would someday come to destroy the power of Satan. That is the theme of the entire Bible! Jesus is coming!
Week 9 — Exodus 3 thru 7 (Feb 25 - Mar 3)
The burning bush of chapter 3 becomes the pivotal point of Moses’ life. Note the connection to the promises in 3:6. Reading Chapter 4 finds Moses to be a reluctant deliverer. Later he will show much faith and determination. Watch to see what changes him. In chapter 5, Pharaoh poses a question (v. 2) which creates a framework for the next section we will read (a discussion of the plagues). God will let Pharaoh know exactly who He is! Underline in your Bible each instance the text says “you shall know that I am the Lord your God” and you will quickly see this emphasis. Chapter 6 connects us to the promises God made to Abraham (verses 4, 8). Chapter 7 is the opening volley in the battle between God and Pharaoh.
One lesson to be learned from this week’s reading is we all need more faith. The Plague stories can build stronger faith as we see God’s great and matchless and power. Remember the plagues are all designed specifically to strike at an Egyptian deity, such as the Nile River. Do a little research to identify which Egyptian gods the plagues proved impotent and powerless. What gods do people turn to today that are just as useless? How can we make sure we stand with the One true God and are not seduced into following false gods?
Moses’ doubts and excuse-making serve to illustrate how God works with people who are hesitant and unsure of themselves. Notice that when we will just obey God He will provide what we need and make a way, even if a mighty empire stands in the Lord’s way! Who would have ever thought an enslaved Israelite nation would be freed and enabled to travel to Canaan? That just can’t happen ... unless God promises it will happen! We need more trust in God Who can and does do whatever it takes to accomplish His will.
Week 10 - Exodus 8-12, 13:17-14:31 (Mar 4-10)
Exodus 8 describes the continuation of God’s war with Pharaoh as He sends more plagues on the Egyptians. Pharaoh begins to offer compromises to God (8:28). Exodus 9 discusses plagues five through seven. Exodus 10 describes the plagues of locusts and darkness. At this point, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he will not back down. In Exodus 11 God announces the final plague. Exodus 12 includes God’s institution of the Passover for His people. Although this may seem like a lengthy reading, it is crucial to develop an understand of the Passover feast and its significance. In Exodus 13:17-14:31 we will see how God chose to lead His people out of Egypt, how His presence among them will be evident to them, and how God miraculously delivers the Israelites through the Red Sea to safety. Although it is not part of our reading schedule, you may want to read the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 on your own. You will note his high appraisal of Jehovah.
In the assignments for this week, you will notice God hardening the heart of Pharaoh repeatedly. At times the text says God did the hardening and at others it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. The point is, Pharaoh responded to God by opposing His will. At the same time Pharaoh’s heart was being hardened, the events caused the faith of the Israelites to be strengthened. There is an important “heart lesson” to learn from this section. Every man is given a choice: you will follow your own will or that of God. The response to God’s will reflects what is truly in your heart.
As you read, you may quickly glance past 9:20,21. If you carefully read these two verses you will understand how true faith leads one to action. When the scriptures speak of “fear of the word of the LORD” they are referring to man’s faith in God and how he responds to it. That theme is evident throughout this section, and it is important for us to teach our children this concept! When we develop faith, our hearts are changed along with our behavior. Pay attention to the Passover and how it celebrated deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. When you discuss this section with your children, help them connect that feast to our observance of the Lord’s Supper as our celebration of our freedom from sin.
Week 11 — Exodus 16,17,19,20, 24 (March 11-17)
In Exodus 16 God responds to the complaints of Israel by sending manna. He tells them when they eat it they “shall know that I am the LORD your God” (16:12). Exodus 17 describes more grumbling from the Israelites, another miraculous response by God, and a decisive battle won by God’s power. Exodus 19 recounts the arrival of Israel at Mt. Sinai. In verses 4-6 God announces His reasoning for redeeming the people and His purpose for them. In Exodus 20 God gives His people the Ten Commandments (the basis for the expanded covenant or Law of Moses). More detailed aspects of the Law of Moses are contained in chapters 21-23. In Exodus 24 we find a discussion of the covenant ratification ceremony. In verses 9-11 God invites Moses, Aaron and his two sons, as well as seventy of the elders of the Israelites to commune with Him by eating a special meal. There has been no such fellowship between God and man since Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden!
This section provides us with two important applications. First, Jesus makes use of the story of manna in John 6 when He refers to Himself as the “true manna” (Jn 6:48ff). Think about what Jesus means when He says “I am the living bread...If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever.” What does He mean? What did manna represent and mean to Israel? How does that connect to what Jesus represents and means to us today? The second application refers to the notion that we don’t have to pay attention to the Ten Commandments today because we aren’t “under them” today. Although Gal 3:25 and Col 2:14 indicate we are not under obligation of the Law of Moses, we cannot dismiss this list of God’s top ten concerns for His special people. Consider each of these commandments and understand how they frame God’s will for our conduct and our relationships with Him and other men. What can we learn from these ten laws?
Let’s also remember that grumbling and murmuring did not cease when Israel left the dessert! We need to talk to our families and fellow-Christians about the dangers of complaining. How did God feel about the Israelites’ murmuring? Has He changed His mind since? When we feel compelled to complain, let us replace that urge with the desire to express gratitude and praise to God; then let’s express that to Him!
Week 12 — Exodus 32,33,40, Numbers 13,14 (March 18-24)
This week we pass over material associated with free-will offerings for the Tabernacle (ch 25) as well as the detailed plans for construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings and the crafting of the priestly garments (chs 26-31). Exodus 32 contains the shocking story of flagrant disobedience and idolatry at Sinai. Although God had determined to consume the people over this grievous sin, Moses intercedes and God decides to continue on with His people (Exodus 33). From this point, we skip forward to the initial erecting of the completed Tabernacle and God filling it with His glory (Exodus 40). Now God dwells with His people! Although we will not read the book of Leviticus, we should develop some familiarity with the concept of sacrifice, especially the sin offerings (see Lev 4,5). Leviticus 10 tells of the sins of Nadab and Abihu, teaching us that God will not tolerate worship which doesn't correspond to His will! Much of the work of Christ at the cross is prefigured in the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16. The book of Numbers opens with important details about the size of the Israelite nation. After being at Sinai for ten years, Israel finally departs (Num 10). In Numbers 13-14 we will read of another crisis of faith for the Israelites and their failure to trust God. These chapters explain why they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years.
Think carefully about the Tabernacle, the priesthood and how they point to the sacrifice and priesthood of Jesus Christ. We cannot appreciate what happened at the cross if we do not understand the awfulness of sin and it’s terrible consequence! The story of the Golden Calf gives us opportunity to talk about the importance of worshipping God according to His will. The account of the failure to enter the Promised Land (Num 13,14) should initiate conversations about peer pressure, how faith must be put into action, and how trust in God is essential to obedience.
Week 13 — Numbers 21:4-19; 25,32; Josh 1-3 (March 25-31)
This week we read about the bronze serpent (Num 21:4ff). Jesus told Nicodemus He would be “lifted up” just as Moses lifted up the serpent. Numbers 25 recounts the idolatry at Peor which will be a reminder to the Israelites for years to come (see Josh 22:17; Psa 106:28; Hos 9:10). We read Numbers 32 because the tribes settling on the east side of the Jordan River become important throughout the rest of the Bible story. Numbers concludes with a recounting of the journey as well as descriptions of the Promised Land and cities of refuge. Joshua 1 opens with a new leader and God’s promise to stick with him so he can confidently lead. Joshua 2 describes the exciting story of Rahab and the spies, while Joshua 3 recounts the crossing of the Jordan River.
This section provides a basis for many discussions of sin, Gods’ gracious provisions to save us from sin, and our nature to refuse His grace and mercy. Use these OT stories as reminders of the serious nature of sin. Discuss the faith of Rahab the Gentile. When you speak of Joshua, remind your children the importance of remaining faithful to God throughout one’s lifetime.