The Bible is a unique book:
It is a collection of shorter books, in different styles, written by multiple authors, over a 1500-year period. Unlike other books, it is often best to start near the end. You see, the first part of the Bible (the Old Testament) contains some bad news and most of us like good news.
So start with the New Testament. It begins with four books called Gospels (the word means “good news”) – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the authors. They tell us about Jesus and what He did for the human race. The next book, Acts, is an account of how the good news spread from Jerusalem around the Mediterranean region and how churches began. Most of the rest of the New Testament is a collection of letters, to churches or church leaders, explaining the good news. The New Testament ends with a revelation of Jesus with His church in heaven – more good news.
The Old Testament includes four types of literature – history, laws, poetry and prophecy. Genesis is the history of the world, humans and the ancestors of Israel , especially Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Exodus tells the story of Moses leading Israel out of slavery in Egypt toward the Promised Land. The next three books include the Jewish laws given to Israel by God on Mount Sinai . They are tough reading – save them for later.
Joshua is the story of Israel conquering Jericho and the Promised Land with God’s help. Other history books go through the rest of Israel ’s story in order – Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Israel asked God for kings. Saul was the first and let God down. David did a much better job but later kings failed and the entire nation strayed. God punished Israel by allowing their defeat and their exile to Babylon . When that was over, God let them return and Ezra and Nehemiah led the nation to rebuild.
The prophets wrote their books during the time of the kings and after the return from exile. There were four major prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Twelve “minor” prophets left us shorter books. The prophets were God’s spokesmen, they told Israel what God thought about the nation’s behavior and warned Israel what He would do.
The Psalms and Proverbs are in poetic style. The Psalms are full of praise to God and provide a great tool for worshiping Him. They are also very honest; they can help us express our hearts to God. He accepts even our most painful and pitiful inner parts and lifts us to a higher place.
The most unique thing about the Bible is that it comes alive when we read it with the right attitude: God inspired the authors with His words and His Holy Spirit illuminates it to us (many people call it “God’s Word”). When we read it trusting in God’s inspiration and illumination, He will talk to us. So, before you start reading, ask God to speak to you and grab a pen and notebook ready to write down what He says.