I’ve been working my way through the TV series “How I Met Your Mother.” For those who have never seen the show, it’s about a man, Ted, telling his kids the story of, well, how he met their mother. But the story starts way before he actually meets her….there’s nine seasons, and she doesn’t appear until the last one.
Now, I’ve watched an episode here and there throughout the nine seasons, but I never really watched much of the show, until I decided to watch the whole thing from start to end on Netflix. About halfway through the series, I discovered something interesting.
There are little inside jokes, and symbols that a casual viewer would not understand. For example, in the very first show, there’s a blue French horn. I won’t say too much about this French horn - no spoilers here. But the blue French horn shows up here and there during the series. It becomes a metaphor for Ted’s love for Robin (a girl he meets in the first show who ultimately becomes a major character in the show). Or when they do a flashback to their college days, if you see someone eating a sandwich, well… let’s just say it’s a very different college pastime that Ted doesn’t want to tell his children about.
I like the consistency of the story line – the episodes build one on another. They do a good job of filling you in on what’s come before, especially if it’s important to the storyline of the particular episode. But to really enjoy the story, to really understand what’s going and, to get the full impact, you have to watch the whole thing. From the beginning. In order.
It got me thinking about the Biblical story. How long has it been since you’ve read the entire Bible, cover to cover? When you sit in church on Sunday morning, or you read your devotional book, do you remember the story that surrounds the small snippet of scripture you get that day? It can really made a difference!
I decided once to read my way through the Bible. Now I’ve done this several times, but this time was different. Instead of reading chapter by chapter, I decided to read the stories in their entirety. I read Genesis 1-3, creation and fall. I read Noah in one sitting. I broke Abraham into a couple of sittings – it’s a long story! And so on. Joseph, Moses, Wilderness. Yeah, Leviticus and Numbers were pretty hard to read through, but soon I was entering the Promised Land with Joshua. Settling the land with the Judges. Following young David’s rise from shepherd to giant-slayer to king.
I was humming along pretty well, but then I got to the books of Kings and Chronicles. Those books overlap, telling the same story from different viewpoints. Fortunately, my study Bible had a chart of how the stories overlapped. Plus it had another chart that had which kings were in power when the prophets were preaching. Since I was reading the Story in the order it happened, I read about a king – say Ahab or Josiah, then I read the preaching of the prophet that was working at that time.
Let me tell you – I had read the prophets before, but it had never meant as much as it did reading the prophet in conjunction with the king. When I read the words of the prophet God sent to preach at that place and time, I knew what exactly what was going on in Judah and Israel. It made so much more sense!
When we hear the Story, the whole Story in it’s context, we understand it better. When we immerse ourselves in the Story, we get those inside joke and metaphors. When we hear John say to his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29), we hear as John’s disciples would have: this is the Passover Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb that saves us from death and brings forgiveness.
We hear when you read John 3:16, “For God, so loved the world” – this world that God created and called good, loved and provided for; this world that God cleansed through the waters of the flood and then promised never to destroy again, but instead started working through Abraham, the children of Israel, the line of King David, to bring a Messiah, his son, whom he sent to save that world that God so loved.
I encourage you, as we get close to the end of the year and the time for resolutions, to find yourself a chronological reading plan, or even a chronological Bible (I recommend the NLT One-Year Chronological Bible).
Spend a year immersed in the Story. God’s Story. The Story that gives us life.