Stories shape us.
When we read a story, we enter a world that the author has created and thus become shaped by that world. Experiencing the world of the story forms our imaginations of reality, our perceptions and affections, and even our worldview and beliefs.
The same is true—perhaps even more so—with the stories of Scripture. Biblical narratives shape our imagination of who God is, what he is like, and what he expects of his people. The difference, of course, between biblical stories and fictional stories is that the narratives of Scripture actually happened, but the power of stories in the Bible is no different—they help to form who we are. When we read biblical narratives, we enter the stories of historic events in God’s providential plan ourselves, and they affect us as if we were living those stories ourselves.
This is exactly why God gave us his revelation in various aesthetic literary forms. Scripture is filled with narratives and poetry; even the more didactic portions of the Bible are filled with poetic devices that shape our minds and our hearts. God the Holy Spirit, “carrying along” men of God (2 Pet 1:21), inspired the stories of Scripture—he literally “breathed them out” (2 Tim 3:16)—in order to form us into the people he intended for us to be.
The aesthetic forms of Scripture provide a way of communicating God’s truth that would be impossible with systematic statements of fact alone. Since God is a spirit and does not have a body like man, since he is infinite, eternal, and totally other than us, God chose to use particular aesthetic forms to communicate truth about himself that would not have been possible otherwise. These aesthetic forms are essential to the truth itself since God’s inspired Word is exactly the best way that truth could be presented. There is a reason the Bible calls God a “king” rather than simply asserting the doctrinal fact of his rulership. There is a reason the Bible calls God a shepherd, fortress, father, husband, and potter rather than simply stating the ideas underlying these metaphors. These images of God paint a picture that goes far beyond mere doctrinal accuracy. They communicate something that could not be expressed in mere prose. They shape our imagination of who God is, both expressing and shaping right affections for God, which are central to Christianity.
All of these realities emphasize the need for all Christians to regularly read the Word of God. Immersing ourselves in the Word—all of it, but especially the stories and poetry—helps to grow us in our knowledge and love of God and to live in a way that brings him glory.
It is important to regularly read all of Scripture, but sometimes it might be helpful to give focused attention to the narratives and poetry of Scripture. This could be helpful for any Christian—spend some dedicated time slowing down and really immersing yourself in the Bible’s stories. This could also be helpful especially for young children, who might not be ready to read through the whole Bible in a year, or for times of family worship, where attempting to read through the whole of Scripture in a year might be too much.
The 5 Day Bible Narrative Reading Plan and Guide
This is why I created the 5 Day Bible Narrative Reading Plan and Guide. I have created a 52-week Bible reading plan that focuses only on the narratives of Scripture, along with all of the psalms and proverbs. Further, the plan schedules readings for five days per week, giving readers the weekend to catch up if they fall behind.
Additionally, I have also created a 52-week catechism, compiling focused questions and answers from historic catechisms like the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, Benjamin Keach’s catechism, and Charles Spurgeon’s catechism. Narrowing this tool to 52 questions and answers allows an individual or families to memorize one per week, and then review again in subsequent years, allowing these doctrinal statements to form and shape belief.
In this guide, I have provided notes, summaries, and questions for personal reflection or group discussion. The notes are designed to answer some of the more challenging issues of the texts, give historical context, or provide classic, conservative interpretation and application.
Finally, each week of reading also has a passage of Scripture to memorize and a hymn to sing, both of which usually correspond to the primary themes of the Bible readings, the catechism, or both.
Ways to Use This Resource
This resource could be used in a number of ways. An individual could use this for personal Bible study and meditation. The plan also works perfectly for upper elementary age children (my two oldest children have used this reading plan two years in a row now, ages 8 and 10 when they started it), and the study notes will help answer questions they might have. Parents could use this for family worship as well, reading the passages together and using the questions for discussion. The notes will also help the parents be able to answer questions their children (or they themselves!) might have as they read. Or a whole family could read through the plan together, parents and older children reading the passages individually earlier in the day and using the memory passages, hymns, catechisms, and reflection questions during family worship. My family has done this for two years now, and we have benefitted greatly.
I originally intended for the plan to be used beginning in January and running through the calendar year, but you really could start any time during the year, maybe beginning at the start of a school year or any other time. It is designed to begin on Monday, however, so even if you begin in January, wait to start on the first Monday of the month.
My prayer is that this guide can be a useful resource for helping the stories and poetry of Scripture to shape us into mature, God-fearing Christians, to the glory of God.