Seeing the Forest and the Trees
Whether we are leading our families, working in the office, or even studying the Bible, one of the great challenges in life is living in the tension between the forest and the trees. We have to give appropriate attention to both.
Some people are really good at details—keeping the books, organizing and working with data, doing painstaking but important research. Others are big picture people. They live at 50,000 feet and love to cast a vision for the future of their organization or movement. But it’s hard to be both a big picture person and a detail person at the same time. Most of us either like to fly in the clouds or we like to dig in the weeds.
Our Bible study practices often can be the same way. Some of us love inductive Bible study—we love to dig in, verse-by-verse, phrase-by-phrase, and conjunction-by-conjunction. I happily count myself among this group; actually, I would argue that this kind of study should be the foundation of our Bible study. But those of us who love seeing the details sometimes fail to keep the big picture of the Bible in view as we study those details.
On the other hand, some people love to see the big picture of the Bible and move quickly to application but aren’t so interested in the details. The more I study and teach the Bible, though, the more I’m convinced that we need to work hard at seeing the small details and doing the careful thinking required in Bible study while also working to see how those details fit into the big story of the Bible.
We need to see both the forest and the trees of the story of redemption.
16 Key Verses
About two years ago while teaching a pastoral training course, I was looking for a way to help my students grasp both the forest and the trees of the big picture of the Bible. So I chose 16 key texts as anchors to help the students see some of the details of the Bible while also trying to keep the whole story of the Bible in view.
As we sat in that Thursday evening class, it was remarkable to see how we could trace patterns and theme that are woven through the whole Bible. We were overwhelmed with the glory of God and the centrality of Christ in all the Scriptures and the students walked away motivated to keep digging deeper.
We were overwhelmed with the glory of God and the centrality of Christ in all the Scriptures and the students walked away motivated to keep digging deeper.
As I developed and refined those passages, I started writing my new book, The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses, with the hope that the book will help people develop the habit of seeing both the details of individual passages and the big story of the Bible that points us to Jesus.
Some Free Tools
Along with the book itself, we’ve been working to create other resources to better equip readers to be lifelong students of the Bible—in both its parts and its whole.
First, you can download a free study guide designed for small group Bible studies that want to read through the book together. Along with a review of the chapter and some reflection questions, the guide also includes readings from the context of each of the sixteen verses and a Psalm that intersects with themes from that chapter.
Second, we’ve also created free downloadable memory verse cards that you can use to memorize and meditate on each of the 16 key verses. Just print them out, cut them up, and distribute them as you see fit!
While I hope that The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses is a helpful tool, my prayer is that it would be an on-ramp to more serious study of the Bible, more faithful meditation on its implications, more consistent application of its truth, and more joyful impact on our lives and witnesses. We need to see both the forest of the big story of the Bible and the individual trees that make up this grand story.
Study, memorize, and apply these sixteen verses, and then spend your life chasing down thousands more!