A Divine Tapestry

Sometimes it’s simple enough to know what a book is, but a little more difficult to know what it’s meant for. Understanding a book’s contents is sometimes a bit simpler than knowing how to use it. And I’d say that’s exactly the case for A Divine Tapestry by Ryan McGraw.

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A Divine Tapestry is simply summaries and memory verses from every chapter of the Bible. In other words, it is divided into 66 chapters, one for each book of the Bible. Each of these is divided into as many sections as there are chapters of that biblical book, and for every one there is a summary and a suggested key verse (or, sometimes, several key verses). And that’s it—that’s the book. Simple enough. But what’s it for and how might you use it?

To answer that, it would be helpful to understand its genesis. In the Introduction McGraw (who is a professor of Systematic Theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) explains that it began as a means to introduce children to the Bible and its big story, first by memorizing some of its most important verses, but also through brief summaries of each of its chapters. But then seminary students heard about the resource and began to ask for it as they prepared for their ordination exams. And then church members requested it so they could come to better understand the Bible. And eventually it grew into this book.

So how might you use it? Most obviously, it is a useful supplement for daily Bible-reading. I, for example, read several chapters of the Bible each day and have enjoyed being able to preview and get the context for what I am about to read (or, more commonly, listen to) by first reading these summaries. I can then turn to them again later in the day to remind myself of what I’ve heard and help fix them in my mind. It’s like the old teaching technique: tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you’ve said.

Here’s how the author suggests you put it to use:

The best way to use this book is to have it open while reading through the whole Bible. Each chapter can encourage readers to keep going as the summaries and memory verse train them what to look for and how to read better. Reading through the Bible in families, with this book as a companion and guide, can also help parents pass along what they learn to their children. Older children and students can work through it themselves.

Opening the book at random, I find myself in the middle chapters of Ezekiel and this is what I see:

Chapter 26
The Lord Proclaims Judgment Against Tyre as a Paradigm for His Judgments Against All Nations

‘Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, “Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.”’ Ezek. 26:2

Chapter 27

The Prophet Takes Up a Lamentation for Tyre, Showing the Desolation of the Nations

’All the inhabitants of the isles will be astonished at you; Their kings will be greatly afraid, and their countenance will be troubled. The merchants among the peoples will hiss at you; You will become a horror, and be no more forever.’ Ezek. 27:35-36

Chapter 28

The King of Tyre, Who Exalted himself as a god, Will Die the Death of the Uncircumcised, Sidon Will Share in her Judgment, and God Will Restore Israel

‘Thus says the Lord God: “When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God.”’

That’s just the smallest sampling of the content and format.

If there is likely to be a common critique of the book, it is one the author anticipates in the Introduction: the use of the NKJV. I will not summarize his defense except to say he believes its consistency with the KJV represents a more faithful translation and that using a derivative of the KJV provokes clearer connections to the historical creeds, confessions, and catechisms. Either way, it does not significantly detract from the book.

And so A Divine Tapestry is a book that demands just a bit of explanation. But once you understand what it’s all about, you can’t help but be impressed both by its scope (a summary of every chapter of the Bible) and its usefulness (a guide to better reading the Bible). If you buy it and use it I think you’ll agree that it’s a wonderful resource.

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