“Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”
That quotation is the 28th resolution that pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards strove to follow. He would eventually come up with a total of 70 resolutions that were designed to conform every aspect of his life to Christ. Many of us lack the clarity and eloquence of Edwards, but as Christians we all desire to obey Christ and be conformed to His image. We are always looking for ways to accomplish this and adopt similar resolutions for ourselves. The beginning of the New Year is always a time of resolutions. This resolution is a wonderful one to begin with, but how should the Christian begin such a task?
It doesn’t take a lot of searching to come up with half a dozen Bible reading plans in as many minutes. The goal is usually the same, to read the entire Bible in a year. This is a worthy goal, but I fear that most people look at this as nothing more than a box to check. The goal is not to read the Bible in a year. The goal is to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. Simply put, we want to know our Bibles so that God might grow us in maturity, understanding, and living. We want the Holy Spirit of God to use the Word of God to save and sanctify the people of God.
It is my personal opinion that the way to accomplish this is not through an annual reading program that ploughs through the Bible with little or no time to digest and study what we find there. We need to slow down so that we understand what we’re reading. But we also need to read and know the whole counsel of God.
A blessed friend of mine came up with a solution to this problem by taking a broader goal of 3 years for the entire Bible. I’ve modified it somewhat and am currently taking our church through this reading program on Sunday evenings. After 20 months we have finished the Old Testament and look forward to ringing in the New Year with the New Testament.
From a pastor’s perspective, this plan works. People are reading parts of their Bibles that they have never read before. They are beginning to understand what the Word of God has to say. They’re growing in knowledge, grace, and truth. And they’re becoming hungry for more!
There is really just one single principal behind the order and timing of this reading plan: authorial intention. We want to understand the biblical text in light of what has come before it so that we understand what the author is trying to communicate to us.
This is where all the other plans fall short. They fail to take into consideration when certain books were written and therefore what those authors have at their disposal. For example, when Paul was writing any of his epistles, he could not be thinking of John or any of his writings because John did not take up his pen until long after Paul was dead. This plan attempts (for the most part) to keep the books of the Bible in chronological order. We’ve taken some exceptions, but the goal remains the same: to help the reader and student of scripture understand how their Bible is put together.
Another benefit of spreading this plan over the course of 34 months is to be able to digest and investigate what we’re reading. The goal is not to check a box, but to become a lifelong student of the Bible. We want to be those who are constantly meditating on the Instruction of Yhwh (Psalm 1) and in turn doers of the Word rather than hears (or readers) only (James 1:23). That means that you have to understand what you’re reading.
There’s a motto among soldiers, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” The idea is to slow down to avoid fumbling fingers. In time muscle memory will develop and that slow smooth action will become a lighting quick reflex. The same is true of our scriptural knowledge and obedience.
Let’s take the opportunity this year to read for depth and breadth rather than speed. Who cares if you’ve read the entire Bible by next December if you don’t remember most of it? Yet if you’ve only read through half of the prophets in the next 12 months and recall what you’ve read, you are well on your way to developing a life changing habit.
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:1-3