Time to read Genesis again...
It is that time of year again. Blogs, Twitter and Facebook have exploded with Bible reading plans for the New Year. The provision of this material, with the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, lead many Christians to resolve to read the whole Bible in a year.
However, after embarking on our reading plan which will get us through the Bible in a year, we often stumble. Once we’ve missed one or two days reading the plan begins to look like an insurmountable challenge. Therefore, many of us have read Genesis (and perhaps even Exodus, up to Chapter 20 anyway) numerous times – but often do not make it any further.
I want to offer three theological reasons and three practical reasons for reading the whole Bible in a year every year, in the hope that this will encourage us to keep going when we make it to Leviticus.
The first theological reason for reading the Bible through in a year every year is because it is all about Jesus. Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus, and his disciples, make it explicit that all of Scripture is about him (Lk. 11:29-32; 24:25-27; Jn. 1:45). Therefore, it is not enough for us just to read a Gospel or two and a few of our favourite passages from Paul’s letters each year. Rather, we should be reading all of God’s Word because all of Scripture points to Jesus, revealing more of him. As we read God’s Word through each year we begin to see with more strength the pointers to Jesus from every section of Scripture.
Second, we should endeavour to read the whole of the Bible in a year every year because it is precious. Undoubtedly Psalm 119 is the most famous portion of Scripture concerning God’s very own Word. In this Psalm we are told in no uncertain terms that the Bible is very precious. The Psalmist describes God’s Word as: wondrous (v18), delightful (v24), truth (v43), comforting (v50), righteous (v62), precious (v72), steadfast (v89), wisdom (v98), sweet (v103), joy (v111), salvation (v155) and enduring (v160). As we read God’s Word through each year we find that it becomes more precious as we become better acquainted with it.
The third theological reason for reading the whole of the Bible in a year every year is because it is beneficial. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 describe the benefits of God’s Word for us ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work’. We should not be neglecting this Word. The more we read Scripture the more God uses it to challenge and equip us.
First, reading the whole of the Bible in one year gives us a better perspective of the biblical storyline. Reading large chunks of the Bible and moving through the books of the Bible at a brisk pace tends to give us the grand sweep of the biblical storyline. The practical benefit of this is that, as we listen to our Pastor’s sermon series on Daniel, or read the latest John Piper book on the Apostle Paul, or complete our own Bible study on Judges, we come to see where in the Bible’s storyline these events occur. This understanding aids our biblical theology, our application of texts to today and our linking of all texts to Jesus.
Some say that familiarity breeds contempt. However, to be unfamiliar with something suggests it is unimportant. The second practical reason for reading the whole of the Bible in a year is to create a familiarity with Biblical history and literature. This would occur if we were to read the Bible through in a year just once as Kings and Chronicles covers the same period of time (albeit with different emphasis), the prophets speak into the history divulged in Kings and Chronicles and all four Gospels document Jesus life, death and resurrection (albeit for slightly different purposes). However, this practical reason is undoubtedly enhanced by a continued re-reading of the whole Bible in a year. As we move through the whole of the Bible every year we begin to develop a familiarity with biblical history and literature.
The third practical reason follows on from the previous reasons. Most Christians, if asked, would be honest in admitting that parts of Scripture appear boring, uninspiring and that a whole lot of it is just downright difficult to understand. This is reflected in how we then read the Bible. Lots of us read daily devotionals which only offer one verse a day, some of us just re-read books we enjoy like Ruth, Mark, and Philippians. However, if we read all of the Bible in a year we force ourselves to read those difficult books and passages like 1 Chronicles 1-9, Ecclesiastes and Revelation. Therefore, we develop a much more balanced understanding of the Bible.
Resolved to Read
As much as I would love to say these three theological and three practical reasons for reading the whole Bible in a year demand that each and every Christian do it, I can’t. There is nowhere in Scripture that commands us to read the whole Bible in a year every year, there is no Church history which shows it was the common practice among the majority of Christians and I have no authority to demand it of you.
However, I do think that the reasons we have noted above demand that again this January we resolve to be more devoted to the Bible (no matter how much of it we read) – reading, hearing and doing. This book is unlike any other: breathed out by God resulting in many benefits. It is precious beyond all our earthly possessions and points us to Jesus. Therefore, it is good for us to become acquainted with the grand storyline, biblical history and literature and the difficult passages.