At the end of 2009 I finished reading through the ESV Study Bible and posted a few thoughts on what I learned. During the first half of 2010, I read through it again (just the Scripture, not the notes), but wanted to try something different for the last half of 2010. I had been looking at Prof. Grant Horner’s Bible reading plan and decided to try it. You can read Grant’s thoughts on it here.
The plan involves reading one chapter from ten different places in the Bible each time you read. Once you reach the end of a section you start over. I was drawn to the plan because I wanted to gain a better perspective on how the Bible comments on itself. And I just want to know God better.
Four of the sections are 150 chapters or more so I’ve been reading two chapters from those sections. That means 14 chapters a day, which sounds ridiculous, preposterous, unattainable, and wildly optimistic. Something that I’d actually need God’s grace to accomplish.
Surprisingly, I completed all my reading in about five and a half months, ending the day before Christmas. Of course, I didn’t really end because whenever I finish a section I just go back to the beginning.
I don’t know how long I’ll be reading Scripture this way, but I know one thing. It’s been really good for my relationship with God. Here’s a few reasons why:
I’m reminded daily how little I know of God’s word.
I’ve been reading the Bible for over 40 years. The more I read the more I feel like I’m just scratching the surface. I don’t want to master the God’s Word. I want God, through his Word, to master me. And I’ve got a long way to go.
I’m understanding better how Jesus is the story line of the bible.
In one sitting I read about the instructions for the tabernacle in Exodus, Job’s cry for a mediator, the failure of the Israelite kings, a psalm extolling the steadfast love of the Lord, the promise of a righteous branch in the prophets, Jesus being rejected by those he came to save, the testimony of Jesus’ death and resurrection in Acts, instructions for godly living in the Epistles, and the consummation of all things in Revelation. I feel like I’m getting a biblical theology lesson every morning.
I’m more convinced of God’s sovereignty over all things.
I still don’t understand how moral responsibility for our choices and God’s sovereignty over our actions work together. Not sure I ever will. But I’m increasingly certain that Scripture contains both, and that this should produce peace and security in my life, not striving and confusion. The God who knows the end from the beginning, who intends evil for good purposes (Gen. 50:19), who directs the paths of arrows (2 Chron. 18:28-33), who ordained the details of Christ’s death and resurrection (Acts 4:27-28), and who has already assured us of his final triumph over death and Satan – this God – can surely handle whatever difficulties and trials I face.
Familiar verses speak to me in unexpected ways.
The other morning I was reading chapters 7&8 from Isaiah. God told Ahaz that He was going to defeat his enemies, and told Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Is. 7:10). But Ahaz played the false humility card and refused. “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test” (Is. 7:12). God said He Himself would provide a sign of his promise. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call him name Immanuel” (Is. 9:14). While those words had an immediate fulfillment, they were finally fulfilled in the birth of Christ. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that Ahaz never dreamed that God would ultimately prove his faithfulness by giving up his own Son as our substitute. God is always better than we expect.
I’m appreciating God’s holiness more than I used to.
God judges sin in the Bible a lot. Of course, there’s a lot of sin in the Bible to judge. Immersing myself in Scripture each day reminds me that God is not who my culture says he is. He’s not apathetic toward sin. He hates it with an unyielding, consuming, terrifying hatred. Which make giving up his Son to endure his wrath in my place all the more amazing.
I’m encountering God in his Word more often.
You might think that reading so much of the Bible at one time doesn’t allow time for reflection and engaging with God. That hasn’t been my experience. It usually takes me between 30-45 minutes to read 14 chapters. I read at a normal pace, but still have time to meditate on, cross-reference, or memorize a passage. And frequently I’m aware of God’s Spirit speaking to me, working on my heart, molding my will to his own.
Obviously, Prof. Horner’s plan isn’t for everyone. Meditating on smaller portions of Scripture has great value as well. But if you’ve been wanting to experience more of God in his Word and to grow in your knowledge of Scripture as a whole, I’d encourage you to try it for a month.
I guarantee you’ll have a hard time stopping. And wouldn’t that be a good thing?
If you’re thinking of reading the Bible through in a year, Crossway has provided a number of other plans at their site. And regardless of what Bible reading plan you use, I’ve found the ESV Study Bible to be an immensely helpful tool.
Update 12.31.10: Justin Taylor has posted an extremely helpful and comprehensive post on various Bible reading plans over at his blog.