I’ve met people over the years who proudly declare that they’ve been reading through the Bible once a year for a number of years. I know people who do things like read through the Bible in 90 days or have a year long Bible reading plan. They even make Bibles that help you read through the Bible in a year.
Great. Now stop it.
Don’t have a plan.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong: Sometimes plans are good. About 10 or so years ago I participated with my church in the program Faith Comes by Hearing. I took 90 days to listen to the New Testament. But I took time to listen to the nuances, listen to the words, listen to what was being said. There’s something about listening to the Bible that brings out things that I didn’t notice when reading the text itself. But I didn’t really do it according to the plan laid out. In fact, I finished it long before the 90 days were up because I was so enthralled that I’d keep listening sometimes.
When people tell me that they use a plan to read through the Bible in a year, I start asking them questions:
Were you mystified by the Spirit of the Lord hovering over the earth at creation and then wondering why there was also the account of Genesis 2? And did your heart hurt when Adam was a jerk and blamed it all on Eve for why things got all messed up?
Did you root for Tamar when she one-upped Judah?
Did they feel the heartbreak of Aaron when his two sons became crispy critters, consumed by the fire of God for not offering a proper offering to God and then feel the scorn of Moses afterward?
Did they hurt for David in his anguish in the Psalms and feel his remorse in Psalm 51? Or feel the pain of Psalm 88?
Did they get that “oh snap” moment in Amos when he declares judgment on all of Israel’s enemies and then turns the tables and announces even worse judgment on Israel?
Did you laugh at the sarcasm and sneakiness of God found in Isaiah when describing idol worship?
Did you feel for Jeremiah when he
Did you want to cry when Ezekiel’s wife died and struggle with why he wasn’t allowed to mourn, yet at the same time understand why he continued on in his ministry? Were you a bit embarrassed when he compared Israel to a lusting after lovers who had huge genitals? (seriously, look up Ezekiel 23:20)
Did you celebrate at the end of 2 Chronicles when Cyrus sent the people in exile back home?
Did your heart break when Peter denied Jesus? And then did it break again when he did it in the other gospels as well?
Did you feel the joy of the resurrection at the end of Matthew but feel the fear of it at the end of Mark?
Did you laugh at the funny remarks of Paul in his letters?
Were you filled with exuberance, awe, and joy at the elders praising the Lamb that was slain or when the new Jerusalem descended and God declared He’d dwell with humanity forever?
Did you mutter the same words as John at the end when he said “Amen. Come Lord Jesus?”
Usually I get blank stares and looks. Nope. They didn’t catch that. They didn’t have a real emotional response. Usually they just struggled to get through Leviticus and 1 & 2 Chronicles.
Don’t push through the Bible. Don’t have a plan. Don’t rush through this richly written history of God’s working with His people. So many people start with Genesis, and others start with John (not sure why, that’s the hardest and more complex of the gospels to start with. Start with Mark instead). But then don’t fully fall deep into the passages of people’s pain, anger, snarkiness, humor, and rejoicing.
Maybe it’s because I come from a literary background. Maybe it’s because I love the whole idea of story. But I don’t use a Bible reading plan. I start where I start and I end where I end.
I’m reading through the minor prophets right now, the smaller books of the prophets with names that are hard to pronounce (how do you pronounce Habakkuk anyway). I’m seeing the richness of language, the play on words, the pain and hurt of God that his people whom he called to be his light and representatives have instead become like everyone else and have left him like a lover going after a new prospect.
Don’t have a plan.
Instead, immerse yourself into the life of these 66 books. They are all connected, placed together in such a way that you can enjoy the richness of each moment, experience the highs and lows of God’s people, and enter into a world that once was, a world that is yours as well, because you are living this story today which happened centuries ago.
Don’t rush through it like you would scarfing down a value meal from McDonald’s while driving in the car. Instead, sit down like you would at a restaurant that had a 5 course meal cooked by the greatest chef ever, enjoying each morsel, and letting it digest and sink in.
Take time. Take it slow. Enjoy the Word of God, it isn’t something to rush through.