During a break from seminary, I stopped by to see my sweet, elderly grandmother. Grandma was not only the greatest baker of peach cobbler it has ever been my delight to consume, she also taught a Sunday School class for older women in her church. Seizing the opportunity at hand, she began to ask me, her young seminarian grandson, questions about the bible in the hopes of improving her skills as a bible teacher.
Between bites of heaven’s goodness clothed in flour and sugar, I tried the best I could to answer her questions. And, I must admit, I knew some things Grandma didn’t know. She had never taken Greek or Systematic Theology or Church History. But, I began to realize in the course of our conversation, that Grandma knew the bible in a way that I didn’t. Her years of faithful bible reading had allowed God’s word to penetrate her soul in a way no seminary class could replicate. I left her home that day saying, “I want to know the bible like that!”
That episode began in me a renewed commitment to bulk reading of the bible. I committed to reading the bible through in its entirety at least once every year. That was many years ago and I have followed that practice ever since, sometimes supplementing it with more frequent reading of the New Testament. Here are some reasons I continue to read the bible through each year and commend the practice to you.
1. Reading the bible through each year allows me to see the big picture of God’s work. A surprising number of Christians have never considered the whole of God’s word. While they may know some of the stories and perhaps have heard sermons and lessons on various parts of the bible, they have missed the forest for the trees. They haven’t put the Old and New Testaments together or seen the full narrative well. After reading the bible through six or seven times, the big picture gains clarity in our minds.
2. Reading the bible through each year helps me to assimilate the message more fully. Grandma had God’s word deep in her soul. It bubbled to the surface when she spoke and percolated in her thoughts. Reading it each day allows the word to be more than an occasional guest in our minds; it becomes a resident in our lives.
3. Reading the bible through each year teaches me to see important themes. The themes of redemption, judgement, holiness and grace have major roles in God’s word. Bulk reading helps us see the value God places on topics like these and others. Through this, we begin to see what matters to God and should matter to us.
4. Reading the bible through each year causes me to deal with difficult or obscure passages. I already knew the story of Samson in my early years, but I wasn’t so aware of Ehud the left-handed Benjaminite. Bulk reading forces me to consider hard passages that might need more of my study or subjects that I rarely consider. Some of those lesser known scripture passages have been greatly used by the Lord in my life to teach and mold me.
5. Reading the bible through each year keeps me disciplined and consistent. One doesn’t finish the entire bible in a morning. It takes discipline and consistency; traits which are in short supply in many lives. But many of the greatest blessings of life come more slowly than quickly. A daily recognition of our need for the Lord is essential to serious discipleship.
6. Reading the bible through each year reminds me of my sins, shortcomings and blind spots. I more easily notice the sins of others than my own. But reading God’s word can help me to see areas where God wants me to change and grow. God has often used his word to teach me about areas of personal weakness that I might not otherwise consider.
7. Reading the bible through each year guards me from complacency, apathy and stagnation. We never arrive at the end of our discipleship journey until reaching the end of our earthly one. Reading the bible each day reminds me to continue to learn, grow and obey. This daily practice reminds us that we haven’t reached our destination yet and there is more to learn on our journey.
Consider reading through the bible in the next year. If you haven’t read the entire New Testament, start there and maybe read through it several times first. You can read a book in the Old Testament and then one in the New Testament or read them in any order you choose. Use a One Year Bible or any other method you choose. But, read the bible all the way through over and over and gain the benefit that comes with this healthy practice!