It has dawned on me that some people don’t read the Bible because it is intimidating. It is a big book after all—mine is approximately 1600 pages, a compilation of 66 books (39 books of the Old Testament and 27 in the new). So instead of tackling such a huge project head on, we short change ourselves by escaping into devotions, book studies, self-help and other books of encouragement.
While these resources may be a good place to start to introduce us to the Bible, they do not offer long-term sustainability. Why? Because we miss far too much when we cherry-pick through the scriptures without the proper context and clear understanding of what God spoke, why he spoke it, and how Jesus ministered to fulfill what God already promised. That’s what I learned by reading through the New Testament this semester.
We can tackle the Bible in the same manner that we tackle other overwhelming tasks in our lives—eat the elephant one bite at a time. Instead of focusing on reading the entire Bible, focus on one book at a time. By understanding how each book stands alone, we also grow to understand how they connect and compliment each other.
In their book entitled, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, authors Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart recommend orally reading through one book in one sitting. What does this mean: Commit to reading one book of the Bible. Intentionally set aside time to read that book. Read that book out loud uninterrupted in a quiet space.
Why do this? What’s in it for you? Here are the benefits:
- Reading through an entire book ensures that you do not forget what you read previously. It helps you process the big picture and the key points that the writer was trying to get across to a particular audience and to you as the reader.
For example: Reading through the gospel of Mark in this manner revealed that while Jesus performed several miracles and healed people immediately, there were many times when he did not heal. In those particular times, Jesus frequently referenced the lack of faith or little faith of those in his presence. In essence, Jesus certainly could have healed but elected not to because those among him did not truly believe that he was able. Certainly that has practical implications for us today concerning faith and trust.
- Reading the Bible orally keeps you focused. It eliminates the distraction of a wondering eye or mind. I actually hear things when reading aloud that I do not see when sometimes reading silently.
- Reading through an entire book of the Bible takes time. You already know that going into this task, so you can be intentional about setting aside this time of reading. You can probably read through the book of 1 John in five minutes, 2 John may take 30, and the gospels (either Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) may take as long as two hours or more (depending on how quickly you read).
Of course this is not something that you can do everyday. Maybe this is something that you can commit to for every Sabbath day of rest: every Friday night, Saturday, or Sunday or maybe even commit to rising early one day of each weekday to commit this special time to the Lord.
It is important to know that what you are attempting to do here is not a “deep” Bible study (cross referencing with other biblical text), but rather a “wide” (broad overview of the scripture). A mature Christian should commit to both disciplines.
What are your Bible reading practices? Have you noticed any significant changes in how you read the Bible of the years? What do you recommend for new Bible readers?
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011
Don’t forget to join us for our The Gospel of Ruth book discussion.
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