Reading the Bible, Why a Year?

My 500 WordsSo, you’re going to read your Bible through in 2014? Good for you! As mentioned before, I don’t know how many times I’ve read the entire Bible (it’s part of my vocation, after all), but I know the first time I’ve ever done it in a calendar year was 2013. I’m glad I did; I really enjoyed it; I think it’s a good thing; and I’m going to try to do it again in 2014.

But as I’ve been thinking about offering this recommendation, I’ve had to ask myself, “Why a year?” I mean, where did we ever get this idea from?

Certainly not from the Bible.

Seriously.

I mean can you name anyone in the entire Bible that read the entire Bible through? Much less in a year? (I picked that thought up from someone in a forum I visited earlier today.) And Jesus doesn’t count, both because he wrote all of it and because during his earthly life, he only read the OT. And he’s God.

I really don’t know where the idea came from. It may be one of those New Year’s Resolution sorts of things. It may not. Like I said, I don’t know. But I still think it’s a great idea, and here’s why:

Rhythm

Life has its natural cycles. There are many things we do on a yearly basis. Entire cultures – not least, the ancient Israelites – have based their identities on annually remembering important events and persons. And when it comes to the Word of God, the “whole counsel of God,” it seems fitting to hear everything God thought fit to print within one of life’s cycles.

Of course, that could apply to a week or a month, or even to a day. Now, one would have to read very quickly indeed to get through the Bible in a 24 hr. period, and comprehension would be sketchy, at best. And one would have to do almost nothing else to read it through in a week. I have, however, been encouraged to read it through in a month. This was based on a below-average reading speed and a page-count, and it was estimated to take somewhere around 1.5 hours each day. And for most people who find time for TV, that’s doable. I guess. But a year really is more manageable.

Tempo

Honestly, unless I was doubling up, my daily reading scarcely took 10 minutes. I probably have a faster-than-average reading speed, but I’m no speed reader. Often I’m reading aloud in my head, which is actually pretty slow. This 10 minutes usually took me through 3 to 5 chapters each day, obviously depending upon the size of the chapters. For readers who don’t read both OT and NT daily, the number is closer to 3, sometimes 4.

3 chapters!

10 minutes!

Difficult? Hardly. Well, it’s not supposed to be, but it’s surprising how difficult it can be to do a simple thing that’s highly profitable.  (That’s why QVC sells so many new exercise devices every year.)

Digestion

And when your reading only takes 10 minutes (or 15 if you’re slower), that should leave you time for meditating, thinking, and praying over what you’ve read. This really is where Bible reading becomes spiritually profitable.

This is the part where you meet with God over what you’ve read, and you seek his grace for whatever needs arise. If you’re just reading to say you’ve done it, you might as well hang it up right now (though I won’t deny ever having done that!). It reminds me of the preacher who was boasting about how many times he had “been through” the Bible, when a lowly church member asked him how many times the Bible had been through him.

Honestly, if I had to choose between 3 chapters read quickly with little thought and 3 verses pressed into my heart by the Holy Spirit, I’d choose the 3 verses every time. And that’s often what happens when I read 3 chapters for the day – the Spirit does press home 3 verses, or even 3 words. But it sometimes takes those 3 chapters to get to those 3 words.

Thoroughness

That’s why I would encourage anyone to read through the Bible, regardless of how long it takes. It allows one to hear from God in many different ways at many different times. But if the readings are too long, it becomes difficult to focus on the specifics. And if they are too short, it becomes difficult to get a sense of the flow and context of the whole. For me, a year seems to strike the right balance. And for those who are going straight through – without reading both OT and NT each day – just how long do you want to be in Leviticus? (One year I found myself empathizing with ancient Israel, just longing for Jesus to show up!)

This practice will not only let you hear from everything God has said, but it will do so in a time frame that is more easily remembered. So that the next time you do it, it will all seem to come together so much more naturally and in fact not only be easier but more enjoyable to read.

These are my reasons – mostly off the top of my head. Can you think of any others? Do you disagree? Why? Let me know in the comments!

(This post is part of Jeff Goins’s 500 Word per Day Challenge)

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