We’re nearly a month into 2016, but close enough to the beginning of the year that some of us may still be assessing our past year and trying to make changes for this year. If you weren’t a regular Bible reader last year, becoming one this year could be the best thing you ever do.
I suspect that all of us would have to admit that there have been times when reading the Bible was more duty than pleasure. I’ve felt that myself. I realized the problem was mine, not God’s. But how could I solve it? A changed attitude about God’s Word and God himself was the key to beginning to read the Bible each day with eager anticipation, even delight (as the writer of Psalm 119 so explicitly experiences). Ironically, that change occurred by doing more and more of what I thought bored me: reading the Bible.
Two years ago on January 1 my husband Ed and I embarked on reading the entire Bible that year. We did it again the next year, and have now started a third time. One of us used a Bible set up in daily readings to cover a year, the other read along in a different translation. We immediately found that using two translations simultaneously was helpful, so we’ve continued that. By now we’ve used the KJV, the New King James, the NIV and the ESV. We’ve just started with the NIV again (an edition set up for reading in a year), along with the new Reformation Study Bible. There are now many yearly Bible reading plans available (many online). The ones we use have us read the Bible books in order, each daily reading from the Old Testament, the Psalms and Proverbs in addition, and the New Testament.
The amount of time this takes per day is on average 20 minutes. Still, there were days, at first, when it seemed like a chore. But then, a surprise: the more we read, the more we felt the Spirit at work – the same Spirit who centuries ago authored that Word through the prophets, apostles and others he chose to convey it. The more we read, the more we wanted to read, and the better we got to know and love our God revealed there.
Revelation or speculation
Matt Smethhurst, associate editor for The Gospel Coalition, has noted in an article at Christianity.com (“Seven ways to Approach the Bible”), “The Bible is empirical evidence that the Maker of the universe is a God who initiates, who reveals, who talks. There are, after all, only two options when it comes to knowledge of one’s Creator: revelation or speculation. Either he speaks, or we guess. And he has spoken. . . . The King would’ve been entirely right to leave us to ourselves, sunk in an ocean of ignorance and guilt. But he didn’t. He peeled back the curtain. And then opened his holy mouth.” That is astonishing, and surely humbling (“approach humbly”).
I found Smethhurst’s other insights also helpful. In his other six points he advocates approaching Scripture desperately, studiously, obediently, joyfully, expectantly and frequently. His last point is my main point here: the more frequently you read, the more you want to read; and the more the Spirit works in you an intense longing for the Word (“approach desperately”), a willingness to study it carefully, then a desire obey – joyfully and expectantly – the God revealed there.
In this vein, Jon Bloom has said, “Your Bible is a mine, not a museum.” (Bloom is a co-founder with John Piper of Desiring God.) When I first read that, a Sunday school chorus from my childhood popped to mind: I have a wonderful treasure, the gift of God without measure; and so we travel together: my Bible and I.
Simplistic? I don’t think so. It prompts me to quote Bloom’s entire mining/treasure-hunting metaphor, which seems a good way to end. “Miners observe and gather with a different mindset than a museum-goer. To miners, the knowledge they acquire is not merely interesting; it’s vital. They aren’t merely enhancing their education; they are hunting for treasure. They dig. They probe. They poke around. They pick up rocks and turn them over, looking intently. Mining isn’t a leisurely afternoon’s recreation. Mining is a diligent, persistent and even tedious examination. Hours are spent carefully combing through a small area, because if looking is not done carefully, a gem might be missed.”
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