After 40 days without food, Jesus could still say, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Jesus also said, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger" (John 6:35).
I take it that Christ would have us to think about the Bible as food, and to think about exposure to the Bible as eating. We cannot truly live without the Bible because true life comes to us through the Christ revealed across its pages.
Plan for Reading the Bible
With 2012 upon us, I put some time into refreshing a tool I designed for reading the Bible through in one year. It's called Bible Eater: A Plan for Feeding on Christ in the Whole Bible in One Year.
Here's a quick overview followed by an explanation of its features:
- Read 2 to 3 Old Testament chapters per day and take 4 days off per month, or use those days to catch up.
- Read 1 to 2 one-sitting designated Old Testament books in each 3-month period, indicated in blue.
- Read 1 New Testament chapter per day, 5 days per week.
- Flexible Format: This plan has a balance of daily reading at a pace of about 2 to 3 and sometimes 4 chapters a day, and 4 days off per month. In addition, 1 to 2 Old Testament books are designated by blue highlighting for a one-sitting read during each 3-month period, including Deuteronomy, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah. These books were chosen because they are the right length to keep the reading plan simple, but also because these books can be helpfully read in a single sitting for the big picture.
- Reading Both Testaments Together: Some annual reading plans assign the first ten months to the Old Testament and the last two to the New Testament. Others get you in both testaments but have you in four different places every day. Since we read the Old Testament from the perspective of our New Testament position, it is good to read both together, but this plan keeps it simple with one track in each testament at a time.
- Redemptive Historical Highlights: Every chapter in the Bible is important since every word in the book is from God. But some chapters are more crucial for helping us understand the overall narrative of the Bible's salvation story. Red highlights indicate these kinds of chapters. Some contain promises of a prophet, a priest, a king, a new exodus, a new creation. Others show the need for this One in the unfolding drama of God's grace to a rebellion-wrecked, suicidal humanity. New Testament highlights show the fulfillment of these great expectations in Jesus Christ.
Why Plan to Read the Bible?
The eating imagery certainly helps us understand the nature of the Bible's importance to our lives. But that picture also helps us think through how we might act on the Bible's importance.
Like eating, it makes sense to plan for when and how often we will read the Bible. In my own experience, both of these can suffer without a plan, and more so for the Bible because of the artificial filling effect of sin. And like eating, it makes sense to plan for what and how much we will read. We can survive on an unplanned nibble of food here and there, but that wouldn't be good for us and it wouldn't make sense if we had a magical grill with an eternal supply of steak.
Plenty of people stay alive without a plan for eating, but they aren't usually healthier for it.
If you haven't decided yet on a plan for reading the Bible because you've decided that having a plan isn't important, I'd encourage you to read John Piper's excellent and persuasive article, "A New Year's Plea: Plan!"
God is a God who plans, and he always plans for things that are good. For that reason, we can reflect the glory of God by exercising dominion over our time with a plan to enjoy the greatest privilege we have as humans: eating the bread of life and living.
Editors' note: Download Bible Eater: A Plan for Feeding on Christ in the Whole Bible in One Year.