What book of the Bible should I read next?
It’s a common question among believers. And we tend to make our decision based on two factors.
First, we wonder how to avoid boredom. How do we keep the desire for God’s Word aflame when it becomes increasingly familiar? Familiarity breeds contempt, so we have heard. That may not always be true, though familiarity can breed other vices like thoughtless skimming or the “I-already-know-this” attitude. We think that reading a less familiar book of the Bible may restore our interest in the Bible as a whole.
Second, we want to make sure we are well-rounded students of Scripture. Each of us, when faced with so many books-within-a-book, will prefer some of them to others. We enjoy certain genres, while unintentionally neglecting others. So we may decide to open a less familiar book of the Bible to help us have a more balanced understanding of the Bible.
Naturally, having finished one of the 66 books of the Bible, we ask: “What’s next?” 65 options would overwhelm anyone! If you’re paralyzed by biblical where-to-go-itis, let me offer a cure.
Bear With Me
I confess that I lack confidence that you will like my answer—at least initially. Bear with me.
You’ve asked for a book of the Bible to read, and I’m going to give you a book that I believe is the one you most need. I trust that when you ask this question of what book of the Bible to read next, you ask out of a good desire—the desire to delight in God’s Word, and to be a diligent student of it.
The book I offer will both heighten your delight in God’s Word, and it will astronomically increase your proficiency in navigating the Biblical landscape as a student of Scripture.
Here it is: read the Bible. The whole thing.
If you don’t know what to read next in the Bible, commit to reading the whole thing. I’m not necessarily advocating for a Bible-in-a-year plan. I mean you should see the Bible as one book, and decide to read it as a whole in whatever time frame is accomplishable for you.
Here are two reasons why you want to read the whole Bible next.
Read the Whole Bible for Your Own Joy
Reading the whole Bible will clarify and deepen your knowledge of God—and by knowledge, I mean your personal relationship with him.
We know that God is the main character of the Bible. We also know that the Bible isn’t an end in itself—it’s the means by which we know God (John 5:39; 17:3). The triune God speaks to us through his Word.
Say you’ve known a friend for years. You can list her interests, quote her insights, even recount anecdotes from various eras of her life. But you’ve never heard her tell her own story from beginning to end. Perhaps you can name an ambition or two of hers, but you’re not certain where she hopes her future takes her.
Often, this is how we relate to God. We know bits about him, but we’ve never taken the time to hear him out on his plans from beginning to end.
Now, back to your friend. Imagine the benefit to your relationship if you sat down to hear her life story. So many of the scattered fragments would fall into place, organized around the big narrative. Likewise, when we read the whole Bible, we hear God’s story from eternity past to eternity future. We see his character in the way he promises, purposes, and delivers.
As you read God’s whole story one thing about him will be wonderfully clarified for you—his goodness. Sometimes we’re blind to God’s goodness because we base our understanding of him on small parts of the Bible, rather than the whole.
Sometimes we’re blind to God’s goodness because we base our understanding of him on small parts of the Bible, rather than the whole.
Read the whole Bible. You will see and know God better. By the help of his Spirit, it will deepen your joy in him.
Read the Whole Bible Like a Good Student
Here’s the second reason you should read the whole Bible—because you haven’t really read it until you’ve read the whole thing as one story.
Wrapped up in this reason are many other reasons. If you read the whole thing as one story, you’ll understand each book better, you’ll understand world history better, you’ll understand your own purpose, and you’ll find answers to today’s questions. As you read the whole Bible, the threads you’ve already known will come together to form a beautiful tapestry you may have never seen. I can’t explain each of these, so for now, I’m going to summarize all these wonderful benefits by saying you should read the Bible because you haven’t really read the Bible well until you’ve read it in its entirety.
As you read the whole Bible, the threads you’ve already known will come together to form a beautiful tapestry you may have never seen.
Have you read The Odyssey? If so, perhaps you can name some of Homer’s main characters. You may recall something about a Cyclops and a hero who eventually makes it home, but that’s pretty much it. You certainly don’t know the order of all the parts. Now, do you think any English teacher would give you credit for reading the whole book? No—not because you don’t have any accurate knowledge, but because that’s not how the book was intended to be read.
Some of us grew up in churches that treated the Bible like an encyclopedia. We miss so much of the Bible when we read it this way, because the Bible is not an encyclopedia; it’s a story. It was written to be read as a story. Have you ever read it this way?
Read the whole Bible, my friend! Hear the story of Scripture.
Why I Want You to Read the Whole Bible
My previous point is not meant to leave you feeling guilty. If you have read any part of God’s Word, praise God! He can do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine no matter how little we’ve internalized (Isa. 55:8–9; Eph. 3:20).
But I can hardly express the joy I felt when I saw my freshman-year Old Testament professor draw out the whole storyline of Scripture on a white board.
The Lord is so creative! What sense these stories like David and Goliath finally make! Judges is in the Bible for a reason—I never understood why it was there! Jesus really is the climax of the Bible!
I felt that same joy when, years later, having read the whole Bible again, I saw something I desperately needed to see—God is good. His goodness permeates his story from beginning to end. When you read the whole Bible, you begin to see this theme clearly.
Perhaps in troubled times, we don’t need a handful of verses; we need a loving friend to sit down and tell us God’s story from beginning to end. Or we need to listen diligently to our heavenly Friend tell us the story of all he has done for us, planned from eternity past.
So, what book of the Bible should you read next? The whole thing, my friend. The whole thing.