At their best, Christians have saturated themselves in the Bible. They say with Job, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12). That comparison was something the children of Israel were meant to learn in the wilderness. We are told that God led them into hunger and fed them with manna to teach them “that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3)—words quoted by the Lord Jesus when he himself faced temptation (Matt. 4:4).
Not only for the book of Revelation may it properly be said, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it” (Rev. 1:3). On the night he was betrayed, Jesus Christ prayed for his followers in these terms: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The means by which God sanctifies men and women, setting them apart as his own people, is the Word of truth.
Challenges of Reading Scripture
The challenge has become increasingly severe in recent years, owing to several factors. All of us must confront the regular sins of laziness or lack of discipline, sins of the flesh, and of the pride of life. But there are additional pressures. The sheer pace of life affords us many excuses for sacrificing the important on the altar of the urgent. The constant sensory input from all sides is gently addictive—we become used to being entertained and diverted, and it is difficult to carve out the space and silence necessary for serious and thoughtful reading of Scripture.
More seriously yet, the rising biblical illiteracy in Western culture means that the Bible is increasingly a closed book, even to many Christians. As the culture drifts away from its former rootedness in a Judeo-Christian understanding of God, history, truth, right and wrong, purpose, judgment, forgiveness, and community, so the Bible seems stranger and stranger. For precisely the same reason, it becomes all the more urgent to read it and reread it, so that at least confessing Christians preserve the heritage and outlook of a mind shaped and informed by holy Scripture.
The Gospel Coalition’s Read the Bible initiative is intended to encourage that end. Devotional guides tend to offer short, personal readings from the Bible, sometimes only a verse or two, followed by several paragraphs of edifying exposition. Doubtless they provide personal help for believers with private needs, fears, and hopes. But they do not provide the framework of what the Bible says—the “plotline” or “story line”—the big picture that makes sense of all the little bits of the Bible.
Wrongly used, such devotional guides may ultimately engender the profoundly wrongheaded view that God exists to sort out my problems; they may foster profoundly mistaken interpretations of some Scriptures, simply because the handful of passages they treat are no longer placed within the framework of the big picture, which is gradually fading from view. Only systematic and repeated reading of the whole Bible can meet these challenges.
Plan to Read Scripture
That is what this plan encourages. Here you will find a plan that will help you read through the New Testament and the Psalms twice, and the rest of the Bible once, in the course of a year. My comments—via newsletter and podcast (Apple | RSS | Stitcher)—are offered for each day, but this book fails utterly in its goal if you read the commentary and not the assigned biblical passages.
The reading scheme laid out here is a slight modification of one that was first developed a century-and-a-half ago by a Scottish minister, Robert Murray M’Cheyne.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:2–3).