I spent last week cleaning up the remains of tomato vines from my garden. It’s easy work because once vines are dead, they lose all strength and break apart with little effort. While the remains of a tree can be made into a range of items from paper products to furniture, a detached vine crumbles to dust with the slightest touch. It has no use except kindle for the fire.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus chose to use the image of a vine when He commanded us to abide in Him, warning that apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:1-6). Our best efforts will crumble to dust without the soul-strengthening power of time spent abiding in the word and prayer.
Last week I wrote about the general benefits of daily Bible reading in hopes of encouraging you to consider making daily Bible reading a priority in the upcoming year. Today, we’ll look at some of the specific benefits that happen as we delve into the entire text of the Bible, seeking to answer the question: Why is it helpful to read the whole Bible in the course of a year?
Reading the Bible through in a year helps you:
Go Places You Normally Wouldn’t Go
We all have books of the Bible that we naturally enjoy reading. The Psalms minister to our emotions, the Gospels teach us about Jesus, Paul’s epistles deepen our theological understanding, and the historical books provide insight into the lives of real people as they followed God.
Yet, God also chose to include books like Leviticus with its many purity regulations, Numbers with its long genealogies, and Revelation with its somewhat confusing symbolism and imagery. These too are beneficial, profitable for teaching, correction, and training (2 Timothy 3:16). We need all of Scripture, not just the parts that may be personally interesting or easy to understand. As we read the Bible in a year, it naturally takes us to the places me may not usually go, allowing us opportunities to reflect upon the full counsel of God and consider: Why did God include this passage? What does it teach me about God? How can I live in light of this truth?
See the Big Picture of Redemptive History
Standing up close to an impressionist painting gives you one view of the master’s work – the intricacies of design, the vibrant colors, and the individual brush marks. However, backing away from the painting allows you to see the picture in its entirety. Just as we need both perspectives to be able to appreciate a painting to its fullest, we need both types of views as we read our Bibles.
Taking a year to read the Bible in its entirety allows us the opportunity to back up and observe the full picture. We see the larger story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation in the midst of all the individual stories. All scripture contains the same DNA – Jesus is on every page, present in every story. The Gospel is repeated in shadows-like accounts, preparing us for the ultimate rescue. Reading the Bible through in a shorter amount of time also allows us a better opportunity to connect what we learned in Deuteronomy with the message of Galatians. You will glean insights that you might have missed (or forgotten) if you read it over a longer timespan.
Learn New and Unexpected Things About God
Whether you’ve walked with the Lord for one year or for fifty, there is still so much to learn about God. Each time I read through the Bible I realize that the theological boxes I try to fit the infinite God of the Universe into are insufficient. We all have views of God that are skewed in some way. We must wrestle with the God who forgives David for murder, but condemns Uzzah for touching the ark when the oxen stumbled (1 Chron. 13:9). A full read through forces us to reflect upon all aspects of God’s character and allows us to know Him in new ways.
Avoid Reading the Bible as a Self-Help Manual
It’s tempting to approach Scripture as a how-to manual for our lives. We want answers, and we’d like them now please. At times, we desire solutions more than we desire God, so we pick and choose what to read based on our current emotions or circumstances. Following a reading plan encourages a hopeful, listening posture that asks, “What do you have for me today?” We put ourselves under the Bible’s direction, trusting that the passage we are reading is beneficial for whatever circumstances we are facing.
Come Down From Your Theological Hobby Horse
We all have theological issues we like to emphasize. Reading the entire Bible helps each of us to stop and consider what we may be missing. Are we overemphasizing one truth while neglecting another? Are we defending a theological point that is true but in a manner that is wrong? Are we weak on a particular doctrine because we are afraid it will offend others?
The word of God sharpens our theological precision. It softens us in some areas and strengthens our resolve in others. Reading the Bible in a year guides our spiritual growth in a way that protects us from following the theological flavor of the month. It naturally corrects our rough edges of misapplication and misunderstanding.
Enjoy the Surprising Ways God Meets You
This past year, I found myself weary as I got to the end of Leviticus. Weeks of all the various ways to be unclean left me burdened. Unclean, unclean, unclean… I get it. Everything makes you unclean. It felt heavy and didn’t seem relevant to anything in my life at the time. At the same time, I was preparing to teach on John 15. I’d been studying the passage for months and was going through a final read through the week before the conference.
As I read it again, John 15:3 caught my attention in a new way: “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” What precious truth these words must have been to Israelites wearied and worn down by purity regulations. I would have missed the glorious freedom of Jesus’ words if I had neglected my study of Leviticus. I needed to read each and every regulation and feel the heaviness of their weight so that I could taste a bit of the joy: You are clean! God put me in just the right passage at just the right time so that I could experience the freedom of the gospel in a new way.
God’s providence has met me each and every time I’ve read through the Bible in a year. Some days, the Psalm for that day helped me to pray for a friend in need. Other days, the passage convicted me of sin and led me to repentance. I can still remember the specific chapter that ministered to me years ago when my Dad was taken into emergency surgery. The Lord tenderly comforted me through His word. Like an old friend who knows just what you need when you need it, the Lord will meet you in surprising ways as you place yourself in His word.
Create A Healthy Habit of Daily Bible Reading
One of the best things about reading the Bible through in a year is that it builds a regular habit of daily Bible reading. Having a certain amount apportioned for the day makes it easier to pick it up and read. Following a yearly plan also acts as a built in accountability marker. Many of us overestimate our faithfulness to read the word daily. However, as we follow a daily plan, we notice if it’s been four days since we last read, because we’ll be that far behind. Having a daily reading plan helps to make it a habit of our life.
My question for you today: What is keeping you from committing to a Bible plan for the upcoming year? I’ll address some possible objections next week. And, the week of December 28th I’ll share my favorite plan (and all the reasons I’ve enjoyed it so much this year). But for today, will you prayerfully consider it, asking God if it might be something He wants for you in the upcoming year?