Bible Reading

Did you know that there are 1189 chapters in the Bible?  There are 260 in the New Testament and 929 in the Old.  How many of them have you read?

I Don’t Have Time to Read It

Did you know that on only 3 1/2 chapters a day, you can read the entire Bible in a year?  Some of those chapters are pretty short, too, they’ll only take a couple of minutes.

The average chapter length is just under 30 verses.  So if you read about 100 verses a day,  on average, you’ll have read the entire Bible in a year.  Most people spend half an hour on telly, or sports, or news, but few will even spend half an hour (if it even takes that long for 100 verses) to read the inspired Word of God.

Did you know that on 7 chapters a day, you can read the entire Bible in a year, twice through?  On 10 chapters a day, you can read it completely in four months (three times a year).  On about 13 chapters a day, you can finish in three months — that’s 400 verses, depending on print and page size maybe 15-20 pages, and you can read the entire Bible four times in a year.  Some people who read far more than that a day in novels (or sports/entertainment news) will never read their entire Bible.  Some people who spend hours in front of a television don’t have time to read the Bible even once in their lifetime.

I know what it is to be busy, but we make time for the things that are important to us.  Is God’s Word important to you?  Here’s a simple two-part challenge.  At the bottom of this post is Isaiah 40.  It is 31 verses — reasonably close to the average length of a Bible chapter.  The first part of the challenge is to time yourself — how long does it take you to read it?  Don’t study it, don’t try to figure out what everything means, just read it.  Unless you have serious reading difficulties, it is likely to be less than five minutes.  We’re talking about less than 15-20 minutes a day and you could get through your entire Bible in less than a year.

Now, the second part of the challenge — track your time usage for a day.  How did you use your time?  How much time reading blogs or news or other Internet stuff?  How much time on Facebook, etc?  How much time watching television, sports, or other entertainment?  How much time in conversations that really had no value?  How much time on working around the house?  How much time in your garden, or in meal preparation?  What did you do on your lunch break?  How much time in the gym?  Does your time usage match your values?  Some of those things are important, but do those things have so much more value than God’s Word that you can always fit them in but never fit the Bible in?

If you don’t have time to read, it is because you’ve decided it isn’t as important as the other ways you spend your time.  Either you don’t value the Word, or you’ve let your time usage drift from your values.

I Can’t Handle Leviticus and Numbers

Some people get stuck on the genealogies or lists in Scripture, or the Old Testament laws in Leviticus.  Some of those same people spend hours poring over financial reports on their investments, checking share prices, or studying sports statistics for their favourite team.

But I have a radical suggestion.  If you are new to Bible reading, and you get stuck on genealogies or the book of Leviticus, skip them.  Just skip right over.  As you get to know the Bible more, and the people in it, there will be things in those genealogies that will catch your attention, and you’ll see the value in them.  (I have a series on the genealogies of Christ, see the blog sidebar.  But that isn’t the kind of thing you’d notice the first time through your Bible.)

As you get to know the New Testament and the events recorded in the life of Christ, things in the Old Testament law will suddenly take on life.  You will see how much value there is in knowing it, how much you can learn of our Lord, and how much better you will understand the rest of the Bible when you know Leviticus.

But for now, skip it if you have to.  Don’t let it be an excuse to stop you reading your Bible.  By the fourth or fifth time you read your Bible, you’ll start to see things in those parts of the Bible, and you’ll be glad you read them.

I Don’t Understand It

Here’s another radical statement — you don’t have to understand it.  In fact, the first time, there is a lot you won’t understand.

The first time I saw a basketball game, I didn’t understand it.  But by the time I’d watched a while, I knew they were trying to shoot the ball through the basket.  I began to understand about passing the ball and defense and free throws, and the out-of-bounds lines.  Later, I learned about traveling and double-dribble and the shot clock.  Now, I know about boxing out on rebounds and defensive rotations, the pick and roll and motion off the ball.  I know good shooting form (and bad) when I see it.  I know when a player should jump and when he should keep low, when arms should be extended, and what good footwork looks like.

I didn’t have to know all that to enjoy watching that first game.  You don’t have to understand everything in Isaiah 40 (below) to recognise there is some really good stuff in it, and to benefit from it.  So read it.  Just read it.  You may find something you want to study and understand more.  That’s fine, but don’t let it stop you reading.  Make a note of it, come back to it after you’ve read, but keep up with your reading.  You’ve got a lot to read, and the more you read, the more you will learn and understand.

Why Reading it All Matters

A lot could be said on this, but we’ll start with the most important reason — God gave it all to us.  This Book didn’t happen by accident.  Every single bit of it was something that God intended us to have.  He told us that ALL of it is God-inspired (II Timothy 3:16) and all of it is profitable for us.

If you’ve only read the New Testament, if you think the only things that matter are the Gospels and a few epistles, you’ve decided God is wrong — the rest isn’t profitable or important.  You probably haven’t really decided that, but that is what your actions come down to.

If every part of the Bible is part of how God reveals Himself to us, then you won’t really know Him as you could until you get to know every part of it.  You won’t really understand the parts you have read until you’ve begun to understand the rest of the Bible.  It’s like reading a scene from a Shakespeare play without having read the whole play.  You may get to know quite a bit about it, but you won’t have the whole picture.

If you try to understand a doctrine, and haven’t even read the Bible, you are probably completely unaware of verses that talk about it.  If you try to understand a difficult verse, it’s a good idea to look at other verses that talk about the same thing, but you may not even know which other verses do so.

Your pastor may refer to a verse or a Bible story in one of his sermons, but if you’ve never read it, you may not know what he’s talking about — so you’ll get less out of his sermon than you would have.

Some people just read the Gospels, because they are central.  I suppose those same people, when they read A Tale of Two Cities, only read about Darnay’s escape from prison.  When they read the Lord of the Rings, they just read about Frodo in Mordor, as if nothing that came before or after had anything to do with the story. 🙂 Of course, our Lord’s time on earth is central.  But the thing about centres is they have things around them.  Why did He come?  What did it mean when He did certain things?  What came after?  His story starts in Genesis and goes on to Revelation.  And unlike Frodo’s or Darnay’s story, the story of Jesus Christ of Nazareth actually matters.

Some people seem to think the Bible is a bunch of isolated verses which can be dragged out to prove a point or figure out a doctrine, and then forgotten until the next theological question.  It is actually a Book.

Read it.  Read it all.  It’s from God.  He’s gone to the trouble of giving His Word to people.  He moved them to write it done, and He preserved it for you.  He intended you to read it.

Where Should I Start?

Anywhere you want!  But if you really don’t know where to start, you could start with Isaiah 40, below.  Then, maybe read on to the end of Isaiah as part of your daily reading.

If you’ve never read the Bible, read in Psalms, one Psalm a day, as part of your daily reading.  It isn’t usually hard reading, and it is very good reading.  You’ll find a lot to encourage and challenge you there.

Acts has some long chapters, but it is easy to read and (mostly) understand what is going on, even if you’ve never read the Bible before.  So is Luke — it was written for a man named Theophilus who probably wasn’t even a Christian at the time, though he obviously knew something about Christianity.  John was also probably written for people who weren’t believers yet.  There are things (quite a few of them) you won’t understand in John at first, but you can understand most of it.

Matthew and Mark are good places to start, too.  In Matthew, some things will go over your head if you don’t know the Old Testament, but that’s ok.  Just accept that will happen no matter where you start, but that you will learn more and more as you go along.

Genesis works pretty well as a starting point, too (but remember, if the genealogies get you stuck, just skip them this time).  Many people start in Genesis and get halfway through Exodus or to Leviticus and get stuck.  Don’t let that happen.  If you get stuck, read the story of Samuel, Saul, and David in I & II Samuel.  Then, come back to Exodus for a day or two, and if you need to, go somewhere else again for a while.  If necessary, skip all the way to the start of Joshua.  If you struggle with the middle of Joshua, jump to chapter 22, and read on into Judges.  If you get bogged down somewhere, read somewhere else, but KEEP READING!

Don’t let the end of Judges, or Jeremiah / Lamentations, depress you.  Yes, there’s bad things happening, some really sad stuff in the Bible.  That’s because the Bible is real.  Read ON!  The story doesn’t end with all that horrible, sad stuff.  After Judges comes Ruth, Samuel, David.  After Jeremiah comes Ezra, Nehemiah, CHRIST!  The sad parts remind us that, no matter how bad people are, no matter how bad someone behaves or lets you down, no one can stop God from doing wonderful things!

I Corinthians was a letter to a church full of young Christians who had a lot of problems.  If you are a new believer, it might not be a bad place to read before too long — there’s a good chance you struggle with some of the same things they did.

The wisdom literature (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes) can be hard reading until you get more familiar with it.  Don’t try to read a lot of it at once — maybe a chapter or two a day on that while you are reading other things.  Now, when I read Job, I usually go through it in large chunks in just 3-4 days, but I certainly didn’t do it like that when I started.

The book of Revelation is full of references to Old Testament prophecies.  You won’t really understand a lot of it until you have a working knowledge of the Old Testament prophetic books.  That’s ok, you’ll understand some when you read it.  Just don’t think you know Bible prophecy because you’ve read Revelation once or twice. 🙂 Don’t try to become an expert on the future and how everything fits together in the end times.  God didn’t give us Revelation so we could be sanctified fortune tellers.  Read it, don’t crystal ball it.

What About Reading Plans?

If that helps you, fine, but I don’t love them.  Most reading plans do things like have you read two chapters from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament every day.  It gets all chopped up and you miss the flow of the book.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading the story of David, I want to keep reading it and see what happens next!  I don’t want to say, “Oh, I got my two chapters in, now I have to go read my New Testament chapter.”  I want to read the next three chapters now!

If you bounce around in your reading, it is probably a good idea to keep track of where you’ve read.  After all, you want to read it all, don’t you?  But if you use a reading plan, don’t be a slave to it.  If you want to finish out Acts once you’ve started it, finish it!  Reading the Bible is a privilege and a pleasure.  Don’t let a reading plan turn it into a joyless chore.

Time for that challenge.  How long will it take you to read this chapter?

Isaiah 40

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?
14 With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
19 The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
20 He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.
21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
23 That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
24 Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
25 To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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4 Responses to Bible Reading

  1. Rod says:

    Hello Jon,

    When it comes to bible reading these three verse’s come to my mind which I believe every christian should heed.

    (Prov 3:5) Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

    v:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

    (2Tim 2:15) STUDY to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING the word of truth. (caps mine)

    *Do you know the word study has been taken out of modern bibles ? Is this one of the reasons many christian’s feel they don’t have to read and study the bible on a regular basis because their is no command to do so in their bible ?

    Even christian’s who do study the bible will say their is no such thing as rightly dividing God’s word again is the reason because modern bibles don’t say that ?

    And yes, I appreciate there are literally dozens of views on that rightly dividing God’s truth means. Please I’m not bashing up christian’s who read modern bibles and telling them off for not studying.

    These are my thoughts through my own personal bible studies to encourage others.Yes, there are times when I should be reading God’s word instead of other things in life.



    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hello, Rod. The word “study” in that passage means to be diligent, to work hard at being a workman who rightly divides the Word of truth. So when our translators used “study,” I think they caught the essence of it very well.

      Right understanding of the Word requires us to study, to work at it. God has given us a brain and He wants us to use it. But as you rightly note, we do not study because we are trusting our own understanding. We know that it also requires the spiritual insight which our Lord gives, and that only comes when we acknowledge Him in all our ways. When we study His Word we acknowledge its importance, but if we disobey it we are not acknowledging Him in all our ways, and we cannot expect Him to direct our understanding of His Word. The great pillars of Scriptural understanding are diligent study and loving obedience.

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