The end of another year is at hand, which means that lists will be circulating among Christians offering a selection of plans for reading through the Bible in the new year. For several years I’ve used some kind of plan to guide my Bible reading. While many of them are designed to take you through the Bible over the course of a year, that’s not my aim. In fact, I can’t tell you the last year in which I completed the canon in 52 weeks, and I’m not stressing about it. I use a plan because I know that, left to myself, there are certain portions of the Scriptures that I’m prone to neglect (sorry, Nahum!). Having a scheduled system guards me against taking a “Where shall I read today?” approach and ensures that, over whatever length of time it takes, I will have engaged the entirety of God’s inspired words. I also like that reading the Bible this way encourages me to regularly read larger portions of Scripture, which is essential to reading contextually. If you’re not using some kind of guide for your Bible reading, I encourage you to seriously consider it.
I’d like to share another way of increasing the quantity of your biblical intake in the new year. It’s a practice I’ve recently committed to and that I intend to continue. But before I tell you what it is, I want to emphasize that I’m offering this as a supplement to, not a substitute for, the kind of Bible reading I described in the previous paragraph. So, with that out of the way, I’ll tell you what got me thinking about this new habit.
I read a lot of Christian books whose authors, not surprisingly, frequently quote extended portions of Scripture in support of an argument or point they’re making. I realized that on many occasions, when I came across a block quotation of Scripture, I’d read the first few words or sentences, and if I concluded that the passage was familiar to me, I’d skip the rest of the quotation to hurriedly get back to the more novel material the author had to offer. The realization disturbed me because this pattern revealed an attitude toward the Scriptures that I don’t want to have, namely, treating them as common or sometimes even boring. I don’t want to be more eager to read what someone has to say about the Scriptures than to read the Scriptures themselves. Neither do I want to fall prey to the erroneous notion that progressing in the Christian life is a matter of always learning something new. That just doesn’t square with all the Bible has to say about rehearsing and remembering what is already known. The apostle Peter, for example, unashamedly exhorted believers in things he said they already knew: “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have” (2 Peter 1:12, ESV).
So, as a countermeasure, I’ve committed to not skipping over extended biblical quotations in my reading, regardless of how well I might know them. That’s it. I’m not thinking of it as a resolution or a conscience-binding requirement. It’s just a habit I’m asking the Lord to help me foster because I believe it would be profitable for me. Taking time to read larger portions of Scripture as they are cited in other texts is a small but potentially effective way to take in and meditate on even more of God’s word in the year ahead.