Like many others, I have been deeply impacted by the rise of biblical theology as a discipline and hermeneutical corrective. I can still remember my junior year at Ouachita Baptist University when for a New Testament course we were assigned to read Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. That book will go down in my biography as one of the top five most impactful books I’ve ever read. It was like discovering I actually owned another arm. The Old Testament, the gospel, and most importantly Christ came alive to me for the first time in a way that wasn’t simply moralism.
To my shame I had already been preaching for some three years! But the dots suddenly came into alignment. I was a part time youth pastor at the time, and I remember immediately going to work on preparing a Sunday evening sermon entitled "Reversing the Curse" because I so desperately wanted the church I pastored to see and love the biblical storyline as I now did! I have never been the same.
That book, and more importantly the Bible, marked me that semester. I began to develop a devotional reading plan that would force me, in a beautiful way, to dwell on the progressive storyline of the Bible. I wanted the mesh of the storyline of the Scriptures to color the way in which I see the world, people, my marriage, my children, conversations, all of life. I want to feel and see creation-fall-redemption-consummation in everything I do. And you should too. I want the story of God to be the grid through which I see people and myself. It seems to be a proper response to the way in which God has revealed his word to us. I wonder if we can make our devotional reading of Scripture reflect this impulse.
I want to share my simple, redemptive Bible reading plan and then exhort you to do the same, or at least try it for a while.
I divide the Bible into the very familiar divisions of Law/Pentateuch, History, Wisdom/Poetry, Prophets, Gospels/Acts, Letters/Revelation. Some of this is for simplicity’s sake or location, not always genre.
I choose one book from every one of the major divisions, starting with Law/Pentateuch, and then I move on to a different book in the next division. I do this in sequence of the genres’ appearance. An example would be Exodus, Ruth, Proverbs, Jonah, John, 2 Corinthians, and then I start over at the beginning.
I typically do not stick to a strict chronological order but rather trust the genres, or divisions, to provide a loose connection between eras and covenants that in turn move me through the storyline of Scripture.
It is my habit to attempt four chapters a day, but I am no slave to this. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I completed a full week; that’s not my goal. My goal is to have the very story of God massaged into every nook and cranny of my heart, mind, and life. My goal is to love God and know him and to grow in my understanding of his word over the course of the years he gives me. Now, the one weakness of this reading plan is that it does not lend itself to slow and meditative study through, say, one of Paul’s letters. It is designed to cover big swaths of the biblical landscape. Now, that does not mean you can’t slow down when you get to a more didactic passage or book. By all means, do that. It’s your reading plan!
When I finish a particular book, I write the date on the index and title page of my Bible. When I start the sequence over again, I know I am to read one of the other four books of the Law because on the last round I read Exodus. I move my way through the division until I’ve read all five books of the Law/Pentateuch, and then I start over.
So there it is! What is your habit, or have you simply given up on a consistent Bible reading format? Maybe your “devo life” needs a steroid shot. Consider trying this format for a while. Its benefits are multifaceted. You don’t get bogged down in just the New Testament, or only Paul’s letters, but rather you read the whole counsel of God progressively. You read the Bible in the way in which it was laid out over the years of revelation. You become intimately acquainted with the story of God over and over and over again until the day when you are standing before the Lord of the Bible himself. That’s a devotional Bible reading plan worth resurrecting.