I need a plan to stay on track, so I ran the numbers on what it takes to read the OT in a year.
Here’s what I came up with.
There are 929 chapters in the OT. I’d like to read 6 days a week for 52 weeks, leaving one day each week for reflection and catching up, should I miss a day from time to time.
Reading 6 days each week, here’s what it takes to read the OT in a year:
6 days/week x 52 weeks = 312 days of reading.
929 chapters divided by 312 days = about 3 chapters per day.
I like this plan! It’s simple to understand and easy to remember – 3 chapters a day, 6 days a week. By the grace of God, I can do that.
This should take about 20 minutes a day — 30 minutes max (I’m a slow reader). If I’m too busy to spend 20 minutes a day reading God’s Word, I’m too busy. Something is amiss and my priorities are way out of whack. Amen?
I will read and then reflect on the text by asking questions. The first question I’ll ask is “What does this passage teach about God?” By “God,” I mean God the Father, God the Son, and/or God the Holy Spirit.
A second question I’ll ask is “In light of this teaching about God, what is my response?” Or, to paraphrase the title of Francis Schaeffer’s book, “How should I then live?”
I’ll record my answers to these questions in a Bible reading journal. And as time permits, I’ll post some of my journaling as blog articles.
How did I arrive at these questions? And why the question about God first? I can think of three reasons.
Reason #1. My primary motive for reading the Bible is to know God. I want to know Him better – more intentionally, more intensely and more intimately. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
The essence of eternal life is knowing God. Shouldn’t my Bible reading align with that?
Reason #2. This one comes from the book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. In chapter 5 (entitled “The Old Testament Narratives: Their Proper Use”) we find this statement, which I believe to be the most important point of the entire book: “The one crucial thing to keep in mind as you read any Hebrew narrative is the presence of God in the narrative. In any biblical narrative, God is the ultimate character, the supreme hero of the story. . . To miss this dimension of the narrative is to miss the perspective of the narrative altogether.”
In other words, if I read the Old Testament and don’t look for (and find) what it is saying about God, I’m going to miss the point of any passage entirely. Whoa! This is huge. This is critical.
There are other questions that I may ask of the text, too. But for now, these two will be my main concern: “What does the text teach me about God?” and “How should I respond?”
Reason #3. I’ve been reading the whole Bible for the past 10 years. I’ve done it several times, and I’m thrilled to say that the Word is starting to make more and more sense every time I read it in its entirety. I’ve also been reading books about the Bible and sitting at the feet of experienced Bible teachers (some living, such as J.I. Packer, John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Paul House and Wayne Grudem) and some dead (like Charles Spurgeon and A.W. Tozer). Through this exposure to the Word and good Bible teaching, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bible is, first and foremost, about God, not man.
I realize that not all Christians would agree with me on this. But I’m convinced that the Bible is primarily God’s revelation of Himself — His glory, His kingdom and His salvation. Sure, mankind is there – on virtually every page. But we are not the main point. God is. This book is mainly about Him, not us.
A.W. Tozer says it like this: “The Christian religion has to do with God and man, but its focal point is God, not man. Man’s only claim to importance is that he was created in the divine image; in himself he is nothing . . . That God exists for Himself and man for the glory of God is the emphatic teaching of the Bible” (The Knowledge of the Holy).
As I read through the Old Testament, I will not do it alone. When I study the Bible, I need help. I’m so thankful that God has raised up godly men and women to teach His Word to His people. I find it most beneficial to take advantage of these teachers. Two men who have helped me tremendously in my reading and understanding of the Bible are Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee. I’ve mentioned them already; I’d like to introduce you to them now.
They have written two books that I’ve used repeatedly over the past 10 years:
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
How to Read the Bible Book by Book
I highly recommend both of these books, for they complement each other well. I’ll be reading these books again as I read through the Old Testament.
If you are looking for Bible study resources written from a conservative evangelical perspective, I highly recommend these two books.
I will follow the authors’ lead and utilize this shortcut when referring to their books on the blog:
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth = How to 1
How to Read the Bible Book by Book = How to 2
I will be reading the books of the Old Testament in a slightly different order than you’ll find in your typical English Protestant Bible. I’m going to read the OT books in the order of the Hebrew Bible. From Genesis to 2 Kings, the book order of the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible is the same. But after 2 Kings, the order is different.
I first learned about reading the OT in the Hebrew Bible order from Paul House, a gifted Bible teacher, OT seminary professor and one of the contributors to the ESV Study Bible. In the weeks to come, I’ll be posting more about this approach on my blog, so stay tuned!
Here’s a list that shows the order of the books in the Hebrew Bible, the Bible that Jesus used. He refers to this 3-fold categorization of the Old Testament books in Luke 24:44. NOTE: The content of the books in the Hebrew Bible is exactly the same as our Protestant Old Testament. It is only the sequence after 2 Kings that is different.
Song of Solomon
I have read the Old Testament books in this order once before, and found it quite helpful in understanding the big picture of what God is doing in the Old Testament. I look forward to reading the OT this way again!
Would you like to join me? If so, here are the links to the 2-page reading schedule I’ll be following:
OT Bible Reading Plan (Page 1) (January – June)
OT Bible Reading Plan (Page 2) (July– December)
You are welcome to print out these schedules and use them to track your progress. (If you find any typos, please let me know.)
I will also provide each week’s readings in my weekly email that goes out on Sunday. To subscribe to this weekly email, please visit www.GodWroteTheBook.com.
Please note that Week 1 begins on Monday, January 4, 2016. In fact, each week will begin on Monday. We’ll read for 6 days, Monday – Saturday, with Sunday being an “off” day to allow for catching up and reflection. If you are able to keep up with the schedule, I highly recommend using Sunday to go back and do additional study on any passage(s) you found especially beneficial, or to research a passage you found problematic.
I will also post suggested reading material from How to 1 and How to 2 that would be good to read on Sundays or during the week, if you like. These optional readings will dovetail with the Bible passages we are reading each week.
Another suggestion is to start a Bible reading journal. Each day, record your answers to the two questions mentioned above:
1) What does this passage teach about God?
2) What is my response?
In 2017, I’d like to read the New Testament using the following schedule, developed by the Navigators, known as the Discipleship Journal “5 x 5 x 5” Bible Reading Plan. It’s a very simple plan: 1 chapter a day, 5 days a week. Here’s the NT schedule:
NT Bible Reading Plan
In 2014 (OT) and 2015 (NT), I read through the Bible using the schedules mentioned above. I look forward to doing this again in 2016/2017, and would love for you to join me!
If you’d like to follow this Bible reading plan, please let me know by sending me an email. And if there’s enough interest, I’d like to start a private Facebook group for people doing this with me. We would use the Facebook group to encourage one another, ask questions, offer accountability to those so inclined, and share what God is teaching us. So please let me know if you’d like me to send you info on the private Facebook group. What do you say?
I look forward to hearing from you!