We're a week into the new year and I've already spoke with a few people who have resolved to read the Bible more this year, which is great. Surely on the last Sunday of December many pastors preached something to encourage people to read and know their Bibles. And I wouldn't be surprised if the One-Year-Bibles go on sale at this time of year.
Reading more of God's Word is a good resolution. We should have a desire to read and know the Bible, especially considering that it's God's message to us. Want to know God better? One good place to start is in his Word. But for those not too familiar with the Bible, this is a huge task.
Many people who are new to the Bible will start in Genesis and read page by page until they reach the end of Revelation. This is a canonical reading, meaning that the Bible is read in the order of the arranged books of the cannon. Reading this way is certainly not bad, but it can be confusing for someone who doesn't know the story of the Bible in chronological order.
Most Bibles are arranged and bound like a big bookshelf. One entire section is for the books of the Old Testament and one section is for books of the New Testament. Bound together within the Old Testament section, you have five books of the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Then you find 12 books of history (Joshua through Esther), followed by the poetry or artistic books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon). The five books of the major prophets open the section on the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel), followed by the 12 books of the minor prophets (Hosea through Malachi).
In the New Testament section opens with the four gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John) which all cover the earthly ministry of Jesus but from different perspectives. Acts is the only book in the New Testament history section, followed by nine of Paul's letters to the churches (Romans through 2 Thessalonians). Paul also wrote letters to individuals and they get a section (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). Then there are nine general letters to the churches (Hebrews through Revelation).
If you're wanting to follow the historical time-line of God's redemptive history and get a good grasp of the biblical story, then you will actually do better to read in chronological order. This will mean you'll be in the books of history, artistic books, and the prophets at the same time as you move through the Old Testament. As you read Jonah for example, you'll have a better understanding of the context. You'll know that the kingdom was divided, who the kings where, what political problems were playing out, and who the Ninevites were. The narrative will be rich and far more informative. In addition, this will make your reading more enjoyable. The same will be true of the New Testament.
If you've never read the Bible in chronological order, I highly recommend it. You can download an easy chronological reading plan here.
Another way to read is with a devotional plan. These tend to have some reading in the Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament. There are many of these plans out there or you can simply put a book mark in each section. You don't even need to start at the beginning. Pick the books and start there. Read 3 or 4 chapters from the Old Testament, a psalm, and a chapter or two from the New Testament. The amazing thing about this kind of reading plan is how interconnected the Bible is and how much God will use each reading from these three sections to speak into your life.
Or maybe if you've already read the Bible cover to cover or in chronological order, you can jettison the idea of reading your entire Bible in a year and start reading smaller sections or single books more deeply. For example, you could read one book of the Bible over and over again for a couple months. Or read Titus or one of the minor prophets ever day for a month. Or you could read a book with a commentary reading book club, which I also highly recommend. (Here's more on that.)
No matter how you read, getting into God's Word is a good thing. If you've resolved to reading more of the Bible this year, I can't help but believe it will be good for you. Stick to it. Enjoy it. Savor it. It's not about getting a task done in a year; but rather, hearing from God.
* Photo by Flickr.com user, Ryk Neethling is registered under a Creative Commons License.