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Reading Past the So-and-So's
Posted: January 10, 2006

     Have you ever resolved to read through the whole Bible in a year? Or maybe you just resolved to read it each day? If so, it probably did not take long to realize that there is a big difference between resolving and doing.

     Here's how it happens. The end of the year rolls around and you realize that you have not read the Bible as much as you should have during the past year. Consequently, you resolve that you will either read through the entire Bible in the new year or read some of it each day. So, on January first you sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and start with Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." So far so good.

     In fact, you soon find yourself breezing through Genesis. Day after day you devour the incredible accounts of the creation, the fall of man, Noah and the flood, the tower of Babel, the calling of Abram, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the birth and life of Isaac, Jacob and his 12 sons, and the amazing life of Joseph. Before you know it you are in Exodus!

     Exodus begins with the stirring story of the Israelites suffering in bondage in Egypt and their miraculous deliverance by the hand of God. From Moses and the ten plagues in Egypt to Moses and the Ten Commandments on Sinai, you can't wait to see what happens next. But then you hit the detailed instructions for the tabernacle and robes of the high priest. It slows you down a bit but your resolve to read through the Bible carries you through to Leviticus.

     Leviticus starts out slower than Exodus and Genesis with chapter after chapter of laws and regulations. Unfortunately, some of it seems a bit dry and tedious at times. Still you plow through to Numbers where you immediately hit a number of censuses and still more laws and regulations.

     It doesn't take long before your resolve begins to falter. You wonder what all the laws and censuses have to do with your life today and you find yourself reading less and less at a time, even missing some days all together. Before you know it, the year is almost over and you never got past the so-and-so-begat-so-and-so-who-begat-so-and-so's that fill the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles.

     Once again, you realize that you have not read the Bible as much as you should have during the past year. And once again, you resolve to either read through the entire Bible in the new year or at least some of it each day. Again, you do great until you get bogged down in the so-and-so-begat-so-and-so's.

     As you can see, it is not easy to read through the entire Bible in a year or even to simply read it each day. It takes more than resolve, it takes determination and dedication. It also takes a plan.

     First, you need to determine whether you want to read through the entire Bible in a year or if you just what to develop a daily Bible reading habit. In the first case you need a plan that will enable you to get through all 66 books in 52 weeks. If your goal is to just read it every day then you need a plan to keep you going through the so-and-so-begat-so-and-so's.

     Let's look at the first case first. Reading through the Bible in one year is a great idea, but how do you go about doing it? One good way is to get a through-the-Bible reading plan. These reading plans break up the 31,101 verses of the Bible into manageable segments of about 85 verses a day that you can check off as you read. Some take you through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Still others bounce around, mixing Old and New Testament passages to keep you from getting bogged down in the so-and-so-begat-so-and-so's.

     The great thing about these plans is that they give a daily goal and a visible way to track your progress. And, should you miss a day, it is easy to get back on track. Bible reading plans are generally available at most Christian bookstores, churches, and online. You can even find them in some Bibles.

     A simple alternative to using a prepared reading plan is to read four or five chapters a day. Since there are 1189 chapters in the Bible you will actually get through the Bible in less than a year, even if you miss a day or two. It will even give you a jump on the next year. Just keep a note card in your Bible to keep track of your progress.

     If your goal is just to establish a daily Bible reading habit, then there are some other options for you to consider. After all, reading through the Bible in a year may not work for you. Perhaps you don't think you can manage four or five chapters a day. Maybe you are afraid that you will fail to keep up with a reading plan and get hopelessly behind. Don't let the fear of failure keep you from establishing a daily Bible reading habit.

     If you can't read four or five chapters a day, read two or three. Or read one. The point is, read some, not none, of the Bible every day. Even reading and meditating on one verse is better than nothing. Just keep track of where you are so you can monitor your progress.

     Of course, if you are not following a prepared reading schedule, there is still a danger of getting bogged down in the so-and-so-begat-so-and-so's. If you do get bogged down, determine to get through them, even if you have to do it a couple of verses at a time. Keep at it and you will get through them.

     Whatever you do, don't let the devil discourage you and derail your Bible reading. The so-and-so-begat-so-and-so's are there for a reason, even though you may not understand or appreciate them while your struggling to keep your eyes open. Remember, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17)."

     Another way to help keep from getting stuck in the so-and-so-begat-so-and-so's is to alternate your Old and New Testament readings. For instance, I alternate reading through Old and New Testament books five chapters at a time. Years ago I began with Genesis followed by Matthew. After Matthew I read Exodus followed by Mark, Leviticus, Luke, Numbers, John, Deuteronomy, Acts, Joshua, Romans, etc.

     In addition to breaking up some of the drier portions of the Old Testament with the New, there is the added benefit of constantly comparing Old and New Testament books by reading them in conjunction with each other. Because there are only 27 New Testament books, compared to 39 Old Testament books, I finished the New Testament faster than the Old. In fact, I read Daniel followed by Revelation, followed by Hosea then Matthew. By the time I finished Malachi I was in the middle of the New Testament at Colossians. After Colossians I moved on to Genesis then 1 Thessalonians, Exodus, 2 Thessalonians, Leviticus, etc. By the time I finished the New Testament again I was up to Esther in the Old. Eventually, over the years, I have been able to read each New Testament book either just before or after each Old Testament book.

     Another daily reading plan is to divide the Bible into sections and read one or more chapters from each section each day. The most obvious sections, of course, are the Old and New Testaments. They can be subdivided into smaller sections on the basis of length or based on natural divisions such as Historical (Genesis-Esther), Poetical (Job-Song of Solomon), Prophetical (Isaiah-Malachi) in the Old and the Gospels (Mathew-John), Historical (Acts), Epistles (Romans-Jude), and Prophetical (Revelation) in the New.

     However you divide it up, the idea is to break the Bible down into manageable sections which both break up the so-and-so-begat-so-and-so's and allow you to read various parts of the Bible in conjunction with other parts. Just be sure to keep track of your progress on note cards or in a small notebook so that you can see what you have read, where you are currently reading, and what you will be reading next. You might want to keep track of the number of times that you read through both the Old and New Testaments separately, in addition to how many times you have read through the entire Bible.

     Whichever plan you adopt to either read through the Bible in a year or just establish a daily Bible reading habit, keep in mind that your purpose is to grow closer to God and to gain a better understanding of His plan for your life. Don't worry if you don't understand everything that you read the first time you read it. In time, as you read more and more of the Bible more and more of it will become clear to you.

     Understand, however, that many things in the Bible can never be understood without God's help because "...God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10)." Consequently, there are some things that the unsaved person reading the Bible will never understand because "...the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14)."

     No matter what Bible reading program or plan you settle on, remember to ask God to help you through the Holy Spirit. If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, His help and guidance is just a prayer away. After all, if "[all] scripture is given by inspiration of God," then doesn't it make sense to involve the Author of the Bible in our Bible reading program?

-Pastor Al

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