The Bible Unity Reading Plan
December 14, 2012
Should you read the Bible?
Jesus says, “Blessed . . . are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)
How will reading the Bible bless you?
Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
How then should you read God’s Word?
Those same verses from Paul imply that we should read all of it, since every part of it is profitable.
Surely also you should read it daily; in addition you should read it submissively. In Proverbs 8, personified Wisdom cries out:
“Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death“ (Proverbs 8:33-36, emphasis added).
But what does this look like on a day to day and year to year basis?
If we are to read the Bible daily, with a goal of reading it in its entirety, we will need a plan. I first followed an annual, comprehensive Bible reading plan in 1984. This plan was purely chronological; I began reading with Genesis 1 on January 1 and finished with Revelation 22 on December 31, but in between the plan guided me through Scripture in the order in which events and prophecies occurred. This was eye-opening to me. Though I had grown up in church and in fact had read all of Scripture previously, I had never before seen the overall flow of God’s plan of redemption. In particular, the writings of prophets like Ezekiel and Jeremiah became much more meaningful to me as I read them in conjunction with the historical books. In addition, many psalms came to life as I read them in the context of surrounding events.
I followed chronological plans several more times in subsequent years. However, there are significant weaknesses in following such a plan repeatedly for your daily devotional reading. First of all, you read nothing from the New Testament for more than nine months of the year. Second, a strictly chronological plan jumps around in the four Gospels. The reader therefore misses what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John communicate through the way they each order and select from the events of Jesus’ life. Finally, following chronological plans requires a lot of page flipping.
So twelve years ago I developed the Bible Unity Reading Plan, which yields the benefits of a chronological approach while avoiding these weaknesses. The Bible Unity Plan has two tracks for each day. The longer track – the left hand column in each day’s reading – is chronological. The second track, in the right column, is a shorter reading from another part of Scripture. This second track includes Matthew, Mark, and John – read straight through – and several epistles while the chronological track makes its way through the Old Testament; it then focuses on Psalms and Proverbs while the chronological track takes you through the remaining books of the New Testament. And with only two passages to read most days, there is minimal page-flipping. The Plan also follows a helpful feature of the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan, scheduling only 25 days of reading per month. This allows you to read something else on Sundays (which I like to do), or to catch up easily if you miss an occasional day.
I have used this plan (or a variant of it) every year from 2001 to the present. I enjoy beginning each New Year with Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1-3:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
I also enjoy the 14th reading in November, which pairs the message of Acts 15 – those from other nations need not become Jewish to be saved – with the foundation of that message in Psalm 67: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!”
In 2001 – the first time I read through the Bible following the plan – I was astounded by God’s providence. Living in West Africa, on September 11 we did not hear about the destruction of the Twin Towers until late afternoon. That evening I turned to the 11th reading for September – and read three times of the heart-rending but long-prophesied destruction of Jerusalem from 2 Kings 25, Jeremiah 39, and Jeremiah 52.
Finally, every year I look forward to the final day’s readings, which sum up the entire storyline of the Bible:
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” . . . The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. . . . He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:12-13, 17, 20)
Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven (Psalm 148:7-13).
I expect to follow this plan, and to finish each year reading those words, as long as I live. I encourage you to join me.