For years, I would commit to reading through the Bible in just 12 months. And every year, by mid-February, I would have to start playing catch-up. By the time March rolled around, my reading plan would be so thrown off I would resolve to double up on Scripture reading every day just to get back on track.
Why did this happen again and again?
I think there were two main reasons for my struggles in sticking with a Bible reading plan. In some ways, “life” would just get in the way, but the main reason was the Pentateuch—that is, the first five books of the Bible. I had a difficult time reconciling how so many rules and regulations could mean anything to me, a 21st-century woman.
Then I read a short passage from the New Testament that resonated with me: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I did a quick word study on the word all and found that the Greek word actually means all in English! But how can everything in the Old Testament, especially those hard-to-read books and sections, be useful to me as a Christian? I concluded I had not been reading Scripture correctly.
The Problem with Reading but Not Studying the Bible
To be candid, I frequently would choose to listen to some of the more daunting parts of Scripture via a Bible app rather than read them. I never retained what I read in sections about tabernacle measurements and the seemingly endless genealogies anyway, and frankly, I didn’t really want to. Imagine my surprise when my high school science teacher asked me how many of each type of animal were on the ark. “Two, of course,” I answered confidently. “That’s incorrect,” he replied. Without hesitation, he had me open my Bible and showed me in Genesis that there were seven pairs of clean animals and a single pair of unclean animals. How did I miss that? I had read Genesis too many times to count. It turned out, that was the problem. I read through Genesis and the rest of the Bible, but I did not study it.
When I slowed down and studied those books I thought were so “useless,” I came to appreciate their importance and why Christians need to read them. Leviticus teaches us about the holiness of God and how unholy we are. We need to understand the concept of holiness more than ever. It was in the small nuggets of truth that I came to realize that if I read the entire Bible in 365 days but missed the point of it all, I was doing myself no favors.
The Benefit of Reading Scripture through the Lens of Jesus
A pastor told his congregation that every person needed a “Saul” in their life, because without a Saul there was no opportunity to be a David. “You won’t be able to fight your Goliaths if you never accept that you are David,” he said. The sermon was passionate and full of encouragement about how people can overcome their giants.
Not too long after that, I heard another pastor, upon reaching the key moment of his sermon, yell out to the crowd, “You are not David!” I was confused. How could I not be David if I am facing all these “giants” in my life? Then I learned that all Scripture, especially the Old Testament, points to Jesus. In John 5:39, Jesus told a group of Jews, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (New Living Translation).
The story of David and Goliath isn’t about me overcoming my challenges; it’s about Jesus overcoming humanity’s sin. David had five stones when he fought Goliath. Jesus had five wounds. Two in his hands, two in his feet, and the spear wound in his side. These were the means by which he combated humanity’s sin—that is, a Goliath-sized sin.
Let me give you an example from the second book of the Pentateuch. When we read Exodus through the lens of Jesus, we see the intricacy of the descriptions and details that serve as allegories of Jesus’ life. For example, the ark of the covenant—which was a box covered in gold with two cherubim on its lid—was where the Holy Spirit dwelled. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would step behind the veil that separated mankind and God and sprinkle the blood of a sacrifice between the cherubim to atone for the sins of Israel that year.
Fast-forward to the Gospel of John. Mary walked into the tomb and saw two angels—one at the head and one at the foot of where Jesus had lain. Between the angels was the blood from Christ’s brutal murder, the final and forever sacrifice that atoned for our sins. By not taking time to study, I had missed the beauty in this connection and how it pointed to Christ.
My Challenge for You This Year
This year I’m issuing a bold challenge to you. Instead of reading through the Bible in a year, I suggest you pick one or two books of the Bible and spend the year intensely studying them. But, if you choose to read the entire Bible in 365 days, I suggest you read the Old Testament with an eye toward how it foreshadowed Jesus and his gospel. Don’t let the privilege of studying Scripture become a chore.