Early in 2021, I started a new Bible reading plan. It will take me through the entire Bible in roughly seven years.
My plan is inspired by Nate Pickowicz and his book How to Eat Your Bible. “Instead of plowing through a few verses and then speeding off to work, slow it down. Instead of laboring through the whole Bible in a year, go a little deeper. Instead of reading your Bible simply to check it off the chore list, change your mental approach—change your philosophy. Instead, take a longer view of learning your Bible—two, three, five, or even seven years. Make your end goal not merely to read the Bible but to know and understand it—to love and treasure it as God’s holy, sufficient, transforming Word.”
I’m using some Scripture journals that I own. The text of Scripture is on the left side; the right side contains room for me to make notes.
I decided to modify the plan that Pickowicz suggests. Every time I start a new book, I spend a couple of weeks reading background material on the book. Because I’m in the Hebrew Scriptures right now, that means reading Old Testament surveys and introductions. Before I begin each book, I want to understand the big picture, and to get a general sense of the outline.
Then I start to read. Every two weeks, I start a new chunk, usually 6 or 7 chapters. The goal is to read the same passage every day, taking notes as I go. I use a simple highlighting system the first day as I read through the passage: blue for passages that talk about the character of God, green for promises, orange for prayers, red for redemptive passages, and yellow for anything else.
Each day I pull out a new study Bible and work through the same chunk again, taking notes as I go.
By the end of the two weeks, I have a pretty good sense of the text. That’s when I try to summarize the big idea of each section. “I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching, not ready for writing out, until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as crystal,” wrote J.H. Jowett. “I find the getting of that sentence is the hardest, the most exacting, and the most fruitful labour in my study.” At the end of each two-week period, I have a decent understanding of each passage and at least the start of a big idea that I can refine later.
Then I move on to the next section and repeat the process for another couple of weeks.
I’ve loved the process. After almost 18 months, I’m only in Deuteronomy, although I’ve interrupted my normal order to prepare to preach series on other books. When I have been called upon to preach a text I’ve studied this way, preparation comes a lot easier. I think I could be pressed to preach on a passage I’ve studied with only a few moments’ notice if necessary.
There’s no one way to read the Bible, but I commend this method to anyone who’s up to a challenge. I’ve got about 60 books to go, but I’m loving this approach. At the end, God willing, I’ll have a set of notes I can use and pass down to others, and I’ll have a much better understanding of Scripture as I begin to read it again. Not a bad way to spend seven years.