Basics in Christian Faith and Living
Why read the Bible?
Most Christians believe it is a good thing to read the Bible. Many feel guilty because they don’t read enough. Some feel dissatisfied with their on and off schedule. Others have no real method or plan but tend to read something in the Bible just to have read something.
One cannot find an “explicit” verse that states, “You must read the Bible everyday.” But much in Scripture assumes its practice and benefit. Psalm 1 illustrates this perfectly. The godly or righteous are those who meditates on God’s law “day and night” (Ps. 1:2). How can one meditate on something he does not read or how can he do it day and night if he does not read it every day? On the other hand, if we memorized the entire word of God, then we can meditate on it day and night without reading it every day.
Our Lord Jesus establishes the simple but profound truth of our absolute need for God’s Word. He rebuffed the devil by quoting Deut. 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He knew Scripture and He quoted it. But more importantly, from this verse we learn that we desperately need God’s word just to live. The analogy is simple. We need food (bread) every day to live but that is not the only thing we need every day, we need God’s word. Sad to say, too often, we think we can get along without His Word while we never dare forego a meal. The other way around would be better for all of us. In fact, we are no better than animals if we think we can get along with mere physical food. We are capable of and create for higher and better things, to be nourished by God’s Word.
Ps. 119 focuses entirely on God’s Word. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is used to extol the greatness and benefits of God’s Holy Word. We are told to store up God’s word in our hearts so as not to sin against God (v. 11). The psalmist will never forget God’s word (v. 16) and begs God to open his eyes to “behold wondrous things out of your law” (v. 18; cf. 27). God’s testimonies are his “counselors” (v. 24) and God strengthens with His Word (v. 28). Christians too can say with the Psalmist, “your rules are good” (v. 39; Paul says in Rom. 7:12, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”). The psalmist delights in and loves God’s word (vv. 47, 92, 113, 119, 127, 163, etc.); he hopes in it (v. 49) and it gives him life (v. 50). God’s laws are sweet to him, “sweeter than honey to my mouth” (v. 103) and are the joy of his heart (v. 111). He longs for God’s commandment (v. 131) and “great peace have those who love your law” (v. 165). How can these things become a part of us if we do not read, memorize, and meditate on God’s word on a daily basis? This is not the heart of a legalist; it is the heart of a saint who is sanctified and mature.
Joshua was to keep God’s word and to meditate on it “day and night.” Why? “So that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” (Josh. 1:8) If God wants us to keep His Word (and He does), then are we exempt because we don’t read it and know it? We should be as Ezra (7:10), “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
We read the Bible everyday because it is God’s word. I know of a man who reads and reads great works of literature and memorizes great poetry. It is impressive. Yet, those wonderful pieces of literature are not the Word of God. Should we not read God’s Word every day because it is his? Many read newspapers, magazines, email, etc. everyday; they will rarely miss a day. But God’s Word alone is fully and always true and it alone is absolutely authoritative. All the other writings are the mere writings of men.
We should read the Bible everyday because God still speaks and gives life through it. Because it is “God breathed” we can cite Scripture and say “God says” or the “Holy Spirit says” (cf. Acts 13:47; 28:25; 2 Cor. 6:2, 16; Heb. 1:5; 3:7; 8:5; 10:15; etc.). God spoke and speaks; as Scripture speaks, God speaks. His Word is life indeed.
For these reasons, we should read God’s Word daily and meditate on it day and night. It is not just another book but the book of books. It is absolutely unique and absolutely authoritative.
In addition to the Scriptural examples and exhortations, there are immense benefits to reading Scripture. First of all, it will make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:14, 15). Those who diligently search the Scriptures will understand how God saves and by the power of His mercy, will be converted. Once that has happened, the child of God will begin to know God through His Word. God makes Himself known. Eternal life and knowing God are the same (Jn. 17:3). Through reading and meditating on God’s Word, we begin to know Him better and all the blessings He has for us (1Cor. 2:9-13). No saint will ever grow in maturity without regularly and daily meditating on God’s Word.
Through God’s word we are given instruction (Rom. 15:4) on how to please God and are made wise through His Word (e.g. Ps. 119; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17). God afflicts us in order to help us keep His Word and His Word keeps us from perishing in times of affliction (Ps. 119:67, 71, 92). Stories and different instructions were written as “examples for us” (1 Cor. 10:1-6). In addition, we receive encouragement from Scripture (Rom. 15:4).
We are too often aimless and spiritually malnourished. Yet saints have been sustained and mightily built up through God’s Word. Are we truly benefiting from God’s Word? Do we read it and meditate upon it?
I want to give some suggestions on how to read the Bible. First of all, have a plan. Have a plan to go through the entire Bible. Some do one chapter from each testament while others go from Genesis to Maps. Whatever the plan, have one that will enable you to complete the entire Bible consistently and regularly. Remember, you have the rest of your life so devise a plan that works. [Use McCheyne’s schedule for those interested in a rather disciplined approach.] Two, use variety. Sometimes read the Psalms for a time and then go back to your plan. Similarly, camp out on a certain book or epistle for deep study. Read M. Henry or other commentaries to help you through certain books of the Bible (but never as a replacement for the Bible itself). Three, keep a journal or a notebook to help you keep track. If that is not a problem, have a notebook to write down your favorite verses, make notations on passages, etc. This will help you to recall passages and specific things you’ve learned from God’s Word. Four, memorize verses and passages. Use your Bible times to memorize verses and recite the older ones. This will enable you to meditate on it day and night. Five, set aside time that works for you. Mornings are preferable since your mind is a sponge. Don’t give God the worst part of the day or when you are least attentive. Six, invest in commentaries and Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias. This will help you to read with better comprehension. Seven, use a private place where you can commune with God and His Word. It is not a “show” but private worship. Eight (though it is actually first on the list), pray to God to help you understand His Word.