by Radhika Sharda
Over the past year, I’ve discovered a treasure which begs to be shared with every Christian soul. Quite simply, it is the joy of reading the Bible in a year, day by day.
The prospect of reading the whole Bible has possibly dawned upon some of us, though is probably daunting to most of us. It certainly was to me. The liturgical readings of the year offer us an abundance of Scripture, yet I have felt for some time a desire to read the whole Bible in its continuity, much as I had read the New Testament back in college. But how to do so without quitting through the dry, ‘boring’ parts?
The answer came to me at last year’s Ignited by Truth conference. I had the opportunity to meet briefly with one of the speakers, Dr. Tim Gray. Among the books at his table was Bible in a Year, recently published by the Augustine Institute. I bought it, took it home, and began to spend time with Scripture each day.
The Unfolding Landscape
Within two weeks, I was smitten. The story of Israel began to unfold in my mind with clarity, genuineness, and beauty. The words of Scripture were beginning to imprint themselves on my mind in a way I had never experienced before.
Most of all, I felt a hunger to return to reading Scripture each day. Such is the special beauty of reading the Bible in continuity: one is not reading simply selected passages, but is allowing a full, continuous story to be woven in one’s mind, like an unfolding landscape.
Becoming Hooked on the Story
Every good reader can appreciate this. We all know that starting any book is a challenge, but after a certain amount of time, the flavor of the story begins to reveal itself, and at that juncture the reader becomes ‘hooked;’ we are drawn deeply into the world of the characters, the ideas put forth, and the world of the book becomes part of our interior landscape.
We live with it; we mull over the words while we read, and we wonder about the characters even when we aren’t reading. And any good book, of course, transforms us deeply after the story has been finished.
How much more so, then, for the great story of salvation, prefigured in the story of Israel, fulfilled in Christ? God has given us this voluminous letter of His love to us. We are each invited to read it, to know Him and understand His love for us as revealed in Scripture.
Why Read the Bible in a Year?
There are, of course, many different ways to take up the reading of the Bible, each with subtle differences in the fruit we receive. Why, then, should we consider reading through the whole Bible in a year?
Reading the Bible in continuity allows for the steady unfolding of friendship with God’s Word in our hearts. As we read through Old Testament narratives like the books of Samuel and Kings, or others like Jeremiah, we begin to hear for ourselves the sound and texture of God’s love for His people.
Authenticity is perhaps the unique gift of reading Scripture in continuity. We allow the biblical world to take root in our imagination, to reveal itself to us much as a friend shares more and more of himself over time.
Entering Into the Story
We are able to enter into the story which has been built up in our own minds, over the course of our readings. No need for commentary here, for the continuity itself allows for the weaving of the story in our mind.
The more the story of each book develops, the more we are drawn deeply into the world of salvation history, and the more clearly we begin to hear God’s voice speaking in our heart.
As any book-reader knows, there is special beauty in stumbling upon great passages in context; they shine like diamonds in the terrain of our journey.
Putting it into Practice
For me, this practice of reading Scripture forms the best part of my day. Regardless of how busy I am, I have carved out a set time each day to read. After coming home from work, I prepare a cup of tea and sit by the window, reading slowly through the passages for that day. It is as simple as opening up the book to the day’s date and picking up the story where I left off.
Each day offers an Old Testament passage, then a Psalm or other Wisdom reading, and thirdly a passage from the New Testament. These three strands continue throughout the year like the weaving of a braid. The year begins with Genesis, Psalm 1, and the Gospel of Matthew; the year ends with Maccabees, Song of Solomon, and Revelations. A short reflection caps off the day’s readings.
Regularity is Key
Regularity is the key here. The idea is not to swallow up a whole chunk of the Bible in a couple months, but to sit with a small piece of it day by day, week by week, throughout the year, allowing the story of salvation to take root in our hearts and mature slowly but surely into a tree of many leaves. Just as any human friendship thrives upon small consistent encounters, rather than spurts of great deeds, so too our relationship with God through Scripture blossoms through this practice of short daily readings, woven day by day in continuity.
The beauty of this particular edition, Bible in a Year, is that you will always find something nourishing in your day’s reading. Even when you go through parts of the Old Testament which seem dry, there will always be a Wisdom or New Testament reading to complement it; so one never grows weary through the journey.
Another advantage is the dated nature of the readings. One simply opens up to the day’s date to find them. You never lose your place in the story.
Authentic friendship with God
In the past nine months or so of reading, I have come to fall in love with Scripture in a way I’d never known before. Certain memorable verses have come to echo powerfully in my memory, now that I have read them in context.
The story of Israel has come into view more clearly, now that I have read through much of it. Most of all, I know that the time I spend each day with Scripture is time spent with God, in authentic friendship with Him through His Word. Each day I come back to “Him Whom my soul loves,” as the poet in Song of Solomon tells us.
Our God is not a silent, hidden God but One Who has revealed Himself in love to us, both through sacramentals and Scripture. In Bible in a Year, we find the treasure of daily encounter with God in His Word, God Who desires to speak to us on the page of our listening hearts.
Begin the journey now, and come to know in a deeper way the One who waits for you.