The “why” of Bible reading

When I open my online “Read through the Bible in a Year” program, it tells me I am on day 275 of 365.

That’s true, but it’s taken me quite a bit more than 275 days to get to this point. I don’t remember exactly when I started this plan, but right about the time I started falling behind in it, I discovered the “catch me up” button at the bottom of each daily reading list.

At first I felt guilty, as if I were a woman on a diet sneaking cookies.

But I don’t feel guilty now.

Not long ago I downloaded The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer to my Kindle. He wrote this in his preface to the book: “The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.”

I reflected on Tozer’s words in my journal. Why do I study Scripture? I wrote. That is a necessary question to answer. If my desire, as I read, study, and meditate, is not to know God better; to be more awed by His beauty and goodness; to be convinced more fully of His love for me; to be satisfied in Him and by Him—if all this is not my aim, then I may as well read another book.

Christ did not die for me to make me a Bible scholar; He died so I could have relationship with His Father. The only point in being a Bible scholar, then, is to deepen my knowledge of and relationship with God.

Yet other purposes often take over when I read Scripture. Sometimes I am seeking a particular answer to a theological question. Sometimes I simply want to know more just to know more (and I don’t mean that in a good way). My purposes can get even further from what they should be when I am following a reading plan. I like to see the little checkmarks fill in the empty circles on the reading calendar. I like the completion aspect of it. “Well, I got through Leviticus and Numbers. Now let’s tackle Deuteronomy.”

It can become a homework assignment; something to “get through.”

And when I don’t complete it, I experience guilt.

All these purposes cheapen both God and His Word.

Early last fall, my mother-in-law sent me a devotional she’d written for me to edit. The title was “Encountering God.” She wrote this: One way I encounter God that is such a thrill is when I draw near to Him before beginning my Quiet Time. I deliberately turn my focus to His presence. In my mind, I see Him standing before me. I focus my mind on Him, blocking out all else around me. Then I pray: Father God, I draw near to You, and in faith, I receive You drawing near to me. I see Him smiling at me and then coming near to embrace me with His Strong Arms. My soul is filled with delight as I allow myself to feel His embrace and His love for me pouring out through his loving arms. 

He never fails me. When I draw near to Him, He is always ready, and He graciously draws me close to His heart. These encounters strengthen my faith and hope in the One Who calls me His very own special treasure.

If I prepared for Bible reading and study like that, I would see and treasure Scripture as the very words of God. I would be unconcerned with “getting it done” and completely consumed with seeing God revealed in Scripture.

I share this post because a new year began only 21 days ago, and I know that many Christians resolve to read the Bible more in the new year than they did in the old. I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from reading Scripture—it’s still the Sword of the Spirit even when we don’t approach it as such—and I know we gain much from reading the entire Word of God…

but we gain God Himself, and not just knowledge ABOUT Him, when we read His Word with anticipation and awe.

*For a great article about yearly Bible reading plans, read Bible Gateway’s article “When Reading the Bible Becomes a Chore: Six Ways to Keep Your Bible Reading on Track This Year.

*Bible Gateway also has a variety of Bible reading plans. Visit this page.

Blinding Glory, Truer Sight

Maddie, blinded by the sunlight from behind me, holding up a dirt clod she found in the shape of a heart.

One morning last week I ran early enough that the sun barely peeked over the horizon. I headed south and felt the warmth rise to my shoulders. Then I turned east. The sun shone through a clump of trees ahead of me. I blinked a little at the sudden light, just at eye level. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, there was a break in the tree branches, and the rays hit me full on. I had to close my eyes against them, but they still pierced through my lids. For a moment I was blinded to everything but the glow.

Later that week I listened to the entire book of Revelation at one sitting (we were driving to Kansas for a wedding) and then today I finally got through the bulk of Job and listened to the final chapters, where God speaks.

The audio version of Revelation was, though word-for-word, read by various actors and accompanied by stirring music. My heart thumped, as if I were listening to Lord of the Rings. My mind pictured the woman and the dragon, the angels and elders round the throne, the Lamb slain, and the Warrior triumphant. For an hour and a half I lost sight of the details of my life and was blinded by the glory of the Magnificent and His story.

And today, as I listened to Job, I found myself silenced, just as he was. When he said, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know,” I echoed it. Job saw the smallness of his own complaints and of himself; he saw a bit of the BIG picture, and I caught a glimpse of it, too.

A.W. Tozer says that the most important thing about a person is how he or she sees God. My view of God needs to be expanded to accept His blinding attributes as well as His more, well, comfortable ones. The Lamb that was slain is also the snow-white haired, blazing-faced God-man with a sword in His mouth. Job repented “in dust and ashes” before this God; Isaiah knew his unworthiness so well he said he was “lost”; and John fell at his feet as “though dead.”

This kind of knowledge is not comfortable or easy. But it is good. Job, Isaiah, and John went on to live with a greater knowledge of God, and they anticipated an eternity of being fully aware of and fully satisfied in this blinding Glory.

From Blinding Glory to Truer sight.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”