The unfolding of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
I hope Christmas brought you joy and that over the last week you’ve found some time to relax. Before I pick up the threads and begin surveying the latest news, I want to start the year with some thoughts on getting ready for the days ahead. It’s time to go into training for 2013.
This beautiful image gives you a visual overview of the Bible: the number of books in the Bible, the length of each book, the number and length of each book’s chapters, and the thousands of cross reference connections between the books. In what I realize to be a highly unusual request—if not unprecedented for a blog with any claim to be political—I want to encourage you to read through the Bible this coming year.
If you’ve read many of my previous posts here, you’ll realize this request has a solid historic rationale.
The Continental-Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men. The amount of energy that Congress invested in encouraging the practice of religion in the new nation exceeded that expended by any subsequent American national government. Although the Articles of Confederation did not officially authorize Congress to concern itself with religion, the citizenry did not object to such activities. This lack of objection suggests that both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity.
Congress appointed chaplains for itself and the armed forces, sponsored the publication of a Bible, imposed Christian morality on the armed forces, and granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians. National days of thanksgiving and of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” were proclaimed by Congress at least twice a year throughout the war. Congress was guided by “covenant theology,” a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people. This agreement stipulated that they “should be prosperous or afflicted, according as their general Obedience or Disobedience thereto appears.” Wars and revolutions were, accordingly, considered afflictions, as divine punishments for sin, from which a nation could rescue itself by repentance and reformation.
The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the “public prosperity” of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a “spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,” Congress declared to the American people, would “make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.”
So in the best interests of the welfare of our nation, and out of a genuine desire that we would be “holy, that so we may be a happy people,” and that 2013 would indeed by a happy new year, here is my suggestion.
There are numerous plans online for reading the Bible through in a year. Some begin in Genesis and go straight through, others arrange the Bible in chronological order of events, and there are those that mix readings from different sections of the Bible.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish minister of the early 1800s, organized what is today considered a classic reading plan: you read through the New Testament and Psalms twice in a year and through the other books of the Old Testament once. Ben Edgington has numerous helpful links if you’re interested in learning more. M’Cheyne’s calendar plan for reading through the Bible in a year includes part of his original explanation. It’s divided into family and what he called secret readings for personal devotions, but use them as is best for you.
Each day Grace to You posts the Bible readings from The MacArthur Daily Bible. Passages are given to read from the Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and New Testament along with some brief comments by John MacArthur.
Michael Coley has developed a plan that divides Bible readings into Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels—one for each day of the week. He has listed the chapters on a one-page pdf document you can print and carry in your Bible.
The Blue Letter Bible site offers several different plans from which to choose. Professor Grant Horner has designed a plan in which he divided the books of the Bible into ten lists and one chapter from each list is read every day.
If you’re not familiar with the Bible, you might want to use the MacArthur or M’Cheyne reading plan. Both plans have daily RSS feeds available, and they are in the sidebar and change automatically each day. I have set the M’Cheyne plan to change at midnight, US Eastern time zone (UTC-5), but Grace to You is in the US Pacific time zone (UTC-8), and I’ve notice the date on the feed lags behind the date found at the link. Click on the M’Cheyne listings to go to the chapters at Bible Gateway. Click on The MacArthur Daily Bible title for the readings at Grace to You. You can still use Bible Gateway, but you’ll have to pull up the readings for yourself. I’ve used the New American Standard Bible for years because there are some politically correct translations out today that don’t actually translate some words, but change them from the original languages, while some paraphrases obliterate the text and meaning.
Whatever plan you use, Geoffrey Thomas’ Reading the Bible is very encouraging to give you some ideas and keep you going. Don Carson’s Preface and Introduction (19 page PDF) to For the Love of God is also helpful.
After M’Cheyne designed his reading plan, he wrote:
MY DEAR FLOCK,—The approach of another year stirs up with me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth of you who are saved….What the coming year is to bring forth, who can tell? There is plainly a weight lying on the spirits of all good men, and a looking for some strange work of judgment coming upon this land. There is need now to ask that solemn question: “If in the land of peace, where thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”
Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence on self or upon creatures, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day. Then we shall be able to say, like David, “The proud have had me greatly in derision, yet have I not declined from Thy law.” “Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in awe of Thy word.”
May the Lord be with you and bless you in 2013—In His mercy may He bless America.
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
Visualizing the Bible® Chris Harrison. Used by permission. Click the image to enlarge.
This image was named one of the best science images of 2008 in National Geographic News. A poster of the image can be bought at HistoryShots.
“The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.” Here is a 2000 x 1200 pixels view.
The quote from M’Cheyne is via http://mcheyne.wordpress.com/ and can be read in its context beginning on p. 618 of Andrew Bonar’s Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Edinburgh/London : Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1892) available on Archive.org.