Seek to put into practice some of these basic principles. Make use of the resources that willl help you better understand what you are reading. And may God send His Spirit to grant the blessing of inward spiritual illumination as we commit to reading, marking, learning, meditating on, believing, and putting His word to practice in the New Year.
As we approach the New Year, many believers are considering Bible reading plans. This is good and right, since God calls His people to be men and women, boys and girls of His word. However, many believers feel the failure of their Bible reading over the past year and sometimes mistakenly think they can somehow make up for the deficiencies of the past year through quantitative Bible reading. It is important for us to remember that in studying Scripture, quality is actually more important than quantity. In light of this, it will do us good to shift gears to focus on putting into practice some principles by which we can benefit the most from our Bible reading in the New Year. Here are a few of the more important principles to keep in mind, no matter how much you seek to tackle by way of quantitative Bible reading:
1. Pray before you read the Bible.
John Piper gives a good prayer memorization device for you to pray from the Psalms. Here is an amplification of his I. O. U. S. prayer:
- Incline my heart to you, not to prideful gain or any false motive. (Psalm 119:36) – Incline my heart to you, not to prideful gain or any false motive. That is, focus my affections and desires upon you, and eradicate everything in me that would oppose such a focus.
- Open my eyes to behold wonderful things in your Word. (Psalm 119:18) – Open my eyes to behold won- derful things in your Word. That is, let your light shine and show me what you have willed to communicate through the biblical authors.
- Unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11) – Unite my heart to fear your name. That is, enthrall me with who you are.
- Satisfy me with you steadfast love. (Psalm 90:14). – Satisfy me with your steadfast love. That is, fulfill me with the fact that your covenant love has been poured out on me through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. Commit to a regular Bible reading plan.
This doesn’t have to be a “through the Bible in a year” approach. God doesn’t require you to read through the Bible in a year. You may benefit most by commiting to working through a particular book or books in differing degrees. I usually take one section of one chapter at a time. Sometimes I read three or four chapter in one book in a sitting. You may choose to read through the whole chapter (or more than one chapter in a sitting), but the goal is to get the most out of reading and meditating on each section.
3. Learn genres and covenantal contexts.
Familiarize yourself with the Old as well as the New Testament. Read the Law, the Prophets, The Wisdom Literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon), the Historical Books, The Gospels, the Epistles and the Apocalypse. Focus on what covenant administration the particular section of what you are reading falls. For instance, most of the wisdom literature occurs in the context of the Davidic Covenant. This means that we should read wisdom literature in light of God’s promise to give David a seed to sit on the throne and rule forever. This king is Jesus. Therefore, the wisdom literature should be read in light of the promise of the Redeemer. The more working knowledge we have of what is taught in different genres and covenantal contexts of Scripture, the better equipped we will be to glean a maximum amount out of our continual study of Scripture. Two helpful books in this regard are Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible Book by Book and How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth.
4. Remember the most important principles of Biblical Interpretation.
- “The Scriptures are their own interpreter.” The Reformers emphasized that the key to understanding the Bible is to let the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures, teaches us the right inter- pretation of the Scriptures as we prayerfully depend on Him and compare Scripture with Scripture. This is taught in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (see esp. v. 13).
- “Clearer passages help us rightly interpret the less clear passages of Scripture.” We want to know the New Testament as carefully as we can, so that we can then go back to the Old Testament and interpret it in the fullest light of God’s revelation in Christ. Augustine once said, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament in the Old Testament revealed.” Additionally, the more explicit statements in Pauline epistles help us interpret the more difficult statements in his letters.