9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
— Psalm 119:9–12 —
With 2019 ending and 2020 approaching, many are thinking about how they might read the Bible in the new year. And rightly so—the Word of God is not a trifle; it is our very life (Deut. 32:47). Man does not live on bread alone, but on the very word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). So we should aim to read the Bible and to read it often!
Truly, the Bible is not a book to read once, or even once a year. It is meant to be imbibed and inhabited, adored and adorned, studied and savored. Mastery of the Bible does not mean comprehensive understanding of Scripture; it means ever-increasing submission to the Master who speaks in Scripture. This is why in the closing days of the year, it’s good to consider how we can saturate ourselves with Scripture in the next year.
Personally though, I wonder if our daily reading plans help us with this idea of Scripture saturation. Often, such plans call for reading single chapters from various parts of the Bible. And the daily routine can invite checking the box without understanding the book. So my question has been: does such reading help us or hinder us in our Bible reading?
The answer will depend on the person and a host of other factors. Personally, I struggle to keep up with reading a daily plan, even as I in the Bible daily. Also, I am persuaded when we spend 7 days on Leviticus 1–7 or Joshua 13–19, we will experience unnecessary frustration. These sections of Scripture hang together and must be read together to understand them. Yet, if we take a full week to read them, we might miss forest for the trees and subject ourselves to a week’s worth of blood sacrifices that are now extinct. (I’m not at all saying we shouldn’t read Leviticus; I am saying we should think about how we read it).
While appreciating the value and order that daily reading plans bring, I want to offer something different. Since becoming a believer in 1997, I have the read the Bible close to every day. But (full disclosure) I’m not sure I’ve ever read the whole Bible in a single year. I’ve read the Bible multiple times in multiple ways, but a daily reading plan has not been effective for me. Every time I’ve tried, I’ve fallen back into a habit that looks like soaking in a book for a few weeks and then moving to the next.
Often, this sort of reading has included longer stretches of the Bible and shorter studies of various passages. Many of them have showed up on this blog over the last decade. And over the course of multiple years, this sort of reading aimed at Scripture saturation more than daily reading.
To that end, I want to share a Bible reading plan that aims for the same—namely, InScripturation.
InScripturation: Reading the Bible for Scripture Saturation
Scripture Saturation—what I’m calling InScripturation—is a term David Prince introduced to me (and our preaching class) when I was in seminary. Answering the question on how he made so many connections between various passages of Scripture, he said it was through the repeated reading of Scripture. No commentary can replace the reading of the Bible, for often it is only through Scripture Saturation that reveals various truths.
Over the years, this sort of thinking has proven true. Commentaries are often helpful, even necessary for arriving at a faithful understanding of the Bible. But more than reading books about the Bible, reading Scripture again and again is the best way to understand the Bible.
In fact—call this the “parable principle”—many times God only reveals his biblical truth through repeated readings. Meanwhile, he conceals his truth from those who think a singular reading of the Bible will disclose all that Scripture has to say.
Sometimes we only see things after we’ve read them a few dozen or a few hundred times. That’s not because they weren’t there in the text from the beginning. Rather, such progressive understanding comes from our minds being renewed by more and more of the Bible. Indeed, just as the apostles were identified because they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13); the same is true for disciples today. Those who have spent time with Jesus in God’s Word reveal their themselves by hearts and lives (re)shaped by the Word.
This life change is the result of God’s Word taking a larger role in the disciple’s life. As Rosaria Butterfield has described it in her own salvation and sanctification, “the word of God got to be bigger inside me than I.” (The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert). This is the goal of all Bible reading, that God’s Word would outweigh, overpower, and overcome our spiritual ignorance and residual hostility toward God. And for those who teach God’s Word, it is Scriptural saturation that is necessary to be fully “bibline” in our instruction.
Clearly, reading the Bible daily from different parts of the Bible can lead to Scripture saturation—just listen to the testimony of Grant Horner. But I am persuaded that if we aim at saturation from the start, rather than hoping it comes in the end, we will read Scripture differently. That is my aim and prayer in the Bible reading plan I’m laying out here.
The Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan
The Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan is not aimed to get through the Bible in a year, or two, or three. Although, you can track your progress, such that you can read the Bible completely in three years or faster if you follow multiple tracks at once. However, the stated goal from the beginning is not just getting through the Bible, but getting the Bible to reside in you! Indeed, the aim of the Via Emmaus reading plan — I had to name it something :-) — is Christ-centered, Scripture saturation.
At the same time, this plan is meant to be read in biblical community (read: in the church). So much of our spiritual joy comes when we feast on God’s Word together. Likewise, biblical understanding is fostered when we read Scripture with others. Ephesians 4:11 indicates that God gives his church pastors and teachers to build up the body of Christ. We are not sufficient to read and understand the Bible by ourselves. We need others. We need men and women, living and dead, to help us know and love God’s Word. Scripture saturation, therefore, is not something that can or should occur with me and my Bible. It is the Spirit who illumines our minds and he does do within the church.
For all these reasons, the Via Emmaus reading plan has three stated priorities:
- Scripture saturation by repeated readings and related memorization
- Biblical community with local and online resources
- Monthly meditations that will take you through the whole Bible multiple times in 1, 2, or 3 years – depending on your selected pace
Here’s the outline, I’ll follow up with a how-to post tomorrow.
|Tracks||Old Testament 1
Law + Prophets
|Old Testament 2
Prophets + Writings
|August||1–2 Samuel||The Five Scrolls||Galatians–
The idea of this plan is simple. Read, re-read, listen, study, memorize, and meditate one (or two or three) books per month. Instead of a daily portion, these tracks guide you through all the Bible and urge you to swim in the Bible. Then over the course of 1, 2, or 3 years (depending on how many tracks you do in a year), you will have read the whole Bible once, the Gospels twice, and the Psalms and Proverbs three times.
But actually, because repeated reading is the goal for each month, you may actually read a book multiple times within the month. Couple this with time for study, Scripture memory, forthcoming resources provided on this blog, and discussing these things with local friends or a group from church and you have reading plan that aims at Scripture saturation.
Certainly, it is only the Spirit who gives insight and understanding. But my prayer is that this reading plan might help you read the Bible better . . . and more! That has always been my goal on this blog and I pray this reading plan may help in the same way.
Now I realize, there will be some who find this approach unappealing and will be better served by a daily reading plan. That’s fine. Crossway maintains a great list of plans. But if this plan sounds reasonable and helpful for your Bible reading, then feel free to download this half sheet half sheet and have at it.
Tomorrow I’ll follow up with some more practical steps to this plan, as well as ways to customize this reading plan. Moreover, in 2020 this blog will be going through Track 2 and giving weekly resources to aid those who are reading this plan in the new year. We will start with Isaiah and our way work through the Prophets and the Writings. I’ll share more tomorrow.
Until then, take time to read Psalm 119 and consider all the blessed promises that await a year of saturating yourself in Scripture.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
 Pick 1, 2, or 3 tracks. The number of tracks you read at once determines the pace of your reading. You may consider starting with Track #3 if you want to begin with the New Testament. Alternatively, you may want to read two tracks, one from the OT and one from the NT. Whichever you chose, the goal is to read one book for one month. This allows for longer readings and more detailed study. Details on this approach will come out tomorrow.
 ‘The Twelve’ are the Minor Prophets read as one book, rather than 12 isolated books. The Minor Prophets include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
 The ‘Five Scrolls’ (Megilloth) are a collection of “shorter OT books, brief enough to be read publicly at an annual religious festival: Song of Songs (Passover), Ruth (Pentecost), Lamentations (the ninth of Ab), Ecclesiastes (Tabernacles), and Esther (Purim).”
 The ‘General Epistles’ are the Epistles not written by Paul, namely, James, 1–2 Peter, 1–3 John, and Jude.
 We will also supply a Advent Reading Plan each December. These Old Testament selections will complement and support the reading of Matthew, Luke, and Revelation—each of which testify to the birth of Christ (Matt. 1–2, Luke 1–2, Revelation 12).
5 thoughts on “Reading for Scripture Saturation: Introducing the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan”
All of this looks good, David. I like it. For the past 5 years I’ve used the Daily Office Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer (I use the new 2019 ACNA version, though you could use the 1662 or 1928, etc.). I’ve found it helpful for several reasons. First, it orients me to the historic church calendar so readings revolve around major holidays (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday). What I’m reading actually orients my heart to the life of Christ throughout the year. I don’t have to deviate from a bible reading plan and miss out on familiar holiday passages. In fact, the lectionary has highlighted OT passages that wouldn’t make sense to me otherwise. For example, Psalm 88 is read on Holy Saturday. That Psalm makes no sense on any other day of the year. Kings and Chronicles are read in the fall months heading into Advent. Reading about the failure of kings every day has helped prepare my heart for the arrival of the true King in December. I really think reading with the life of Christ in mind is helpful, and what’s enforced in the prayer book is Trinitarian theology, so you get readings around Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. Your article emphasis the need to read Scripture in church, but rarely do we get on the rhythm of the church calendar outside of Christmas and Easter, which reflects a deficiency in our Trinitarian practice of theology, IMHO (though not necessarily a deficiency in our Trinitarian theology – but how do we really teach our people to think Trinitarian-ly throughout the year?). Second, the content in the lectionary covers Old and New every day and covers some good intertextual readings. There’s a morning reading for OT narrative and NT Gospel. For the evening, there’s OT prophecy and NT epistle. Most morning and evening readings are a chapter long, so I’m getting 4 chapters a day. There’s also morning and evenings psalms, which can either be a 30 day or 60 day plan. I’ve chosen the 60 day plan, so I read through all 150 psalms every 2 months or 6 times a year. The psalms are specifically designed to help facilitate a growth in our prayer life. There are selected Sunday readings in church to be covered over a 3 year cycle. I often read through those on Sundays. The downside of the daily lectionary is that you don’t cover Proverbs enough, but we can add 1 a day. If you’re interested, you can check out the reading plan here – http://www.anglicanchurch.net/media/Daily_Office_Lectionary.pdf.
Thanks Adam. And thanks for sharing the Daily Office Lectionary. I’ve never tried that, but it’s longstanding use speaks for itself, as well as your testimony. Blessings in Christ, ds
Yes, reading through the Bible yearly is a sure way to grow and study the word of God. I have a least 2 bible devotional I read daily. God bless.
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