Seven Ways to Read Isaiah

IMG_3712Tomorrow begins the first day of the Via Emmaus Bible Reading plan. However, because one facet of this plan is the absence of daily requirements, you could start today. You could also start on January 5 and not have to “catch up.”

At the same time, because there is not a prescribed daily regiment, I am writing this blogpost to offer a variety of ways to read Isaiah—a formidable first book with sixty-six chapters—so that you can have a sense of progress and planning in your reading this month. (First time Bible readers might find that the New Testament (Track 3 in this plan) is the best place to begin. This year, however, this blog will resource Track 2, which is comprised of the Prophets and Writings).

Not to be daunted by Isaiah’s sixty-six chapters, there are many ways to read Isaiah once or more than once this month, especially when we define ‘reading” as reading and listening to God’s Word. To help you plan read Isaiah within in the month of January, here are seven approaches.

1. Read Isaiah however, whenever, wherever you can.

This is the most open-ended plan, but one that is well-suited for those who are hungry for the Bible. Like a a caffeine-addict chases coffee, so the Bible-hungry disciple of Christ will and should chase the Bible.

Truly, it’s never the plan that keeps you in the Word; it’s your longing to spend time with God and to hear his voice that keeps you returning to Scripture. Just as a fervent lover is looking for all sorts of ways to protect and pursue time with his beloved, so the healthy Christian is constantly making time to read and pray. If this is you, an opened-ended plan that makes time for God in the morning, at noon, and at night may be a good option.

2. Read Isaiah in one (or two) sitting(s).

If you are uncertain that daily readings will get you through Isaiah or you want to read Isaiah more than once, mark one day on the calendar to sit down and read through the whole book. This will take around four hours, but what could be better than spending that time in God’s Word.

How often do we spend four hours driving to, watching, and returning from a movie. Why not take one day month—a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon, perhaps—to read all of Isaiah. Or if one four-hour block is too long, carve out two two-hour blocks. In any case, one way to read the whole book is to do it one or two sittings.

3. Listen to the Bible.

Knowing that Isaiah takes four hours to read also enables you to benchmark your listening? If you turn your morning commute into a time to listen to Isaiah, you can figure out how many times you can hear the Word of God. Rather than dreading the daily drive, train, or bus, now your commute could become a dedicated time to hear from the Lord.

4. Read Isaiah every day.

Next, you can read Isaiah every day (or almost every day). If you read 5 chapters a day, you will read the book at least twice (even if you miss a few days). Or if you want to read every day (without missing), you can read 3 chapters on January 1–4 and 2 chapters every day after that. By the end of the month, you will have read Isaiah through. Double the number and you will have read Isaiah twice. Combine this approach with reading the book in one or two sittings, and you will have read Isaiah at least twice.

5. Read Isaiah every week.

If you want to think more in terms of weekly reading, you could aim to read Isaiah four times in Isaiah by reading it once every week. This would require 9 chapters every day, with 10 chapters on three days. Or 8 chapters each day of the week, and 13 chapters on Saturday and Sunday.

More practically, maybe you don’t read like this every week. But maybe you aim to read the whole book in week 1 and then you resort to reading Isaiah whenever, wherever, and however you can after that. If you add in Scripture memory (coming tomorrow), you will not only have read the whole book more than once but you will also be able to meditate on the book.

6. Read Isaiah according to its literary structure.

You could also reinforce your understanding of the Isaiah’s message by reading the book according to its own literary structure.

The Book of Isaiah: From Zion in the Old Creation to Zion in the New[1]

1. The Judgment and Transformation of Zion, Part 1 1:2–2:4
2. The Judgment and Transformation of Zion, Part 2 2:5–4:6
3. The Judgment of the Vineyard and the Coming King 5:1–12:6
4. The City of Man vs. The City of God 13:1–27:13
5. Trusting the Nations vs. Trusting the Word of YHWH 28:1–37:38
6. Comfort and Redemption for Zion and the World 38:1–55:13
7. The Servants of YHWH and the New Creation 56:1–66:24

[1] This chart is found in Peter J. Gentry, How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets, 52. I might draw the line differently for cycles 5 and 6. I would place the end of cycle 5 in Isaiah 35 and begin cycle 6 in Isaiah 36. Go look at the text and decide for yourself.

If you follow Peter Gentry’s outline or some outline similar to his, you can read one cycle of Isaiah every day of the week. Or you could combine cycles 1 and 2, and split up cycle 6 to make the length of reading more consistent each week. This is the plan I intend to follow. I will let you know how it goes.

7. Design your own plan with

Still haven’t found a plan that works for you? You could use to design your own plan. This plan may also be helpful for pacing yourself on a second track in the Via Emmaus Reading plan. For me, I will be focusing on Track 2 this year, but I will also be reading a selection (usually a chapter) of the New Testament each day too.

This website can help you pace your reading this month. But if the website doesn’t exactly get it right for you, take out a pencil and paper and make up your own plan based on your own daily schedule. If you do that, feel free to share in the comments.

This Month . . . Read the Word

All in all, the most important thing this month is to get into Isaiah with the prayer of God’s Word getting into you. Because everyone’s schedule and stamina for reading is different, not every reading plan is equally good for everyone. But hopefully, from these seven approaches you can find one way to read Isaiah that will help you hear God’s voice in Isaiah.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds