Reading for Scripture Saturation in 2021: (Re)Introducing the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan

Jesus washing the feet of Saint Peter on Maundy Thursday

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 2020 ending and 2021 approaching, you may be thinking about how to read the Bible in the new year. I hope 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 every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). With that in mind, 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. As teaching pastor, I struggle to keep up with reading a daily plan, even as I am in the Bible daily. For one thing, I enjoy reading longer sections of Scripture, and for another, there are some days that I need and want to spend time in the passage I am preaching. Put that together, and a daily reading plan has not been a strong suit for me.

More objectively, 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 (see, e.g., this meditation on Joshua 13–19). Yet, if we take a full week to read them, we might miss the 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—as we will in our church’s upcoming Bible study on Leviticus.

For these reasons and for those who might prefer a wider angle to the Bible reading, I want to offer a different Bible reading plan. In short, I want to share a Bible reading plan that aims for Scripture Saturation, more than daily reading. Let me explain the difference.

Reading the Bible for Scripture Saturation

Scripture Saturation 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 over and over again is the best way to understand the Bible. In fact, 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 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 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 also 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!

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, this 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 and a how-to post.

Tracks[1] Old Testament 1

Law + Prophets

Old Testament 2

Prophets + Writings

New Testament
January Genesis Isaiah Matthew
February Exodus Jeremiah Mark
March Leviticus

Psalms

Ezekiel Luke

Psalms

April Numbers The Twelve[2] John
May Deuteronomy Psalms Acts
June John Proverbs Romans
July Joshua

Judges

Job 1–2 Corinthians
August 1–2 Samuel The Five Scrolls[3] Galatians–

2 Thessalonians

September 1–2 Kings

Proverbs

Daniel Pastorals

Proverbs

October Ezra-Nehemiah 1–2 Chronicles Hebrews
November Psalms Mark General Epistles[4]
December[5] Matthew Luke Revelation

The idea of this plan is simple. Read, re-read, listen, study, memorize, and meditate on one (or two or three) books per month. If you do multiple tracks, you could read them sequentially, together, or at different times of the week (e.g., morning and evening, or week and weekend, etc.). However you plan your reading—and you should have a plan for reading that includes a place and time(s) to read—these tracks can guide you as you swim in the Bible. Then, over the course of 1, 2, or 3 years (depending on how many tracks you do), 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 in the month. Couple this personal reading with time for study, Scripture memory, reading resources provided on this blog and other trusted sources, and discussing these things with friends or a group from church, and you have a reading plan designed for learning, understanding, applying Scripture—i.e., 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.

A Final Caveat

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 helpful for your life and Bible reading, then feel free to download this half sheet and have at it. If you plan to use this plan, let me know. And throughout the year, feel free to ask a question, share an insight or a related blog post. Depending on the response, I will share those things that others see.

As for my online contributions, I promised last year to provide online content every month, but with COVID and a few other obstacles, that didn’t happen. So this year, my ambitions are more moderate. I will be reading Track 1 (with Track 3) and I will write posts and provide resources that engage the books of the month, but the content on this blog will be more occasional than systematic. Nevertheless, the core of this reading plan is the Bible, and with that in mind, I pray this reading plan may help you read God’s Word in the New Year.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

________________________

[1] 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.

[2] ‘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.

[3] 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).”

[4] The ‘General Epistles’ are the Epistles not written by Paul, namely, James, 1–2 Peter, 1–3 John, and Jude.

[5] 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).

3 thoughts on “Reading for Scripture Saturation in 2021: (Re)Introducing the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan

    • Cool. And also, I am so sorry for blanking on your email. I realized recently I never got back to you. We should talk by phone soon to catch up!! I’ll text you.

  1. Pingback: On Reading Genesis: Four Approaches with Many Resources | Via Emmaus

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