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 —
A few years ago, I introduced a reading plan focused on Scripture saturation more than Scripture box-checking. As a new year begins, I return to that reading plan for myself and for others who might be interested in focusing on one (or two or three) books in a month, instead a daily selection of Bible readings.
As we all know, or should know, 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 an 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 new year.
And today I offer a reflection on why a reading plan dedicated to saturating in Scripture may be a help for those who need to slow down and meditate on God’s Word. Or, for others, why a plan that encourages reading larger sections of Scripture might help Bible readers see more clearly the full message of the Bible.
Getting Into the Word
To speak personally, I have struggled to keep up with reading a daily plan, especially when they break up sections of Scripture that should be read together. For instance, I am persuaded that 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 are best be read together to understand them. Yet, if we take a full week to read them, we might can 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, Scripture Saturation.
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 the Bible, 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 God’s Word again and again is the best way to understand the Bible.
In fact, many times God only reveals his biblical truth through repeated readings, while he conceals his truth from those who think a singular reading of the Bible will disclose all that Scripture has to say. I call this the “parable principle” (see Matt. 13:10–13), and it should remind us that only those who soak in God’s Word will see what is there.
Indeed, 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. That said, the stated goal of this plan is to get the Bible inside of you, more than getting you into the Bible. Indeed, the aim of the Via Emmaus reading plan is Christ-centered, Scripture saturation.
At the same time, this plan is meant to be read in biblical community (better: 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.
With that goal in mind then, here’s the outline. If you are interested, you can read this how-to post or check out a brief description below.
|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. This is the goal. And if you commit to it, 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, reading resources about the given book (e.g., a commentary or resources provided on this blog), and discussing these things with others 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.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
P. S. 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.
 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).