Someone at our church suggested that we read the Bible over 40 days. Some of us took up the challenge, and we learned a lot.
Reading the Bible at this pace didn’t take as long as you’d think. I found that it took me anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes each day. Some days were more challenging. The plan allowed for a day off each week, which allowed for some time to catch up if necessary.
I invested in an ESV Preaching Bible for this challenge, as well as a set of highlighters. I asked Tim Kerr, a friend and pastor, for recommendations on highlighters. He suggested Crayola Twistables because they don’t bleed through the page. I took his advice and found they worked well.
He also suggested a highlighting scheme:
- blue — character/being of God
- green — promises of God
- orange — prayers of Scripture
- yellow — anything else
- red — redemptive
Partway through I added purple for references to God’s kingship or the kingdom of God.
Highlighting helped me concentrate, and it will be a valuable tool as I use this Bible in the future.
I usually read the Bible through once a year, and I’ve also tried reading it over two years. I’ve enjoyed the pace of both of those plans for different reasons. I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading the Bible at a much faster pace.
I made more connections. I found it easier to see themes of entire books. I found myself thinking about what I’d read throughout the day. As I mentioned, some days where more challenging, but there weren’t many days that I didn’t wake up looking forward to my time in the Word.
Two major themes stood out to me:
The Value of a Psalm 1 Life
Psalm 1 describes the blessedness of a man whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Tim Mackie of Bible Project talks about what this looks like: reading the Bible repeatedly, each time making new connections and seeing how themes tie together, allowing Scripture to shape all of one’s life.
I have a long way to go, but during the 40 days I felt like this was happening. Not only was I able to notice how themes tie together, but Scripture filled more of my hours and my mind than before. I experienced some of the blessings of a Psalm 1 life.
Don’t Trifle With God
Jim Hamilton suggests that the single unifying theme of Scripture is God’s glory in salvation through judgment. I didn’t exactly disagree, but I wondered if he overplayed the theme of judgment. I didn’t quite get it.
I do now. Reading Scripture this quickly, I was struck by a repeated theme: Don’t mess with God. Take him seriously. Fear him. Don’t trifle with him. His holiness, his otherness, and his judgment leapt off the page.
And so did God’s grace, but it’s a grace that’s richer because he is to be feared and honored. I’ve seen this theme before, but never as clearly as in the 40 days.
Reading the Bible at this pace is challenging but doable, and I highly recommend it. A time of self-isolation may be the perfect time to do it. I think I’ll try it again in the future.
UPDATE: Steve Mathewson, author of The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative, is using a different coloring scheme that’s worth considering:
- Red = God’s Salvation
- Purple = God’s King/Kingdom
- Blue = God’s Presence
- Yellow = God’s Power
- Green = God’s Kindness (Grace, Mercy)
- Orange = God’s Judgment