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The Dangers of Reading the Bible in a Year January 3, 2022

Posted by Pete B in Scripture Engagement.
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At the start of 2022 there are many apps, podcasts and reading plans to help you read the Bible in a year. One popular plan from Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (or McCheyne) dates back to the mid 19th century and came with warnings of some specific dangers:

  1. Formality .– We are such weak creatures that any regularly returning duty is apt to degenerate into a lifeless form . The tendency of reading the Word by a fixed rule may, in some minds, be to create this skeleton religion. This is to be the peculiar sin of the last days— ” Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. ” Guard against this. Let the calendar perish rather than this rust eat up your souls .
  2. Self-righteousness — Some, when they have devoted their set time to reading the Word , and accomplished their prescribed portion , may be tempted to look at themselves with self complacency. Many, I am persuaded , are living without any Divine work on their soul — unpardoned, and unsanctified, and ready to perish – who spend their appointed times in secret and family devotion. This is going to hell with a lie in the right hand .
  3. Careless reading — Few tremble at the Word of God. Few in reading it, hear the voice of Jehovah, which is full of majesty. Some, by having so large a portion, may be tempted to weary of it, as Israel did of the daily manna, saying — “Our soul loatheth this light bread;” and to read it in a slight and careless manner. This would be fearfully provoking to God. Take heed lest that word be true of you — “Ye said, also, Behold, what a weariness is it? and ye have snuffed it, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
  4. A yoke too heavy to bear — Some may engage in reading with alacrity for a time, and afterwards feel it a burden grievous to be borne. They may find conscience dragging them through the appointed task without any relish of the heavenly food. If this be the case with any, throw aside the fetter and feed at liberty in the sweet garden of God. My desire is not to cast a snare upon you, but to be a helper of your joy.
    DAILY BREAD BEING A CALENDAR FOR READING THROUGH THE WORD OF GOD IN A YEAR reprinted in the The Works of Rev Robert Murray McCheyne (1874), available via Google Books

The good reverend, then addresses an important question,

“If there be so many dangers why propose such a scheme at all? To this I answer that the best things are accompanied with danger as the fairest flowers are often gathered in the clefts of some dangerous precipice.”

You can read more of M’Cheyne’s list of advantages in his original text (and perhaps you could think of a few of your own). You can find his reading plan in several places on the web, including YouVersion, Bible Gateway, a print copy with a forward by J John is available for purchase, or you can print out your own customisable version (choose your start date) from the Bible Reading Plan Generator. The plan was commended by John Stott who was introduced to it in the 1950’s by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and more recently praised by Don Carson, and Jordan Stone plus a lot of other people (I’ve not looked at all the articles Google suggested). It is currently used by the UK Bible Society for their Daily Reflections.

As for me, during 2022, I plan to read the Bible quite a lot without setting out too strict a route or timeline. I’ve “binge-read” three books already but might go faster or slower through out the year. Some bits I will read or listen to several times. I expect to hear sermons and talks on several bits, and expect (again) not to hear many sermons on a few of the less popular passages. I’m also hoping to explore more of what the Bible itself has to say about engaging with Scripture, and exploring some attitudes and ideas from down the centuries and around the world.

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