Reading the Bible. It sounds so simple. Just read the Bible every day, or at least read it regularly for nourishment and insight and communication with God.
But how do we do it? In a time when the lack of Biblical knowledge extends from the average churchgoer to students entering Biola University, reading the Bible is more necessary than ever. But it’s harder than we thought.
For over twenty years I’ve been using a reading tool that helps me read the Bible daily. The One Year Bible is my tool of choice. Each daily reading is formatted on the pages, and takes the reader through the Old Testament, the New Testament, Proverbs and the Psalms in the course of a year.
The OYB is available in many translations. Using it, I have read through the Bible in almost all of the modern translations: the NIV (my favorite because it is so readable), the ESV, the NASB, the NLT and The Message (OK, I don’t know if The Message is available in the OYB because I read it in the leather edition I was given, but I followed the layout of the OYB).
Yes, I get ‘behind’ sometimes and my bookmark may be a week or two off of where I ‘should’ be. When I’m preparing a Biblical message, I’m not usually on the ‘right’ day in the OYB because I’m using my time to study that Biblical passage. But I know that when I finish the prep for the message, I will go back to the OYB. And when I have a bit more leisure some morning, I will do several readings and eventually catch up to the proper date.
There are times when coming to read for the day feels a bit mechanical. Then I say to the Lord, “I’m coming to meet with You, I want to know You better, I want to walk in obedience and harmony with you, I want to be transformed into Your image. Meet me here, Lord, and teach me.” And the mechanics fall away as He answers my prayer.
Reading through the Bible has given me deep confidence in my teaching at Talbot in the Women’s Ministry emphasis. I know the Word of God. I have obscure biblical characters and stories in my head, as well as the more familiar ones. I know where to find what I need in the Bible.
This week I’ve been reading about Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. He is described thus: “His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord” in 2 Chronicles 17:6.
Jehoshaphat sent teachers into the towns of Judah to teach the Book of the Law of the Lord (2 Chronicles 17:7-9). He became powerful and built large forts and store cities in Judah.
That’s good, too.
Then, inexplicably, he “married a daughter of Ahab” (2 Chron. 18:1). What was he thinking? He allied himself with Ahab in a futile attack on Ramoth Gilead (2 Chron. 18), even though God’s prophet Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me” (2 Chron. 18:27). Ahab died in that battle and Jehoshaphat limped home.
Later Jehoshaphat humbled himself before the Lord and this resulted in an amazing victory over the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites. His army never drew a sword (2 Chron. 19 & 20) because God caused the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites turn on each other. They completely destroyed each other’s armies before Jehoshaphat’s army even arrived. The Judean army picked up plunder for three days, instead of fighting.
But Jehoshaphat’s deadly fascination with the house of Ahab didn’t end after his defeat at Ramoth Gilead and it didn’t end after his glorious victory in the Desert of Tekoa. He once again turned back to the house of Ahab and allied himself with Ahab’s son, Amaziah, to build a doomed fleet of trading ships. Eliezer prophesied against Jehoshaphat, “Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.” The text goes on to say, “The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail.” (2 Chron. 20:36-37).
Reading about Jehoshaphat causes me to ponder—Jehoshaphat was devoted to God. But he made costly, dreadful mistakes. He was soundly rebuked for his fateful alliance with Ahab by Jehu the seer who said to Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?” He was a man who loved God, but he made some pretty bad choices.
And so I ponder. How can I walk with the Lord in such a way as to avoid making bad choices? Even the most godly are not immune from making a bad misstep along the way to heaven, so I’m certainly not. Reading about Jehoshaphat sobers me and causes me to pray, “Lord, I want to obey you and follow you today. I am as vulnerable to making a bad misstep as Jehoshaphat was. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I yield myself into Your hands today and ask for wisdom to follow You and a heart to obey you.”
I doubt I would have chosen to read about Jehoshaphat for the last few days were it not for the OYB. I’m thankful for this tool that keeps me in the Word of God on a regular basis.