by Johnathan Arnold
The Bible is more accessible than ever before in history. We have Bible reading plans, Bible reading tools, and Bible reading apps — all at our fingertips. We even have daily Bible reading reminders on our phones. But do people actually read the Bible?
In the digital age, Charles Spurgeon’s words still seem timely: “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers.” Spurgeon’s words carry a certain weight: it is a great wrong to neglect the Word of God; however, fear is not a sufficient motivator for the kind of Bible reading that God wants us to enjoy. What will it take to make someone a Bible reader?
The Heart of a Bible Reader
John Wesley’s words reveal a beautiful heart: “I want to know one thing, the way to heaven….He hath written it down in a book! O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri, a man of one book. Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone: only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book, for this end, to find the way to heaven.”
“O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God!” Bible reading plans and accountability are helpful for some; what we really need is a heart for God’s Word. Early in my life as a seeker, I vainly tried to make myself a Bible reader. I finally prayed, “God, if I’m ever going to read the Bible, you are going to have to help me.” God worked a miracle; He changed my heart. Before, I found reading difficult and laborious; after, my thirst was unquenchable. For weeks, I read as many as 20 chapters each day.
A heart for God’s Word is a gift of grace. We are too weak and too time-conscious to be prolific Bible readers and Bible lovers; we must first experience a heart change. Pray, “O God, burn a love for your Word upon my heart” — and then read! Read until you kiss the Book.
Delighting in the Word
The Shema sets a high standard for the place of God’s words in the life of the believer: “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, ESV).
When will the Word of God be the topic of our conversations, both inside and outside of our homes, from morning to night? Surely this will never happen if we view Bible reading as a “discipline” or talk about “taking time” for the Word; no! We do not struggle to "take time" for Facebook or "take time" for a show because we delight in earthly things. We must delight in heavenly things.
“Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone: only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book.” I will delight in the Word of God!
“I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.” (Psalm 119:16)
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
“Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that fears the LORD, that delights greatly in his commandments.” (Psalm 112:1)
“Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellers.” (Psalm 119:24)
“And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.” (Psalm 119:47)
“Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight.” (Psalm 119:77)
Go to See the Glory
Perhaps what everyone says about Bible reading is true; perhaps it requires time, discipline, hard work, and sacrifice. But why should we talk about the hardness of the task? Does the gold miner talk about the back-breaking work? No; wherever he goes, he talks about the gold! When you begin to see the glory of God in the text — the beauty of the God of the pages — it changes everything. Do you want to see the glory? Start digging.
Dig deeply. Spend a whole hour in a single passage. Linger long. Hang on every word. No hour will be better spent! Pray for the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Read the passage in multiple translations. Think about its context. Highlight key verses. Circle key words and phrases. Send questions to your pastor or consult a commentary. Dig, dig, dig. It is a mine that can never be exhausted!
Dig often and everywhere. Sometimes you won’t dig “deeply”; that’s okay. Pray a Psalm. Skim a long passage of law, genealogy, or history. Slow down and enjoy a story. Hop along through the Proverbs. With the enthusiasm of a child or the suspense of a mystery novel reader, explore the great Book of Books.
In a sermon on the Bible, Spurgeon observed that “God may be seen in the stars. His name is written in gilt letters on the brow of night. You may discover His glory in the ocean waves, yea, in the trees of the field. But it is better to read His glory in two books rather than in one. You will find it here more clearly revealed, for He has written this book Himself, and He has given you the key to understand it, if you have the Holy Spirit. Ah, beloved, let us thank God for this Bible. Let us love it. Let us count it more precious than much fine gold.”
In all of your Bible reading and Bible study, keep an eye for God’s glory. Dig deeply to discover the deep things of God; dig often and everywhere to see the big picture of God’s love, wisdom, justice, and sovereignty over history. This is the key that sustains Bible readers for lifelong exploration.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8, ESV).
“O give me that book!”
Read also Back to the Basics: The Indispensable Value of Prayer by Alan Walter
“Be Bible readers by Charles Spurgeon.” Tolle Lege.
Wesley, John. Wesleyana. New York: Lane & Scott, 1852.
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