Reading Large Portions of Scripture
Currently, the Wednesday night adult prayer group has been working through Luke’s gospel. This study involves reading considerable amounts of Scripture in a short amount of time without being able to engage in deep teaching and discussion of everything that was read. This raises a really good question: is reading such a large amount of text at the expense of deep explanation and study beneficial? While this question could be answered in many ways, there are three really good reasons to answer “yes.” Reading large portions of Scripture provides a better knowledge of the content of Scripture, a better understanding of the message of Scripture, and better meditation and prayer grounded in Scripture.
Better Knowledge of the Content of Scripture
Christians ought to know what the Bible says, and reading large passages of Scripture helps us to do just that. It may not be wise to take this approach to Scripture exclusively, but it would be unwise to never take this approach. Although some sacrifice in depth of study will result, much can be gained from the width of reading. Consuming large chunks of Scripture at one time helps us to become biblically literate.
Better Understanding of the Message of Scripture
Although we will not be able to deeply study large passages of Scripture all at once, there is much to be gained in looking at a text from a bird’s eye view. When we closely scrutinize a sentence or a paragraph, or even a parable, we can tend to lose sight of the bigger picture. Questions like, “Why is this parable here,” and “How does this story fit into the message of the book?” are often overlooked. Taking a step back to read multiple chapters and accounts in one sitting will help us to see the bigger picture. This is true in both the epistles and the gospels.
In the epistles, the author is usually making a coherent argument. For instance, Hebrews is likely a sermon. If you never read (or listen to) Hebrews all at once, you are arguably missing much of what the author intends to communicate. Following the argument of an epistle involves reading the entire letter in one sitting.
In the gospels, the authors were more concerned about tracing themes and making points than constructing a chronological account of Jesus’ life. A cursory look at the gospels reveals different placements for the same accounts, and the choice to place an account in a particular order implies meaning. If we never read large portions of the gospels, then we will miss important themes and points that bring deep meaning to the accounts preserved for us. In fact, neglecting to see the accounts comprising a gospel as a unified whole may cause us to misinterpret what the author is saying altogether.
Better Meditation and Prayer Grounded in Scripture
Reading large portions of the gospels means reading a lot of narrative. Narratives, or stories, easily grasp our imaginations in ways that other genres of Scripture may not be able to. Think dead people walking out of their tombs in Matthew 27:52-53. You don’t read that every day, and it will certainly latch onto your imagination! And when we are imagining, we meditate.
The act of reading Scripture is planting truth into the soul in a way that we may not even realize. What we drink into our souls changes us, even if we are not fully engaged or deeply thoughtful on the content of what we are consuming. If we binge watch a Netflix show, that does something to our souls. If we binge read the Bible, that arguably does something to our souls as well. It follows, then, that consuming large passages of Scripture will shape us despite the inability to engage the text deeply.
Added to the unintended results of reading and hearing large portions of Scripture are the benefits of intentionally meditating on and praying through them. When we read large passages of Scripture we are gaining fodder for meditation and prayer. These texts can uniquely fill us with a breadth of content that is not wasted because when the Bible gets inside of us it changes us.
Reading large texts of Scripture might not always be an easy thing to do, but it is a really good thing to do. In reading the Bible widely, we gain a better knowledge of the content of Scripture, we develop a better understanding of the message of Scripture, and we enjoy better meditation and prayer grounded in Scripture.