One of the things that I’ve been working on recently is reading through the Bible. Not that I don’t read the Bible, for I do, but it is often in bits and pieces. There will be something associated with a devotional writing; the scripture used in church on Sunday; the assigned passage for my Bible study; and whichever portion of scripture that my wife and I read during our prayer time together. And while that is all good, it is also a bit scattered. A verse here and a chapter there. The idea of reading through the entire text of the Bible in a year struck me as something that would be spiritually healthy, much as regular exercise is physically healthy.
Reading the Bible in one year is the kind of thing that a person could take on as a New Year’s resolution, which is what I did the last time I attempted it. This time I figured there was “no time like the present,” so I looked online for a plan that I liked and got started. The plan I am following suggests passages to read each day, so that in one year’s time I will have read from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22.
There is a lot of variety to online Bible-reading plans. Some go cover-to-cover, from “In the beginning…” to “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Some others go chronologically, although I’m not sure what that means. Does it mean placing the readings in the order that the events in the text happened? Or placing the readings in the order that they are believed to have been written? Suffice to say, I didn’t really consider that option.
The plan I picked is one that groups the reading by the type of writing that they are made up of. On Monday I read law, Tuesday is history, Wednesday is Psalms, Thursday is poetry, Friday is prophecy, Saturday is Gospel and Sunday is epistles. Which means that this week I will read from Deuteronomy, Nehemiah, Psalms, Song of Solomon, Revelation, Acts and 2nd John. I know that Acts isn’t technically a Gospel, but if you count Luke and Acts as two pieces of a unified work then in a reasonable sense it is.
So this week I read Nehemiah 10 through 13, which are the last four chapters of the book. Nehemiah was a Hebrew who served the king of
during the time when the Hebrews were in exile. He received permission to return to Persia to rebuild the city walls. The first 9 chapters, which I read over the last two weeks, tell the story of the rebuilding and the return from exile, including a period of the Hebrews falling away from God’s ways. When confronted about this, the people were read to from the law, then they confessed their sin, and lastly they renewed their covenant with God. Chapters 10, 11 and 12 recount the sealing of the covenant, the obligations of the covenant, a list of the Hebrew leaders, and the story of the service of dedication of the wall. There is great detail in listing the names and relationships of the people involved in these activities. As an example there are 83 different signers of the covenant. Jerusalem
Chapter 13 is a bit curious. The Hebrews have again fallen from God’s ways. It was during a period when Nehemiah was back in
Babylon, and when he returns to he takes a number of actions to correct the people living there, bringing them back to keeping the promises they had made to God. Nehemiah seems to be careful to note what was done wrong, and by whom, as well as what he did to set things right. And the final phrase of the book has Nehemiah say, “Remember me, O my God, for good.” Jerusalem
To me, it seems as if Nehemiah wants to make sure that he is remembered by God, and specifically he desires to be remembered for the good that he has done in God’s service. And in Nehemiah’s desire for God to remember him well I think we can see a near universal desire of those who seek to know and love God for God to remember them. We want God to remember us positively, and we don’t want him to recall any of the times we acted like the wayward Hebrews. The times we turned away from God’s ways and went after the darker desires of our hearts.
As Christmas approaches we journey through Advent and the expectation of Jesus’ birth…the Incarnation…God with us…the opening chapter of Jesus ministry on earth. Reading Nehemiah 13 reminds me of the closing chapter of Jesus’ earthly life, with his death and resurrection to eternal life. When we read the fuller account of God’s redemptive plan in the Bible, the writings of the New Testament, we read God’s answer to Nehemiah’s request.
1 John 1:1-2 says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” In these verses God shares with us the nature of his memory for his people, which is that our failings before God are made right in the work done by Christ on the cross.
We may be like Nehemiah, trying to do good by God’s standards, and longing for God to notice what we have done. But we are also like the Hebrews that Nehemiah was struggling with, turning away from God. I am so glad, so thankful, that God doesn’t tally my “right” behavior against my “wrong” behavior to determine my standing before him. He has chosen me to be his possession, now and for eternity, sealing me with his Spirit. On the promises of his word one day I will be before him, my sins covered by the work of Christ.
May you also rest in the sure confidence of God’s promises to you in Christ Jesus.
Thanks be to God.