Benefiting From Daily Bible Reading
“Happy is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.”—PSALM 1:1, 2.
1. (a) What prominent sign appears on one side of a factory building at the Watch Tower Society’s world headquarters? (b) How will we benefit if we personally take the admonition to heart?
“READ GOD’S WORD THE HOLY BIBLE DAILY.” In large letters, those words appear on one side of a building in Brooklyn, New York, where Bibles and Bible literature are printed by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. That admonition is not intended only for people of the world who see the sign. Jehovah’s Witnesses realize that they too need to take it to heart. Those who read the Bible regularly and make personal application of it benefit from the teaching, the reproof, the correction, and the discipline in righteousness that it provides.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
2. How did Brother Russell emphasize the importance of Bible reading?
2 Jehovah’s Witnesses greatly appreciate their Bible study aids, including The Watchtower, and they use these regularly. But they know that none of them take the place of the Bible itself. Back in 1909, Charles Taze Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, wrote to readers of the Watch Tower magazine: “Never forget that the Bible is our Standard and that however God-given our helps may be they are ‘helps’ and not substitutes for the Bible.”
3. (a) What effect does “the word of God” have on those exposed to it? (b) How often were the Beroeans reading and studying the Scriptures?
3 The inspired Scriptures have a depth and a force that no other book has. “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The disciple Luke warmly commended people of Beroea, calling them “more noble-minded.” They not only eagerly received the word as preached by the apostle Paul and his associate Silas but also ‘carefully examined the Scriptures daily’ to determine the Scriptural basis for what was being taught.—Acts 17:11.
Reading It Daily
4. What do the Scriptures indicate as to how often we ought to read the Bible?
4 The Bible does not state specifically how often we ought to read it. However, it does record Jehovah’s counsel to Joshua to ‘read in the book of the law in an undertone day and night’ so that he would act wisely and have success in carrying out his God-given assignment. (Joshua 1:8) It tells us that whoever ruled as king over ancient Israel was to read the Scriptures “all the days of his life.” (Deuteronomy 17:19) It further states: “Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked ones . . . But his delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” (Psalm 1:1, 2) Also, the Gospel recorded by Matthew tells us that when Jesus Christ rejected Satan’s efforts to tempt Him, He quoted from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, saying: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’” (Matthew 4:4) How often do we need physical food? Every day! Taking in spiritual food daily is even more important because it affects our prospects for eternal life.—Deuteronomy 8:3; John 17:3.
5. How can daily Bible reading help us to “walk worthily of Jehovah” when tests of faith are thrust upon us?
5 Every one of us needs to be fortified daily by God’s Word. Every day—at home, at work, at school, on the streets, when shopping, in our ministry—challenges to our faith are thrust upon us. How will we deal with these? Will Bible commands and principles readily come to mind? Instead of encouraging a feeling of self-reliance, the Bible cautions: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Daily Bible reading will help us to “walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him” instead of allowing the world to squeeze us into its mold.—Colossians 1:9, 10; Romans 12:2.
The Need to Read the Bible Repeatedly
6. Why is it beneficial to read the Bible repeatedly?
6 Reading the Bible is very different from reading a book of fiction. Most popular fiction is designed for a single reading; once a person knows the story and how it ends, that is all there is to it. In contrast, regardless of how many times we have read the Bible, we benefit greatly by doing it again. (Proverbs 9:9) To a discerning person, the Scriptures constantly take on fresh meaning. Prophecies regarding the last days become even more impressive to him in the light of what he has seen, heard, and personally experienced in recent months. (Daniel 12:4) As he broadens his own experience in life and copes with problems, the discerning Bible reader appreciates more fully the counsel that he may formerly have read only casually. (Proverbs 4:18) If he is overtaken with a serious illness, the Bible’s promises regarding the removal of pain and the restoration of health take on greater depth of meaning to him than ever before. When close friends and family members die, the promise of a resurrection becomes even more precious.
7. What would help us when we take on a new responsibility in life, and why?
7 You may personally have read the Bible and applied its counsel over a period of years. But perhaps you are now taking on new responsibilities in life. Are you planning to get married? Are you going to be a parent? Have you been entrusted with responsibility in the congregation as an elder or a ministerial servant? Have you become a full-time evangelizer, with added opportunities for preaching and teaching? How beneficial it would be to read the entire Bible again with those new responsibilities in mind!—Ephesians 5:24, 25; 6:4; 2 Timothy 4:1, 2.
8. How may changed circumstances show up the need to learn more about things that we thought we already knew?
8 In the past you may have done well in manifesting the fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Yet changed circumstances may confront you with the need to learn much more about those godly qualities. (Compare Hebrews 5:8.) A former traveling overseer who found it necessary to leave his special service in order to care for his aging parents said: “I used to think that I was doing reasonably well in manifesting the fruits of the spirit. Now I feel as if I am starting all over again.” Likewise, husbands and wives whose marriage mates suffer severe physical or emotional illness may find that in providing personal care, stress occasionally gives rise to reactions that discourage them. Regular Bible reading is a source of great comfort and help.
When Bible Reading Might Be Done
9. (a) What can help a very busy person to find time for daily Bible reading? (b) Why is reading God’s Word especially important for elders?
9 Of course, for people who are already very busy, finding time to do something additional on a regular basis is a challenge. However, we can benefit from Jehovah’s example. The Bible reveals that he does things at ‘appointed times.’ (Genesis 21:2; Exodus 9:5; Luke 21:24; Galatians 4:4) Appreciation for the importance of reading God’s Word regularly can help us to appoint a time for it in our daily schedule. (Ephesians 5:15-17) Elders in particular need to set aside time for regular Bible reading so that the counsel they give will be squarely based on Bible principles and so that the spirit they show will reflect “the wisdom from above.”—James 3:17; Titus 1:9.
10. When do those who are daily Bible readers find time to read?
10 Many who succeed with a program of personal Bible reading do their reading early in the morning before they get started with the day’s activities. Others find that they are better able to do it consistently at another time. Bible audiocassettes (where available) help commuters to make good use of travel time, and some Witnesses listen to them while caring for routine household chores. Programs that have worked for a variety of Witnesses in Europe, Africa, North America, South America, and the Orient are shown on pages 20 and 21, in the article “When They Read It and How They Benefit.”
11. How can daily Bible reading be achieved even if available time is quite limited?
11 What is most important is not the amount of time devoted to your Bible reading on any one occasion but the regularity with which it is done. You may find it rewarding to read for an hour or more at a sitting, doing added research and becoming thoroughly engrossed in the material. But does your schedule permit that on a regular basis? Instead of allowing days to pass without any Bible reading at all, would it not be better every day to read for 15 minutes or even for 5 minutes? Make it your resolve to do daily Bible reading. Then supplement that reading with deeper research when possible.
Varied Approaches to Bible Reading
12. What program of Bible reading do new members of the Bethel family and Gilead students have?
12 There are many ways in which the Bible can be read. It is beneficial to read it from Genesis through Revelation. All members of the global Bethel family who serve at the world headquarters or at one of the Society’s branches are required to read the entire Bible during the first year of their Bethel service. (That usually involves reading three to five chapters, depending on their length, or four to five pages, per day.) Students at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead must also read the Bible from cover to cover before they graduate. It is hoped that this will help them to make daily Bible reading a part of their lives.
13. What goal is recommended for newly baptized Witnesses?
13 It is beneficial for newly baptized Witnesses to set before themselves the goal of reading the entire Bible. In 1975, at the time he was preparing for baptism, a young man in France was asked by an elder whether he had a definite program for Bible reading. Ever since then he has read the entire Bible each year, usually doing his reading in the morning before he goes to work. As to the results, he says: “I have become much better acquainted with Jehovah. I can see how everything he does is related to his purpose and how he responds when obstacles arise. I see that Jehovah is, at the same time, righteous and good in all his actions.”
14. (a) In order to start a program of personal Bible reading that will continue, what is necessary? (b) What might help us to fix in mind the general outline of each Bible book as we read it?
14 Have you read the entire Bible? If not, now is a good time to start. Outline a definite program, and then hold to it. Determine how many pages or how many chapters you will read each day, or simply determine how much time you will spend and when. Not everyone will complete the Bible in a year, but the important thing is to read God’s Word regularly, doing so daily if at all possible. As you read through the Bible, you may find the use of certain reference books helpful in impressing on your mind the general outline of the material. If Insight on the Scriptures is available in your language, then before you start reading a particular Bible book, review the brief outline of its highlights as provided in Insight.a Particularly note the boldface headings in the outline. Or make similar use of the more extensive summary provided in the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial.”b
15. (a) What suggestions offered on pages 16 and 17 could help to enhance your Bible reading? (b) Instead of making a ritual of reading a certain number of pages, to what vital matter should we give greater attention?
15 Consecutive Bible reading is beneficial, but do not become merely a ritual reader. Do not read a certain number of pages each day simply so that you can say that you read the Bible through every year. As shown in the box “Suggestions to Enhance Your Bible Reading” (pages 16 and 17), there are many ways that you can read and enjoy the Bible. Regardless of the method you use, be sure that you are feeding both your mind and your heart.
Get the Sense of What You Read
16. Why is it important to take time to meditate on what we read?
16 When teaching his disciples, Jesus emphasized the importance of their understanding what he said. What was vital was, not a mere intellectual grasp, but their getting “the sense of it with their hearts” so that they would apply it in their lives. (Matthew 13:14, 15, 19, 23) What counts with God is what a person really is inside, and this is what is represented by the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 4:23) Thus, in addition to making sure that we understand what Bible passages say, we need to meditate on them, considering their implications in our own lives.—Psalm 48:9; 1 Timothy 4:15.
17. What are some angles from which we might meditate on what we read in the Scriptures?
17 Endeavor to identify underlying principles in Bible accounts so that you can apply these to situations that you face. (Compare Matthew 9:13; 19:3-6.) As you read about and meditate on Jehovah’s marvelous qualities, use that opportunity to strengthen your personal relationship with him, to develop within yourself a strong sense of godly devotion. When you read statements of Jehovah’s purpose, consider what you can do to work in harmony with these. When you read direct counsel, instead of merely saying to yourself, ‘I know that,’ ask, ‘Am I doing what it says?’ If so, ask yourself, ‘In what ways can I do it “more fully?”’ (1 Thessalonians 4:1) As you learn God’s requirements, also take note of the Bible’s real-life examples of those who lived in harmony with these requirements and those who did not. Consider why they pursued the course they did and what the outcome was. (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11) When you read about the life of Jesus Christ, remember that Jesus is the one to whom Jehovah has entrusted kingship over all the earth; use the opportunity to strengthen within yourself a longing for God’s new world. Also, analyze ways in which you can more fully imitate God’s Son.—1 Peter 2:21.
18. How can we balance Bible reading with our use of study material provided through “the faithful and discreet slave”?
18 Of course, Bible reading should not replace your use of the excellent study material that has been made available through “the faithful and discreet slave.” That too is a part of Jehovah’s provision—a very precious one. (Matthew 24:45-47) Make sure that regular reading of the Word of God itself has a prominent place in your life. If at all possible, “READ GOD’S WORD THE HOLY BIBLE DAILY.”
a Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
b Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
How Would You Answer?
◻ Why is it beneficial to do some Bible reading every day?
◻ Why do we need to read the Bible again and again?
◻ In your own schedule, what is a good time for daily Bible reading?
◻ As you read the Bible repeatedly, what can add variety to your program?
◻ Why is it very important to meditate on what we read?
[Box on page 16, 17]
Suggestions to enhance your Bible reading
(1) Many people read the Bible books in the order in which they are customarily printed, from Genesis through Revelation. You could also read them in the order in which they were originally written. Keep in mind that the Bible is a collection of 66 inspired books, a divine library. For variety, you may want to read some of the books that feature history, then some that are strongly prophetic, followed by some that are letters of counsel, instead of simply following the page order. Keep track of what you have read, and be sure to read the entire Bible.
(2) After you read a portion of the Scriptures, ask yourself what it reveals about Jehovah, his purpose, his way of doing things; how it should affect your own life; how you might use it to help someone else.
(3) Using as a guide the chart “Main Events of Jesus’ Earthly Life” published under the heading “Jesus Christ” in Insight on the Scriptures (also in “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial”), read the parallel accounts of each portion of the Gospels, one after the other. Supplement this by consulting the corresponding sections in the book The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.
(4) When you read from Acts of Apostles the account of the life and ministry of Paul, also read the related inspired letters. Thus, when mention is made of various cities or areas where Paul preached, stop and read the letters that he later wrote to fellow Christians in those places. It is also helpful to follow his travels on a map, such as the one on the back endsheet of the New World Translation.
(5) Along with your reading of Exodus through Deuteronomy, read the letter to the Hebrews to get an explanation of many of the prophetic patterns. Under “Law” in Insight on the Scriptures, consult the chart “Some Features of the Law Covenant.”
(6) When reading prophetic books, take time to review related historical background in the Bible. For example, when reading the book of Isaiah, review what is said elsewhere about kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, who are mentioned at Isaiah 1:1. (2 Kings, chapters 15-20; 2 Chronicles, chapters 26-32) Or when reading Haggai and Zechariah, take time to review what is found in the book of Ezra.
(7) Select a book of the Bible, read a portion of it (perhaps a chapter), then do research, using the Watch Tower Publications Index or the computerized Watchtower Library if available in your language. Make application of the material in your own life. Use it in talks and in the field ministry. Then move on to another section.
(8) If there is a Watch Tower publication that provides a commentary on a Bible book or a portion of it, consult it frequently while you are reading that part of the Bible. (For example: on The Song of Solomon, The Watchtower, December 1, 1957, pages 720-34; on Ezekiel, “The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah”—How?; on Daniel, “Your Will Be Done on Earth” or Our Incoming World Government—God’s Kingdom; on Haggai and Zechariah, Paradise Restored to Mankind—By Theocracy!; on Revelation, Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!)
(9) As you read, look up some of the cross-references. Note the 320 passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that are directly quoted in the Christian Greek Scriptures and the hundreds of other passages to which reference is made, as well as the application given. Cross-references point to fulfillments of prophecy recorded in the Bible, to biographical and geographic details, and to parallel thoughts that may clarify expressions that you perhaps find difficult to understand.
(10) Using the Reference Edition of the New World Translation, if available in your language, check footnotes and appendix articles that relate to what you are reading. These show the basis for renderings used and other ways in which important expressions can be translated. You may also want to compare the rendering of certain verses in other Bible translations.
(11) After you read each chapter, write a very brief summary of the main idea in that chapter. Use it as a basis for later review and meditation.
(12) As you read the Bible, mark selected texts that you especially want to remember, or copy them on cards and put these where you will see them every day. Memorize them; meditate on them; make use of them. Do not try to memorize too many at once, perhaps only one or two each week; then select more the next time you read through the Bible.
[Pictures on page 15]
Are you reading the Bible or listening to recordings of it every day?