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Devotional Reading

What is “devotional” reading of the Bible?

“Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” (Psalm 119:18, NKJV) 

Today is December 31, my final day of reading through the Bible in a year*, something I’ve done for the bulk of my Christian life. There is a certain satisfaction to completing the course and a marked anticipation to beginning anew the daily reading of God’s Word. 

As a pastor who preached weekly, much of my time in the Bible required a deep dive. Reading and praying over a text. Exploring the original languages. Consulting commentaries. Reflecting, refining, and relaying. In other words, preaching required rigorous study with an eye to communication. 

My reading through the Bible in a year, however, is different. It’s devotional rather than didactic, personal rather than pastoral. My goal is not to study the text, although that happens as the Spirit opens my eyes to content, context, and connections. These observations may lead to teaching occasions. 

But my goal in daily Bible reading is devotional. I meet with God to open His Word and I open my heart to receive it. I see His character and His hand as I read – His might, providence, love, wisdom, mercy worked out in His dealings with His people. Seeing that, I respond with a continuous sense of wonder, punctuated with words of praise or thanks or lament. 

Sometimes the Spirit will arrest my reading and lead me to reflect on a passage or a word or a phrase. But it’s never academic. Devotional reading is intensely personal and formational. The Spirit leads me to examine myself and to press probing questions. 

Where He convicts me of sin, righteousness, and judgment, He shows me Jesus. In fact, I see Jesus throughout, every day, no matter what part of the Bible I am reading at the time. In the multiple sacrifices for sin in Leviticus, I see Jesus and thank God that He is the sacrifice for all my sin, unintentional and intentional. In the genealogies of Chronicles, I see the covenant faithfulness of God that perseveres through the Exile and will culminate in Jesus. 

As I read of the history of God’s dealing with His people, I am gripped by constant reminders of my own unfaithfulness and the constant reminder that God remains faithful, a strong cable of promise that stretches from Genesis through Revelation. 

I don’t read through the Bible for knowledge particularly, although I will come across something I hadn’t noticed before or perhaps had forgotten. I read devotionally, that is, devoutly in communion with the true and living God whose word it is, and devotedly to Him who has taken me for Himself. In reading, I am reminded, refreshed, nourished, and renewed in the grace and knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. 

Tomorrow, January 1, I will take my 20-ounce morning coffee, settle in my recliner, and turn to Genesis 1 to begin another year of meeting with my God devotionally around the Word He has given that I might know Him and marvel at His doings. 

* I typically use the One-Year Bible (ESV, NKJV, NASB, or NIV) that is nicely arranged in daily readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms (2x), Proverbs. 

For Reflection

  1. How does daily Bible reading satisfy our longing for God and renewal in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?
  2. What is “devotional” reading of the Bible?
  3. What plan will you put in place to help you spend time in God’s Word this year? 

“Heavenly Father, grant me a hunger for the knowledge of you and a thirst after righteousness. In these, show me Jesus.”

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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