There were 525,600 minutes in 2018. And there will be 525,600 minutes in 2019. Of those minutes approximately 175,200 minutes will be used to sleep (that is 8 hours or 480 minutes a night). And approximately 124,800 minutes will be used to work (that is 8 hours or 480 minutes a day in a five day work week).
It takes approximately 3 minutes to read one chapter of the Bible. It takes approximately four chapters a day to read through the Bible in one year. It then takes approximately 12 minutes a day to read through the Bible in one year. It takes approximately 4,380 minutes to read through the Bible.
We must sleep. Sleep takes up 33% of the year. We must work. Work takes up 25% of the year. We must read. Reading the Bible takes up .83% of the year.
How We Read The Bible Matters
In 2019, something might happen. In 2019, as a church we will read the Bible. I am as excited to say those words as I was to write them out. We will read the Bible using a slightly modified version of what is called the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan named after the Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne. His plan is widely used and is even included in some Bibles. It may be included in the Bible you are reading. This plan takes a reader through the Old Testament in one year and the New Testament and the Psalms twice in one year. This modified plan takes us through the Old Testament in two years (Genesis through 2 Chronicles in 2019 and Ezra through Malachi in 2020) and the New Testament and the Psalms once in 2019 and again in 2020. Regardless, the point is that daily Bible reading mattered in 2018. We read one chapter of the New Testament five days a week in 2018. And daily Bible reading will matter in 2019. We will read one chapter of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New Testament seven days a week in 2019. Then again in 2020.
And what renews me on this last Sunday of 2018 is to cast before us that we will do this together. The whole reading plan for the year is on the foyer table. And reading two chapters a day, just reading, takes maybe 6 to 9 minutes of a day which is much less than .83% of the year. It is actually .625% of the year. But it is the how that matters. I know we will do this most of the time on our own. Robert Murray M’Cheyne was considered a most effective pastor. He was considered most effective partly because he would spend twenty to thirty hours a week visiting the members of his church. Now, he was not married and did not have any children. But regardless, his heart was bent toward the people God entrusted to him. He pastored only one church and he only pastored for six years. He died when he was 29 years old.
But his intent with this reading plan was that half the plan would be read as a family and half read in one’s own quiet time. So he was encouraging both family or corporate worship and private worship. Oh, that our pastor would have this intent! And oh, what could happen in 2019 if we did this?
Our elders under the direction of the Holy Spirit are convinced that the vision for 2019 is the Word of God – the reading of it; the study of it; the obeying it; the preaching of it – and prayer and the Lord’s Supper. The joy of the Lord’s Supper is proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. And so as the old year gets ready to meet the new year we are beginning with this endeavor that we might read the Bible together and then meet Wednesday to pray and then join together on the first Sunday of the new year proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes, a proclaiming that is looking for and waiting for the return of Jesus Christ.
And my hope is that each one of us grabs this vision for 2019 and leaves here with the reading plan and seeks out a good pen or pencil to mark up our Bibles or a composition notebook to write out our thoughts and questions and eagerness as we read the Bible daily together. What might we experience in our homes and as a church in doing this?
Again, how we read the Bible matters and it is two-fold. This plan came from a pastor who thought the Bible “the sweetest nourishment to my soul.” And he encouraged that the Bible be read in two ways: with sight and with prayer. You may read your Bible, and pray over it till you die; you may wait on the preached Word every Sabbath-day, . . . [But] if you are not brought to cleave to him, to look to him, to believe in him, to cry out with inward adoration: “My Lord, and my God”—“How great is his goodness! How great is his beauty!”—then the outward observance of the ordinances is all in vain to you… We are often for preaching to awaken others; but we should be more upon praying for it. Prayer is more powerful than preaching. It is prayer that gives preaching all its power… Why, the very hands of Moses would have fallen down, had they not been held up by his faithful people. Come, then, ye wrestlers with God—ye that climb Jacob’s ladder—ye that wrestle Jacob’s wrestling—strive you with God, that he may fulfill his word. So we will read in 2019 to see the glories of Jesus Christ and we will read praying that God will fulfill his word.
The Fourth Song of Christmas
This is exactly what the fourth song of Christmas is all about – Luke 2:22-35. The fourth song of Christmas is about seeing the glories of Jesus Christ and praying that God will fulfill his word. And I want us to see how the Bible matters to Luke 2:22-35.
First, notice all the references to the Law. “And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons”” (Luke 2:22-24). And then there is one more reference to the Law in Luke 2:27. “And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law.” This is all referencing the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Then notice where this is all to take place. This is taking place forty days after Christmas, after the birth of Jesus Christ and Joseph and Mary are taking this month old infant to the temple (2:27). The temple is something that his its roots in the Law but is built and is prominent throughout books of the Old Testament beginning with 2 Samuel all the way through the last book of the Old Testament called Malachi. Interestingly, in Malachi we are told to look forward. “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (3:1).
And then notice this man named Simeon. Notice what Simeon calls himself in Luke 2:29. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” At this time the Bible is the Old Testament. And at this time those called the Lord’s servant were men like Moses and David and Elijah (cf. Joshua 14:7; Psalm 89:3; 2 Kings 9:36).
And then notice Simeon. I want us to really notice him in Luke 2:25, but also Luke 2:26 and Luke 2:27. All three verses contain references to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was upon him; the Holy Spirit revealed to him; the Holy Spirit led him. But really take note of verse twenty-five. “And the Holy Spirit was upon him.” This is language that is unique to the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit would come upon an individual in the Old Testament for a very important task like interpreting dreams (Genesis 41:38) or building the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:3); for a particular purpose. It is like Samson (Judges 14:6). The Holy Spirit came upon him as he led Israel and would fill him with supernatural strength. The whole idea, and it applies here, is that the Holy Spirit came upon Simeon for a special purpose. He was specially empowered for a special purpose.
I wondered most of the week, what the special purpose was and it was very simply, but very wonderfully to behold Jesus the Christ.
The Consolation of Israel
Keep your attention on Simeon and keep your attention on Luke 2:25. Simeon was a righteous man, a good man. Simeon was a devout man or a cautious man meaning he held the things of God with a special care. And he was waiting for the consolation of Israel. What is the consolation of Israel? Again, the Bible really matters to Luke 2:22-35.
Another word for consolation would be comfort, but also encouragement or help or joy, but especially comfort. And the book of Isaiah has much to say about this comfort. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). And in this comfort there is a voice crying, “in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5). Interestingly Isaiah 40:3 is also something spoken of John the Baptist (cf. Luke 1:17).
So here is Simeon waiting for the consolation of Israel. The consolation, the comfort is a person – the Messiah. He is waiting for the coming of the Messiah, Christ the Lord. And I think he has been praying. Isaiah 40:5 said, “the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” So I think Simeon knew Isaiah 40 and had been praying that God would fulfill what God spoke. And the incredible thing is that God took this man who we know little about, he was just a man who found God and his word the sweetest nourishment to his soul and he told him, “You will not die until you see the Messiah come” (2:26).
For My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation
I marvel at Luke 2:22-35 because it seems like the whole Old Testament converges here. Joseph and Mary take baby Jesus to the temple according to what God said in the Old Testament. Here is this old man knowing his Bible, the Old Testament and was nourished by it, praying that God will fulfill his word. And he is looking and waiting. And it happens. When Simeon sees this child, and there must have been so many people in this temple court, but he noticed this child. How? Well, it was in the leading of the Holy Spirit, but also knowing God’s Word Simeon knew who he was looking for. And he took the child and exclaimed, “I can now die in peace for my eyes have seen Your salvation! Thank you Lord for fulfilling your word!”
And notice that this is where it all changes. The Old Testament converges here and Simeon although he will die begins to point us all forward. This child will be a light for revelation to the Gentiles – that is us – and he will be a light for the glory of Israel. This child is the glory of Israel; he who saves people from their sins is the glory of Israel; the glory of Israel is Jesus. And he tells Joseph and Mary that no one will be able to avoid this child. This child, Jesus will be a stumbling block to some or the most glorious person to others. Regardless, no one can avoid Jesus. What will you do with Jesus? He reveals the thoughts of the heart. Our response to him and of him reveals the heart.
Then Simeon speaks to Mary and says that this child will be opposed which will pierce her soul. He is talking about the cross. Simeon is pointing us all to the cross.
Come to the cross. Jesus, who he is, reveals to us who we really are and we either oppose him or embrace him for the liberty he brings because regardless of who we really are he makes us new through his cleansing blood and the forgiveness of sins. The knowledge of salvation is in the forgiveness of sins (cf. Luke 1:77). And then what do we do next? We wait and look for his returning (cf. Titus 2:13). And we read his word praying that God will fulfill what he has spoken. And when he returns, and until then there will be many claiming to be Christ, we will know what to look for and who to look for because we know our Bibles.
Read the Bible together in 2019.