Bible Reading – January 5

JANUARY 5Genesis 5; Matthew 5; Ezra 5; Acts 5

AGAIN AND AGAIN IN THE FIFTH CHAPTER OF GENESIS, one finds the refrain, “and then he died.” So-and-so lived so many years, and then he died . . . and then he died . . . and then he died. . . . Why the repetition?

From the beginning, God’s intention had been that the intercourse between himself and his image-bearers would be eternal: Adam and Eve were to experience eternal life with God. Their rebellion put an end to this trajectory (Gen. 3:21- 22). Even if death did not fall on them immediately (Adam lived to the age of 930, according to Gen. 5:5), it was inevitable. The chapter before this table of deaths records the first murder—another death. And the three succeeding chapters (Gen. 6–8) record the Flood, in which the human race dies, save only Noah and his fam- ily. Whether by murder or by immediate divine judgment or by old age, the result is always the same: “and then he died.” As the wry contemporary expression puts it, “Life is hard, and then you die.”

In fact, by God’s just decree, death is taking hold of the human race. The life spans in Genesis 5 are extraordinary. They cannot last: more years means more evil. By Genesis 6:3, God determines to cut short the life span of his rebellious image-bearers. This decision is implemented gradually but firmly, so that by Genesis 11 the recorded ages have declined considerably, and in later records very few live longer than 120 years. But whatever the age, the final result is the same: “and then he died.”

Contemporary Western thought finds death so frightening that in polite conversation it is the last taboo. Nowadays one can chatter on about sex and finances, and never raise an eyebrow; mention death, and most people are uncomfortable at best. Even many Christians think of their faith almost exclusively in terms of what it does for them now, rather than in terms of preparing them for eternity such that it transforms how they live now.

God does not want us to shut our eyes to the effects of our sin, to the inevitability of death. Nevertheless, this chapter includes one bright exception: “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen. 5:24). It is almost as if God is showing that death is not ontologically nec- essary; that those who walk with God one day escape death; that even for those who die, there is hope—in God’s grace—of life beyond our inevitable death. But it is tied to a walk with God. It will take the rest of the Bible to unpack what that means.

This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 1.Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.

Bible Reading – January 4

JANUARY 4Genesis 4; Matthew 4; Ezra 4; Acts 4

IT TOOK ONLY ONE GENERATION for the human race to produce its first murderer (Gen. 4). Two reflections:

(1) In the Bible, there are many motives behind murder. Jehu killed for political advantage (2 Kings 9–10); David killed to cover up his adultery (2 Sam. 11); Joab murdered out of revenge, and out of the fear of having his privileged position usurped (2 Sam. 3); some of the men of Gibeah in Benjamin killed out of unbridled lust (Judg. 19). It would be easy to enlarge the list. On the occasion of the first murder, the motive was sibling rivalry out of control. Cain could not bear to think that his brother Abel’s offering was acceptable to God, while his own was not. Instead of seeking God so as to improve his own sacrifice, he killed the man he saw as his rival.

What is common to all these motives is the assumption entertained by the murderer that he or she is at the center of the universe. Even God must approve what I do; if not, since I cannot kill God, I will kill those whom God approves. Instead of the glorious situation that obtained before the Fall, when in the minds of God’s image-bearers, God himself was at the center, and loved and cherished as our good and wise Maker and Ruler, now each individual wants to be the cen- ter of the universe, as if saying, “Even God must serve me. If he does not, per- haps it is time to invent new gods. . . .”

Among the shocking elements in the murder of Cain is the stark fact that Cain’s nose is out of joint because he does not have God’s approval. The fatal sibling rivalry lies in this instance in the domain of religion. No matter: once I insist on being number one, I must be number one in every domain. Sad to tell, if the constraints of culture and fear of the penal system restrain me from outright murder, they are unlikely to restrain me from the kind of hate that the Lord Jesus insists is of the same moral order as murder (Matt. 5:21-26). So while the motives for murder are superficially many, at heart they become one: I wish to be god. And that is the supreme idolatry.

(2) In the Bible, the innocent are sometimes murdered. In this account, Abel is the righteous brother, yet he is the one who is murdered. From this fact we must reflect on two things. First, the Bible is utterly realistic about the horrible cruelty and unfairness of sin. Second, already by way of anticipation, we quietly recog- nize that if ultimate redress and justice are possible, God must intervene—and the books can only finally be squared after death.

This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 1.Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.

Bible Reading – January 3

JANUARY 3Genesis 3; Matthew 3; Ezra 3; Acts 3

IN ANY DOMAIN, we are unlikely to agree as to what the solution of a problem is, unless we agree as to the nature of the problem.

The religions of the world offer an enormous range of solutions to human problems. Some promulgate various forms of religious self-help exercises; some advocate a kind of faithful fatalism; others urge tapping into an impersonal energy or force in the universe; still others claim that mystical experiences are available to those who pursue them, experiences that relativize all evil. One of the critical questions to ask is this: What constitutes the irreducible heart of human problems?

The Bible insists that the heart of all human problems is rebellion against the God who is our Maker, whose image we bear, and whose rule we seek to overthrow. All of our problems, without exception, can be traced to this fundamental source: our rebellion and the just curse of God that we have attracted by our rebellion.

This must not be (mis)understood in some simplistic sense. It is not neces- sarily the case that the greatest rebels in this world suffer the greatest pain in this world, on some simple tit-for-tat scheme. But whether we are perpetrators (as in hate, jealousy, lust, or theft) or victims (as in rape, battery, or indiscriminate bombing), our plight is tied to sin—ours or that of others. Further, whether our misery is the result of explicit human malice or the fruit of a “natural” disaster, Genesis 3 insists that this is a disordered world, a broken world—and that this state of affairs has come about because of human rebellion.

God’s curses on the human pair are striking. The first (Gen. 3:16), which promises pain in childbearing and disordered marriages, is the disruption of the first designated task human beings were assigned before the Fall: male and female, in the blessing of God, being fruitful and increasing in number (1:27-28). The second (Gen. 3:17-19), which promises painful toil, a disordered ecology, and certain death, is the disruption of the second designated task human beings were assigned before the Fall: God’s image-bearers ruling over the created order and liv- ing in harmony with it (1:28-30).

With perfect justice God might have destroyed this rebel breed instantly. He can no more ignore such rebellion than he can deny his own deity. Yet in mercy he clothes them, suspends part of the sentence (death itself)—and foretells a time when the offspring of the woman will crush the serpent who led the first couple astray. One reads Revelation 12 with relief, and grasps that Genesis 3 defines the problem that only Christ can meet.

This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 1.Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.

Bible Reading – January 2

JANUARY 2Genesis 2; Matthew 2; Ezra 2; Acts 2

WHAT A STRANGE WAY, we might think, to end this account of Creation: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). Hollywood would love it: what an excuse for sexual titillation if someone tries to place the scene on the big screen. We hurry on, chasing the narrative.

Yet the verse is strategically placed. It links the account of the creation of woman and the establishment of marriage (Gen. 2:18-24) with the account of the Fall (Gen. 3). On the one hand, the Bible tells us that woman was taken from man, made by God to be “a helper suitable for him” (2:18), yet doubly one with him: she is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh (2:23), and now the two are united as one in marriage, one flesh (2:24), the paradigm of marriages to come, of new homes and new families. On the other hand, in the next chapter we read of the Fall, the wretched rebellion that introduces death and the curse. Part of that account, as we glean from tomorrow’s reading, finds the man and the woman hid- ing from the presence of the Lord, because their rebellion opened their eyes to their nakedness (3:7, 10). Far from being unashamed, their instinct is to hide.

This was not how it was supposed to be. In the beginning, “the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” The sexual arena stands to the fore, of course; yet there is a symbol-laden depth to the pronouncement. It is a way of saying that there was no guilt; there was nothing to be ashamed of. This happy innocence meant openness, utter candor. There was nothing to hide, whether from God or from each other.

How different after the Fall. The man and the woman hide from God, and blame others. The candor has gone, the innocence has dissipated, the openness has closed. These are the immediate effects of the first sin.

How much more dire are the same effects worked into the psyche of a fallen race, worked into individuals like you and me with so much to hide. Would you want your spouse or your best friend to know the full dimensions of each of your thoughts? Would you want your motives placarded for public display? Have we not done things of which we are so ashamed that we want as few people as pos- sible to know about them? Even the person whose conscience is said to be “seared” (e.g., 1 Tim. 4:2) and who therefore boasts of his sin does so only in some arenas, but not in others.

What astonishing dimensions characterize the salvation that addresses problems as deep as these.

This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 1.Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.

Bible Reading – January 1

JANUARY 1 / Genesis 1; Matthew 1; Ezra 1; Acts 1

ALL FOUR OF THESE CHAPTERS DEPICT NEW BEGINNINGS, but the first reading— Genesis 1—portrays the beginning of everything in this created universe.

On the face of it, this chapter, and the lines of thought it develops, establish that God is different from the universe that he creates, and therefore pantheism is ruled out; that the original creation was entirely good, and therefore dualism is ruled out; that human beings, male and female together, are alone declared to be made in the image of God, and therefore forms of reductionism that claim we are part of the animal kingdom and no more must be ruled out; that God is a talking God, and therefore all notions of an impersonal God must be ruled out; that this God has sovereignly made all things, including all people, and therefore conceptions of merely tribal deities must be ruled out.

Some of these and other matters are put positively by later writers of Scripture who, reflecting on the doctrine of creation, offer a host of invaluable conclusions. The sheer glory of the created order bears telling witness to the glory of its Maker (Ps. 19). The universe came into being by the will of God, and for this, God is incessantly worshiped (Rev. 4:11). That God has made everything speaks of his transcendence, i.e., he is above this created order, above time and space, and therefore cannot be domesticated by anything in it (Acts 17:24-25). That he made all things and continues to rule over all, means that both racism and tribalism are to be rejected (Acts 17:26). Further, if we ourselves have been made in his image, it is preposterous to think that God can properly be pictured by some image that we can concoct (Acts 17:29). These notions and more are teased out by later Scriptures.

One of the most important entailments of the doctrine of creation is this: it grounds all human responsibility. The theme repeatedly recurs in the Bible, sometimes explicitly, sometimes by implication. To take but one example, John’s gospel opens by declaring that everything that was created came into being by the agency of God’s “Word,” the Word that became flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1:2-3, 14). But this observation sets the stage for a devastating indictment: when this Word came into the world, and even though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him (John 1:10). God made us to “image” himself; he made us for his own glory. For us to imagine ourselves autonomous is, far from being a measure of our maturity, the supreme mark of our rebellion, the flag of our suppression of the truth (Rom. 1).

This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 1.Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.

Introduction to For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson


Robert Murray M’Cheyne was born in Edinburgh on May 21, 1813. He died in Dundee on March 25, 1843—not yet thirty years of age. He had been serving as minister of St. Peter’s, Dundee, since 1836. Though so young, he was known throughout Scotland as “the saintly M’Cheyne”; nor was his remarkable influence limited to the borders of Scotland.

His friend and colleague in ministry, Andrew Bonar, collected some of M’Cheyne’s letters, messages, and miscellaneous papers, and published them, along with a brief biography, in 1844 as Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Memoir and Remains. That work has been widely recognized as one of the great spiritual clas- sics. Within twenty-five years of its initial publication, it went through 116 British editions, quite apart from those in America and elsewhere. Contemporary believ- ers interested in Christian living under the shadow of genuine revival could scarcely do better than to read and reflect on this collection of writings.

One of M’Cheyne’s abiding concerns was to encourage his people, and himself, to read the Bible. To one young man, he wrote, “You read your Bible regularly, of course; but do try and understand it, and still more to feel it. Read more parts than one at a time. For example, if you are reading Genesis, read a Psalm also; or if you are reading Matthew, read a small bit of an Epistle also. Turn the Bible into prayer. Thus, if you were reading the First Psalm, spread the Bible on the chair before you, and kneel and pray, ‘O Lord, give me the blessedness of the man’; ‘let me not stand in the counsel of the ungodly.’ This is the best way of knowing the meaning of the Bible, and of learning to pray.” This was not some quaint or escapist pietism, for at the same time, M’Cheyne was himself diligent in the study of Hebrew and Greek. While a theological student, he met regularly for prayer, study, and Hebrew and Greek exercises with Andrew Bonar, Horatius Bonar, and a handful of other earnest ministers-in-training. They took the Bible so seriously in their living and preaching that when the eminent Thomas Chalmers, then Professor of Divinity, heard of the way they approached the Bible, he is reported to have said, “I like these literalities.”

In line with his desire to foster serious Bible reading, M’Cheyne prepared a scheme for daily reading that would take readers through the New Testament and Psalms twice each year, and through the rest of the Bible once. It is reproduced, in slightly modified form, at the end of this Introduction.1 Some explanation of the chart may be helpful.

The first column is self-explanatory: it lists the date for every day of the year. The following points explain the other features of this chart and the way this book is laid out.

(1) Originally, M’Cheyne listed two columns labeled “Family,” and two labeled “Secret.” He intended that, with some exceptions, the Scripture listings in the “Family” columns be read in family devotions, and those in the “Secret” columns be read privately, in personal devotions. The choice of the word secret was drawn from Matthew 6:6, and was in common use in M’Cheyne’s day. I have labeled the two pairs of columns “Family” and “Private” respectively.

(2) For those using the chart for purely private devotions, the headings are of little significance. Over the last century and a half, many, many Christians have used this chart in just this way—as a guide and a schedule for their own Bible reading.

(3) That there are two columns for “Family” readings and two columns for “Private” readings reflects M’Cheyne’s view that Christians should read from more than one part of the Bible at a time. Not only will this help you link vari- ous passages in your mind, but it will help carry you through some of the parts of the Bible that are on first inspection somewhat leaner than others (e.g., 1 Chronicles 1—12).

(4) If you read through the four passages listed for each date, in the course of a year you will, as I have indicated, read through the New Testament and the Psalms twice, and the rest of the Bible once. But if for any reason you find this too fast a pace, then read the passages listed in the first two columns (headed “Family”) in the first year, and the passages listed in the last two columns (headed “Private”) in the second year. Obviously this halves the rate of progress.

(5) One page of this book is devoted to each day. At the top of the page is the date, followed by the references to the four readings. The first two, corresponding to the entries in the “Family” columns, are in italics; the last two, corresponding to the entries in the “Private” columns, are in Roman type. The “Comment” that occupies the rest of the page is occasionally based on some theme that links all four passages, but more commonly is based on some theme or text found in the italicized passages. In Volume Two, the second pair of passages is ital- icized (rather than the first), and the “Comment” is based on this second pair. In this first volume, I have not restricted comment to passages in the first column, because, in agreement with M’Cheyne, I suppose that to focus on only one part of Scripture, in this case the historical books of the Old Testament (the first col- umn), will not be as helpful as a broader exposure to Scripture. So I have nor- mally commented on a passage of Scripture in one of the first two columns. The first time I refer to the passage on which I am commenting I put the reference in boldface type.

(6) In no way do these pages pretend to be a commentary as that word is com- monly understood. My aim is much more modest: to provide edifying comments and reflections on some part of the designated texts, and thus to encourage readers to reflect further on the biblical passages they are reading. If there is something unusual about these comments, it is that I have tried to devote at least some of them to helping the reader keep the big picture of the Bible’s “story line” in mind, and to see what relevance this has for our thinking and living. In other words, although I want the comments to be edifying, this edification is not always of a private, individualized sort. My aim is to show, in however preliminary a way, that reading the whole Bible must stir up thoughtful Christians to thinking theologically and holistically, as well as reverently and humbly. Volume Two includes an exhaustive index of names, subjects, and Scriptures for both volumes.

Finally, I should venture a few practical suggestions. If you must skip something, skip this book; read the Bible instead. If you fall behind, do not use that fact as an excuse for giving up the effort until next January 1. Either catch up (by an afternoon of diligent reading, perhaps some Sunday), or skip ahead to where you should be and take up there. If your schedule allows it, set a regular time and place for your Bible reading. M’Cheyne himself wrote, “Let our secret reading prevent [i.e., precede] the dawning of the day. Let God’s voice be the first we hear in the morning.” Whether that is the best time of the day for you is of little consequence; regular habits are of more importance. When you read, remember that God himself has declared, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). Learn to distill what a passage is saying, and pray it back to the Lord—whether in petition, thanksgiving, praise, or frank uncertainty. In time your Bible reading will so be linked with your praying that the two will not always be differentiable.

This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 1.Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.

Preface to For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson

The following is a copy from the Preface of Don Carson’s book, For the Love of God, vol 1. The book is written to complement the M’Cheyne Bible Reading program which we have adopted at ICCS. A free PDF version of the book is available from the link at the bottom of this post. Enjoy.



This book, the first of two volumes, is for Christians who want to read the Bible, who want to read all the Bible.

At their best, Christians have saturated themselves in the Bible. They say with Job, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12). That comparison was something the children of Israel were meant to learn in the wilderness. We are told that God led them into hunger and fed them with manna to teach them “that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3)—words quoted by the Lord Jesus when he himself faced temptation (Matt. 4:4). Not only for the book of Revelation may it properly be said, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it” (Rev. 1:3). On the night he was betrayed, Jesus Christ prayed for his followers in these terms: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The means by which God sanctifies men and women, setting them apart as his own people, is the Word of truth.

The challenge has become increasingly severe in recent years, owing to several factors. All of us must confront the regular sins of laziness or lack of disci- pline, sins of the flesh, and of the pride of life. But there are additional pressures. The sheer pace of life affords us many excuses for sacrificing the important on the altar of the urgent. The constant sensory input from all sides is gently addictive— we become used to being entertained and diverted, and it is difficult to carve out the space and silence necessary for serious and thoughtful reading of Scripture. More seriously yet, the rising biblical illiteracy in Western culture means that the Bible is increasingly a closed book, even to many Christians. As the culture drifts away from its former rootedness in a Judeo-Christian understanding of God, his- tory, truth, right and wrong, purpose, judgment, forgiveness, and community, so the Bible seems stranger and stranger. For precisely the same reason, it becomes all the more urgent to read it and reread it, so that at least confessing Christians preserve the heritage and outlook of a mind shaped and informed by holy Scripture.

This is a book to encourage that end. Devotional guides tend to offer short, personal readings from the Bible, sometimes only a verse or two, followed by sev- eral paragraphs of edifying exposition. Doubtless they provide personal help for believers with private needs, fears, and hopes. But they do not provide the frame- work of what the Bible says—the “plotline” or “story line”—the big picture that makes sense of all the little bits of the Bible. Wrongly used, such devotional guides may ultimately engender the profoundly wrong-headed view that God exists to sort out my problems; they may foster profoundly mistaken interpretations of some Scriptures, simply because the handful of passages they treat are no longer placed within the framework of the big picture, which is gradually fading from view. Only systematic and repeated reading of the whole Bible can meet these challenges.

That is what this book encourages. Here you will find a plan that will help you read through the New Testament and the Psalms twice, and the rest of the Bible once, in the course of a year—or, on a modification of the plan, in the course of two years. Comment is offered for each day, but this book fails utterly in its goal if you read the comment and not the assigned biblical passages.

The reading scheme laid out here is a slight modification of one that was first developed a century-and-a-half ago by a Scottish minister, Robert Murray M’Cheyne. How it works and why this book is only Volume One (even though it goes through the entire calendar year) are laid out in the Introduction.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3).

Soli Deo gloria.

—D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

This reading is from For the Love of God, vol 1 by D.A. Carson. You can download the entire book as a free PDF here: For the Love of God, Vol 1.Alternatively, you can pick up a hard copy at the church or at your favorite book retailer.