As we near the end of 2018, many of us are thinking about goals we have for 2019, and for many of us Christ-followers, that includes thinking about a Bible reading plan. I have found in my 48 years on this earth that, due to my frail human nature, without a set plan I tend to wander in the wilderness in my Scripture reading, sometimes neglecting Bible reading altogether for too many days in succession.
Thus for the past few years I have used various Bible plans. My wife prefers this very flexible plan, which she has used several years in a row now. In 2018, after reading about the RMM (or M’Cheyne) Plan, I gave it a go and really enjoyed it. If you do the one-year pace you can read through the entire Old Testament once, and the New Testament and Psalms twice in the year. Or you can go on a two year pace which takes you through the Old Testament in two years, and the New Testament and Psalms each year. Also, the One Year plan, varies the readings so that you are reading from four different places each time. Usually that means you read a chapter from the Gospel or Psalms each day, another New Testament chapter, an OT passage from the Pentateuch/History books and an OT chapter from the Prophets/Writings.
The RMM plan is named for Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish pastor, who developed it for his congregation back in the early part of the 19th century. You can read more about the plan in the link above. You can also read below what he wrote to his own congregation when he published the plan for them. I have taken the liberty to update the English to a more modern style, but you can read the original here if you prefer the 1800’s language. Whether you choose to use the RMM or some other plan, I think you will find his thoughts on Bible reading plans (both the dangers and the advantages) to be worth reflecting on heading into this new year.
MY DEAR FLOCK, —
The approach of another year stirs up within me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth of those of you who are saved. “God is my witness how greatly I long after you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:8) What the coming year is to bring forth who can tell? There is plainly a weight lying on the spirits of all good men, and an anticipation of some strange work of judgment upon this land. There is a need now to ask that solemn question: “If in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)
Those believers will stand the firmest who have no dependence upon themselves or upon others, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day. Then we shall be able to say, like David: “The arrogant mock me unmercifully, but I do not turn from your law” (Psalm 119:51) and “Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word” (Psalm 119:161).
It has long been in my mind to prepare a scheme of Scripture reading, in which as many as were made willing by God might agree, so that the whole Bible might be read once by you in the year, and all might be feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.
I am quite aware that a Bible reading plan is accompanied with many dangers:
(1.) Formality. We are such weak creatures that any regularly returning duty is apt to degenerate into a lifeless form. The tendency of reading the Word by a fixed plan may, in some minds, be to create a skeleton of religion. This is a particular sin that will be seen in the last days: “Having a form of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:5) Guard against this. Let the reading plan perish rather than this rust eat up your soul.
(2.) Self-righteousness. Some, when they have devoted their set time to reading of the Word, and accomplished the daily portion, may be tempted to look at themselves with self-complacency. Many, I am persuaded, are living without any work of God in their souls. Rather they continue unpardoned and unsanctified, and ready to perish, even when they spend their appointed times in secret and family devotions. This is going to hell with a lie in their right hand.
(3.) Careless reading. Few tremble at the Word of God. Few, in reading it, hear the voice of Jehovah, which is full of majesty. Some, by having so large a portion, may be tempted to weary of it, as Israel did of the daily manna, and to read it in a slight and careless manner. This would be fearfully provoking to God. Be careful lest this word be true of you: “‘And you say, “What a burden!” and you sniff at it contemptuously,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Mal 1:13)
(4.) A yoke too heavy to bear. Some may engage in reading with eagerness for a time, and afterwards feel it a burden, grievous to be carried. They may find their conscience dragging them through the appointed task without any relish of the heavenly food. If this be the case with any, throw aside the shackle, and feed at liberty in the sweet garden of God. My desire is not to cast a snare upon you, but to be a helper of your joy.
If there be so many dangers, why propose such a scheme at all? To this I answer, that the best things are accompanied with danger, as the fairest flowers are often gathered in the clefts of some dangerous cliff. So then, let us weigh the advantages:
(1.) The whole Bible will be read through in an orderly manner in the course of a year: The Old Testament once, the New Testament and Psalms twice. I fear many of you never read the whole Bible; and yet it is all equally Divine, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect” (2 Tim 3:16). If we pass over some parts of Scripture, we shall be incomplete Christians.
(2.) Time will not be wasted in choosing what verses to read. Often believers are at a loss to determine towards which part of the mountains of spices they should bend their steps. Here the question will be solved at once in a very simple manner.
(3.) Parents will have regular subjects to discuss with their children. It is much to be desired that family devotions were made more instructive than they generally are. The mere reading of the chapter is often too like water spilt on the ground. Let it be read by every member of the family beforehand, and then the meaning and application can be drawn out by simple question and answer. The reading calendar will be helpful in this. Friends, also, when they meet, will have a subject for profitable conversation in the passage read that day. The meaning of difficult passages may be inquired from the more judicious and mature Christians, and the fragrance of simpler Scriptures spread abroad.
(4.) The pastor will know in what part of the pasture the flock are feeding. He will thus be enabled to speak more suitably to them on Sunday; and both pastor and elders will be able to drop a word of light and comfort in visiting from house to house, which will be more readily responded to.
(5.) The sweet bond of Christian love and unity will be strengthened. We shall be often led to think of those dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, here and elsewhere, who agree to join with us in reading those same passages. We shall more often be led to agree on earth, regarding something we shall ask of God. We shall pray over the same promises, mourn over the same confessions, praise God in the same songs, and be nourished by the same words of eternal life.
–Robert Murray McCheyne, December 1842
Have a blessed 2019, and hide his Word in your hearts this next year!
Note: the RMM Bible plan (called the M’Cheyne plan) in both one and two year versions on the YouVersion Bible app as well as in the links above.