The intensity and privilege of reading the Bible for eight hours a day
How Naomi Reed’s life was changed by getting into God’s word
Author and former missionary Naomi Reed had no idea how intense it would be to write A Time to Hope, a new devotional that systematically works its way through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, over 365 days.
The bestselling author of My Seventh Monsoon, written about her time in Nepal (and author of Eternity‘s Faith Stories), suggested the devotional book idea to her publisher because she was frustrated with the random style of Bible verses which would show up on her Facebook feed.
“One of my peeves is that I’ve noticed we often use the Bible in a scattered, disjointed way,” explains Reed. “A Bible verse and picture will pop up on my Facebook feed and it’s not connected to the whole context of Scripture, or even to the person posting it. It always makes me wonder why they’re posting that particular verse today. How has it impacted them? I think that’s partly why I started gathering Faith Stories – to show that God is at work in the world, through his Word, in amazing ways, in changing individual lives.
“But I also thought it would be wonderful to write a devotional book that would go through the whole Bible systematically – to see that the Bible is God’s grand story and his amazing offer of redemption and restoration, that he had from the beginning of the time and that he will bring about in all its beauty and fullness.”
Receiving an enthusiastic ‘yes’ from her publishers, Reed sat down in February last year and spent the working hours of every single day systematically reading her Bible, and writing her reflections, until she finished the first draft of her manuscript last August.
“I had no idea how long and intense it was going to be,” she tells Eternity.
“I was in the Scriptures eight hours a day. I had all my commentaries around me and, incredibly, I loved it – I’ve never been that immersed.”
She said it was more immersive than the experience of reading the whole Bible at Bible College, with the goal of learning it or writing an exam.
This time, she allowed God to “read” her and allowed herself to respond in such a way that she could bring something to share.
“Perhaps I was doing a bit of an experiment on myself. If I were to read the Bible all day, every day, would it change me? And the answer was absolutely, yes! Being so immersed in God’s word was amazing. It meant that my perspective shifted. Whenever challenges occurred in my life, which they frequently did, my first response was to see them through the lens of God’s long story and his sovereignty and faithfulness in bringing about his plan through Christ. It was very helpful!”
Reed did not plan how she was going to create 365 entries in her A Time to Hope devotional, but as it turned out she didn’t need to.
“When I finished Revelation 22, I just cried and cried.” – Naomi Reed
“I read the Bible through, every chapter, and I included anything that I thought was really important, in terms of theme and narrative, or that God astounded me with. Amazingly, I got to Malachi when I was up to day 182, which was exactly halfway, and then I got to Revelation 22 at day 365. When I finished Revelation, I just cried and cried. I felt quite overcome by the privilege of being immersed in God’s word,” she reveals.
“I was also amazed again by the process of reading the Old Testament and feeling the weight of the problem and the inability of humankind to do anything about it, to solve our own hearts. I think it’s helpful for all of us to sit with that feeling for an extended time, to sit with the need for a Saviour and then feel the incredible delight at reading the Gospels and the New Testament.”
Reed drew up by hand detailed summaries of all her commentaries to ensure that she didn’t repeat any of her stories, kept track the themes and covered everything.
Asked if she ever felt overwhelmed by the task she had taken on, Reed said she definitely felt she might not get to the end when she was going through the minor prophets.
“I was really struggling. Even in Kings and Ezekiel and Jeremiah, it was hard going – feeling the weight of our forgetful, disobedient natures and how we can’t fix it ourselves. But we need to remember that because without feeling the weight of the longing and the burden, how would we ever sense the beauty of Jesus? We wouldn’t. So, we must sit with the curse, and the results of the fall in order to appreciate our need for Jesus.”
“It’s an incredible ending, it’s just the most glorious ending.” – Naomi Reed
For Reed, reaching the book of Revelation was, well, a revelation!
“I’ve studied Revelation before, but getting to it this time in the context of having read the whole Bible at pace, was like whoa! It’s hard work, of course, reading apocalyptic literature, but it’s an incredible ending. It’s the most glorious ending, particularly in chapter 1 when we see the vision of Jesus and then the final image of the redemption we await. It’s left me on a high!”