What is a good practice for believers as it concerns Bible reading? Should we really be spending time in the word every day? Or, is it possible that this is a legalistic requirement made up by people who were trying to help us along with their own best guesses?
I think we can say that there is no, particular, certain, biblical requirement as to exactly how much time we must spend in Scripture or how regularly we open the Bible. At the same time, there are places in Scripture that show us what is wise and helpful. And we should take those verses very seriously as we seek to know and please the Lord.
Joshua 1:8 – This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
When God was preparing Joshua and the Israelites to cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, he gave Joshua a charge regarding the written law of God. Joshua was to meditate on the law of God day and night. That word of God was not to be out of his mind. It was to be a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute concern for the new leader of the people. And, God let Joshua know that such meditation would help him to live well before God and to be blessed with success as he and the Israelites went into the promised land.
How then could we not think that what God said to Joshua would be helpful to people like you and me? Joshua needed to daily meditate on the word of God. So, while there is no biblical requirement, no rulesy standard to follow, God has made it plain that daily time in the word, at least for Joshua, is a good thing. But if this is good for Joshua, it must also be good for us. So, I would argue that it is wise for us to consider taking time each day to be in the word of God. We should read Scripture, pray over it, consider it deeply, and remember it.
How long each day should we spend in the Scriptures? Obviously that will be different for each person. How well can you read? How well can you think? How easy or how hard is it for you to focus on important truths? How long does it take you to study and understand a passage of Scripture? All of these are factors that have to come into play.
At the same time, notice that God told Joshua not to let that word of the law depart from his mouth. God’s word was to be constantly on his mind and in his speech. Joshua had to spend enough time in the word that it flowed out of him. How long would you need to spend in the word every day in order for it to flow naturally out of you? I cannot set that time for you. However, if you only give the word of God a passing glance in the morning or in the evening, I would bet that you are not having it flow out of your life like your breath. If you are only reading a short, shallow devotional, you are probably not being changed by the word in such a way as to let the word become a part of your very mind and being.
Also note that Joshua was to study the word, speak the word, meditate on the word, and remember the word so that he could obey the word. What will it take from your daily time in the word to help you to know and understand it well enough to obey it? That is the main question. For some, the time will be shorter. For others the time will be longer. But for all of us, the time needs to be a commitment that leads us to life-changing obedience.
Friends, the word of God is a treasure. God speaks to us in the pages of Scripture. We hear his voice in the word. We see his character and his ways in the word. We learn what is right and what is wrong with us in the word. We learn what we are to be inn his word. We learn how to find the joy of his glory in his word. May we therefore never neglect his word. May we love God enough to regularly, daily, spend time, significant time, in his word to know him and to follow him.