Bible in a Year Reading Plan

August 2020

READ THE BIBLE IN A YEAR
So the end is in sight, these are the Bible readings for our penultimate
month of ‘The Bible in a Year’ we usually don’t produce a Family News
magazine in August and so next month you may just receive a leaflet
with your readings and notes on.
Well done for getting this far, it hasn’t always been easy has it – some
chapters and even books of the Bible are definitely easier to read than
others, and while sometimes it has been a joy to read and to explore
God’s word we have to admit that sometimes it has felt like hard work.
And yet the discipline to settle down each day wherever possible and
spend quality time exploring the word of God is something that is infinitely valuable and a discipline that we should continue forward even when
the reading plan for this year is completed.
This month we are reading:
Joel
Author: Joel
Date written: 400 – 350BC (or 900BC)
Type of Book: Prophecy
Key Characters: The people of God and the locust swarm
Major Themes: God will give back what the locust has taken
The backdrop to the book of Joel is the exile (though there is an argument for a much earlier date of around 900BC), the city had been destroyed and the majority of people taken to be slave in Persia (known as
Babylon at the time of the exile). Those still in Jerusalem were making
very slow progress in rebuilding the Temple and the city walls, and this
was becoming a frustrating process. The farmers needed to recover
from the onslaught of the Babylonian military, when many farmlands had
been torched and trampled. On top of the destruction of the land and
their city comes a prophetic word of an immediate natural disaster involving locusts. In Joel 1:13-14 the writer calls the people to a day of mourning, prayer, and repentance for the disaster, and to seek God’s forgiveness.

Ezekiel
Author: Joel
Date written: 570BC
Type of Book: Prophecy
Key Characters: Ezekiel, Gog, and the locations of Ammon, Moab,
Edom, Philistria, Tyre, Sidon and Egypt
Major Themes: God is not confined to Jerusalem; his people may worship him in Babylon, but one day the Temple and Jerusalem will be restored.
Ezekiel is one of the three major prophets found in the Bible, alongside
Isaiah and Jeremiah. He was an eccentric and dynamic prophet with creative ways of sharing his message, for example shaving off his hair (Ezekiel
5) digging a hole in the side of his house and climbing in (Ezekiel 12:5-12),
and spending 390 days lying on his left side and then forty days on his
right side (Ezekiel 4). The book explains that the destruction of Jerusalem
was divine penalty for the sins of the people and then points them back to
God’s loving mercy and a new future with a new Temple. His priestly
background means that Ezekiel often speaks about purity and holiness
and draws on temple imagery and practices; for example the image of the
winged ark of the covenant, found in the holy of holies in his chariot image
(Ezekiel 1), and his portrayal of the city’s destruction using elements of
priestly sacrifice at the altar, emphasising the sacrifice that God is making
(Ezekiel 9).
Daniel
Author: Daniel
Date written: 500BC
Type of Book: History/Prophecy
Key Characters: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius
Major Themes: YHWH remembers his people even when they are captive in another land
Daniel was a teenager when he was taken into exile, where he was trained
in the service of the court under the authority of Ashpenaz. He was at
least 60 years old by the time of Cyrus’ reign, when the first group of exiles returned to Jerusalem, but he was ne who remained in Babylon, his new
home. The ancient world believed that when a group of people were defeated it showed the defeat and weakness of their god. Israel’s defeat by
Babylon communicated further that Babylon’s empire and its gods were
stronger than Israel and YHWH. The book of Daniel is a careful response
to this idea, demonstrating that YHWH was still all powerful. As Daniel
and his friends choose to stand up against the religious practices of the
Babylonian people, God shows himself as the protector and liberator of
his people.
James
Author: James, brother of Jesus
Date Written: AD 60
Type of Book: Letter
Key Characters: James and the twelve tribes
Major Themes: The tongue can start great fires so guard it and be patient, even in suffering
James was writing from a Jerusalem that had changed dramatically since
Jesus’ crucifixion in AD 27. The relationship between the Jewish establishment and Rome had broken down, and the situation was volatile.
There was oppression from the authorities, and this angered the revolutionary groups, but they were even more infuriated by Rome’s taxes and
the dominance of the Roman fortress that overlooked the walls of the
Temple Mount.
James was ministering in a very unstable situation. The Romans were
out to restrain these “petty Jews”, the Jews were out to banish Roman
occupation, and the Christians were trying to keep their heads down.
Some Christians were joining the revolts against the Romans an others
were trying to distance themselves in the hope that things would eventually die down. James, writing to the Christians who had become scattered
because of the situation, calls them to keep pushing through the persecution and to watch what they say to help stabilise things. James wants the
church to remain holy and to practice resurrection life and patience in the
trials to come. 

1 Peter
Author: Peter
Date Written: AD 60 – 64
Type of Book: Letter
Key Characters: Peter, Silas
Major Themes: The hard times are coming, stand firm and commit to
holiness
Peter had experienced the harsh ways of Rome in his own village, Caperneum, with taxation going through the roof. The anger over this taxation left the Galileans feeling oppressed and as if in exile; even in their
own land they felt that there was nowhere to turn. This led to them describing the Roman empire as ‘Babylon’.
Babylon became a derogatory term for the military superpower of Rome.
When at the end of Peter’s first letter he writes that the church in Babylon
greets the writer, it is impossible for him to be physically in Babylon as it
had been destroyed many years previously; it is far more likely he meant
Rome. Peter, who once lived in a small fishing village on the sea of Galilee, is now living and ministering in Rome, the centre of the evil empire
that would later destroy Jerusalem.
2 Peter
Author: Peter
Date Written: AD 64-65
Type of Book: Letter
Key Characters: Peter, false teachers
Major Themes: Peter challenging the church to be holy and pleasing to
God
A group of Christian travellers had been visiting the early church, teaching a different theology from that taught by Peter and Paul. This heretical
teaching held first that there would never be a second coming and that
the concept was merely a metaphor, and second that salvation could be
fully experienced in this life and that there would not be a future judgement day of eternal life. Peter’s letter was intended to voice his worries
about these false teachings that were spreading around the communities
and to counteract their authority before things got out of hand.

Bible in a Year Reading Plan for August

Date Day NT Psalm/Proverb
1st 335 Daniel 7:1-8:14 1 John 2:12-27 Psalm 136:13-26
2nd 336 Daniel 8:15-9:19 1 John 2:28-3:10 Proverbs 29:10-18
3rd 337 Daniel 9:20-11:1 1 John 3:11-4:6 Psalm 137:1-9
4th 338 Daniel 11:2-35 1 John 4:7-21 Psalm 138:1-8
5th 339 Daniel 11:36-12:13 1 John 5:1-21 Psalm 139:1-10
6th 340 Haggai 1:1-2:23 2 John 1-13 Proverbs 29:19-27
7th 341 Zechariah 1:1-4:14 3 John 1-14 Psalm 139:11-16
8th 342 Zechariah 5:1-8:23 Jude 1-25 Psalm 139:17-24
9th 343 Zechariah 9:1-11:17 Revelation 1:1-20 Psalm 140:1-5
10th 344 Zechariah 12:1-14:21 Revelation 2:1-17 Proverbs 30:1-10
11th 345 Esther 1:1-2:18 Revelation 2:18-3:6 Psalm 140:6-13
12th 346 Esther 2:19-5:14 Revelation 3:7-22 Psalm 141:1-10
13th 347 Esther 6:1-8:17 Revelation 4:1-11 Psalm 142:1-7
14th 348 Esther 9:1-10:3 Revelation 5:1-14 Proverbs 30:11-23
15th 349 Malachi 1:1-2:16 Revelation 6:1-17 Psalm 143:1-12
16th 350 Malachi 2:17-4:6 Revelation 7:1-17 Psalm 144:1-8
17th 351 Ezra 1:1-2:67 Revelation 8:1-9:12 Psalm 144:9-15
18th 352 Ezra 2:68-4:5 Revelation 9:13-10:11 Proverbs 30:24-33
19th 353 Ezra 4:6-5:17 Revelation 11:1-19 Psalm 145:1-7
20th 354 Ezra 6:1-7:10 Revelation 12:1-13:1a Psalm 145:8-13a
21st 355 Ezra 7:11-8:14 Revelation 13:1b-18 Psalm 145:13b-21
22nd 356 Ezra 8:15-9:15 Revelation 14:1-13 Proverbs 31:1-9
23rd 357 Ezra 10:1-44 Revelation 14:14-15:8 Psalm 146:1-10
24th 358 Nehemiah 1:1-2:20 Revelation 16:1-21 Psalm 147:1-11
25th 359 Nehemiah 1:1-2:21 Revelation 16:1-22 Psalm 147:1-12
26th 360 Nehemiah 5:1-7:3 Revelation 18:1-17a Proverbs 31:10-20
27th 361 Nehemiah 7:4-8:18 Revelation 18:17b-19:10 Psalm 148:1-6
28th 362 Nehemiah 9:1-37 Revelation 19:11-21 Psalm 148:7-14
29th 363 Nehemiah 9:38-11:21 Revelation 20:1-15 Psalm 149:1-9
30th 364 Nehemiah 11:22-12:47 Revelation 21:1-27 Proverbs 31:21-31
31st 365 Nehemiah 13:1-31 Revelation 22:1-21 Psalm 150:1-6

And so we have reached our final set of Bible in a Year readings – and then you
can give yourself a pat on the back – you will have read through the Bible cover
to cover in a year! Well done! The challenge will be to not set this new found
daily reading habit aside, but to either restart again, or to find a new Bible reading challenge to begin in September.
If you have been reading but have fallen behind – don’t panic, keep going! You
are doing brilliantly! Its not a race! If you need copies of any of the plan from
any of the previous months please do let me know, I will be happy to email them
to you.
Thanks for joining me on this adventure – I can’t wait to hear your favourite bits,
or to discuss anything that you have discovered.
This month we are reading:
Haggai
Author: Haggai
Date written: 520BC
Type of Book: Prophecy
Key Characters: Haggai, Zerubbabel, and Joshua son of Jehozadak the high
priest.
Major Themes: YHVH calls his people not to be lazy but to build a new house
of worship and prayer.
Haggai is set during the period between Babylon’s destruction and the return of
Nehemiah to rebuild the city walls and the Temple, and is one of the most precisely dated books in the Bible, as he records exactly the dates on which events
happen.
The book of Haggai is a sharp reminder that the people needed to rebuild the
Temple. The people had some very good excuses: first they had received very
strong opposition from the locals who were complaining about the building work.
These ‘enemies’ went to Zerubbabel, a diplomat and member of Judah’s royal
family, asking if they could help build the temple, probably in order to hinder the
work, but on being told they weren’t wanted they set about sabotaging construction work through intimidation and bureaucracy. The other issue was that the
wealthy people were happy with their lives; they had built houses for themselves
with expensive wood panelled walls.

Their wealth had made them lazy and unwilling to put the hard work in; their
lives had become settled and they didn’t want to use their money on rebuilding
the temple, a very costly project.
Zechariah
Author: Zechariah
Date written: 520BC
Type of Book: Prophecy
Key Characters: Joshua, Zerubbabel, Jehozadak, Judah and Zion
Major Themes: The King is coming, we must get ready
The first eight chapters of Zechariah are very similar in content to Haggai, although they are presented in a very different way. Zechariah presents his visions
as a series of scenes where another world is possible, in which YHWH is present. After chapter 9 it becomes a prophetic vision for a future beyond that
which anyone could imagine; a future with a new hope, with a Messiah right at
the centre, and a world built on love, justice, and mercy.
The vision of Zechariah opens up beyond the Jews, to a world where the Gentiles will be welcomed into the story, and the arrival of a new order, where the
Messiah, the King, will come in power. There is a picture of Zion shouting and
welcoming in the new king who comes with salvation and righteousness, riding
on the foal of a donkey. This king will call in a time of peace: the chariots, warhorses, and battle bow will be broken and destroyed, and his rule will extend
beyond the sea.
Verse 11 says that the blood of his covenant will free the prisoners from the pit,
and the world will be free. Zechariah’s book is more complex than the other minor prophets because of his use of visions, many of which are unclear in their
meaning and seem to reflect a division within Jerusalem itself. However, even
though at times the images are bleak, there is a hope of a better, brighter future.

Esther
Author: Unknown
Date written: 400-300BC
Type of Book: comedy, (fictional) history
Key Characters: Esther, King Xerxes, Haman and Mordecai
Major Themes: The struggle involved in being a follower of YHWH in a foreign
land
The book of Esther is the central reading for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Its
traditionally read publicly in the synagogue and is accompanied by noisy booing at the Prime Minister Haman’s name by both children and adults. Another
notable point about the reading is that those attending wear fancy dress. The
event is really a mock re-enactment of the story, with partying, much drinking,
and a strong party feel. To completely understand the story you need to read it
in the Hebrew, as the story in the original language is a comedy of misunderstandings between Xerxes and Haman in chapters 6 and 7, which climaxes in
gales of laughter. The tale is based on improbabilities, exaggerations, misunderstandings and reversals focussed around luxury bordering on greed, the
comedy of Persian law, extreme parties, and their renowned communication
system. A good example of this is in chapter 1 where drunken nobles hope to
eye up the queen naked. Then in chapter 2 the harem applies enough make
up for a whole year in preparation for one night’s sex with the king. The decadence of the Persian court, the ten drinking banquets, the cosmetics and the
naked dancing all depict comic excess.
Malachi
Author: Malachi
Date Written: 510BC
Type of Book: Prophecy
Key Characters: God as Father, the coming Messiah, Temple priests, and the
people of Jerusalem.
Major Themes: To correct the religious and social behaviour of the Jews in
Jerusalem
Malachi prophecies into a world that had been destroyed, captured, and released, where not only did the city need rebuilding but also the people needed
to find their hope- not in the stability of wealth or building projects, but in their
heavenly Father. Malachi writes as one of the last OT prophets, and his message describes a city in need of the living God.

From the detail given in the book, it is most probably dated Nehemiah and the
work of Haggai and Zechariah, as the Temple was still being used as a place of
ritual and not of worship. Malachi prophecies that the people should just shut
the doors of the Temple because their fires on the altar are worthless, nothing
but empty rituals. The clean up of the city had started, but people had focussed
on their own comforts and homes and had neglected the Temple, leaving
YHWH, Israel’s Father, to live in an abandoned, crippled Temple.
Ezra
Author: Ezra
Date Written: 440BC
Type of Book: History
Key Characters: King Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Ezra and Jeshua
Major Themes: The book of Ezra is a chronicle of hope, dreams and restoration.
In 586 BC the Babylonians had dragged the people of Judah into exile, leaving
them crushed and disheartened in a foreign land. Around 50 years later, the
empire fell to Cyrus the Great and the Persian empire, which became the largest empire the world has ever seen, leaving behind a wealth of art and artifacts.
The Persian leaders were passionate to see people and religious artefacts returned to the lands from which they came, and to see other kingdoms rebuilt,
albeit under their governance. As a result, Cyrus chose to allow God’s people
to go back home to make a fresh start.
This then became a period of rebuilding the Jewish faith and community. Rabbinic tradition holds Ezra key in this event and has referred to him as the
‘flowers that appear on the earth’, an allusion to the appearance of spring after
a long winter: new life was appearing where it had previously not been possible
under Babylonian rule. The book of Ezra shows how God was at work to redeem his people and the land he had promised. Ezra tells us that God bought
favour on the Persian ruler, who then gives permission and help to the Israelites
in their goal

Nehemiah
Author: Ezra
Date Written: 440BC
Type of Book: History
Key Characters: Nehemiah, King Artaxerxes, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem
Major Themes: Rebuilding the security of the city, Temple worship, and the holiness of the people.
During the exile, Israel came to terms with their new home and developed a new
sense of what it meant for them to be committed to YHWH and to worship him
away from Jerusalem. The faith that developed was no longer based on a location but on YHWH himself; this caused a shift in how he was worshipped, and
the people developed an understanding of him as the God of all creation. This
passion to worship YHWH helped them form a new kind of Judaism, based on
the old but relating in a more substantial way to the wider world. This new Judaism then came back to Jerusalem with Ezra, Nehemiah and the others returning
home.
1, 2, 3 John
Author: John, son of Zebedee
Date Written: AD 85-95
Type of Book: Letter
Key Characters: The chosen lady, Gaius, Diotrephes and Demetrius
Major Themes: We are all sinful, but we are called to walk in the light as God is
in the light.
The early church was struggling with serious divisions, and it was increasingly
hard to instruct the growing church in theology. The result was the emergence of
differing opinions and heresies. The big debate at the time was whether Jesus
was both human and divine. This dispute was fuelled by Greek ideas that the
world was physical, with a separate and distinct spiritual realm. The growing
idea was that the two realms could not co-exist, which would make it impossible
for Jesus to be part of both. One of several heresies going around was that Jesus only appeared to be human but was in fact a spirit that had entered into his
body at his baptism, and that the same spirit had left Jesus just before his crucifixion.
John knew that this was not right, and he writes to challenge this, and other heresies, by arguing that the Christian faith has to be firmly rooted in a correct understanding that Jesus was completely human as well as totally divine.

Jude
Author: Jude, brother of Jesus
Date Written: AD 60 – 80
Type of Book: Letter
Key Characters: Jesus, Sodom and Gomorrah, Michael and Moses, Cain and
Balaam, Enoch and Adam
Major Themes: Avoid the dangerous doctrines and unholy lifestyle of heretical
false teachers.
The Jewish people had endured Egypt and Babylon and then had had to wait a
long time for their messiah. They had done a lot of crying out and waiting, but
now they had seen all the messianic prophecies come to life in Jesus. But since
his death and resurrection, people had been waiting for his return, and as time
went on they were beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen. Jude writes to
remind them that just as the people were delivered out of Egypt, so too today
God will not abandon them. But for some it had been too long, and Jude had
heard of church leaders manipulating people for their own benefit, telling people
lies, and spreading hatred of the apostles. Jude’s letter is a clear case for seeking out holy leaders who teach the true gospel.
Revelation
Author: John
Date Written: AD 90-96
Type of Book: Apocalyptic
Key Characters: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia,
Laodicea, the dragon, the beast, and the lamb.
Major Themes: The battle is going to be great, but the Almighty God will prevail
Revelation’s use of symbols and figurative language relates directly to some of
the Bible’s other prophetic writings found in the Old Testament, such as Daniel
and Zechariah. The style of text is figurative and metaphorical which means
that it can be hard to see what is fact and what is intended to be understood as
symbolic.
Whilst exiled from Rome on the island of Patmos, John received a series of visions that provide some clarity about the confusion and doubt surrounding issue
of why evil was triumphing over good, and whether this would be the end for the
followers of Jesus.

Although many of the visions are almost impossible to understand, it is clear that
John believed that YHWH was the absolute ruler and that evil would be banished.
The second and third chapters of Revelation focus on seven churches in the Roman province of Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. John’s letter to the seven churches was to comfort them and
bring them hope in Jesus as the true Lord. God gave John his revelation because the church needed to know that however horrific things became,
they would be put right in the end. In the centre of the weird and wonderful images and creatures is a story with a simple message: YHWH
created, he will create again, and he will win.