It’s 7:30 pm, do you know where your children are? Kicking a football into the neighbor’s yard, playing video games, watching Andy Griffith or Disney Plus? Families have some kind of evening routine, whether it’s done intentionally or by default. Most of us like the idea of being intentional. Just like we like the idea of exercising more and not wasting so much time on social media. And something else we probably like the idea of being intentional about is family devotions. Who doesn’t like the idea of their family gathered together in the living room or around the dinner table reading and discussing the Word of God? But being intentional about family worship is hard. And the reasons are legion. Mom and dad have been working hard all day and need a break. The kids, if not staring at a screen, are either doing homework or running wild. It’s a wonder if everyone remembers to brush their teeth, let alone make time for family worship. But David Murray has written a book to help families; and he’s written it like he gets all this. Exploring the Bible Together: A 52-Week Family Worship Plan is realistic. It’s doable. It’s easy to use. You’re still going to have to wrangle everyone together and make time for family devotions, but you couldn’t ask for a simpler tool to meaningfully guide your family through Scripture day after day, week after week.
Its simplicity is a boon for families. Simple is good. Frazzled families with hectic lives want simple. It’s why ice cream makers advertise how they make their ice cream with only three ingredients. And it still delights. So does Exploring the Bible Together. Couched as an expedition of exploration, each week has a theme and introduction. There’s a topic heading for each day that nests with the week’s theme and an optional memory verse. The Scripture readings are short. You only read four or five verses from the Bible. There are only two discussion questions—one for younger children to answer and one for older children to answer. And to break things down Barney style, the book gives you the answers. There’s a short point of application and a suggestion to guide your prayer time. For Sundays, there’s just a list of discussion questions you can use to reflect on the sermon you heard at church. The whole thing requires zero prep. And if you follow the material, your family has the recipe for a year’s worth of profitable worship time. Several other features enhance this book. The introduction is required reading. Murray briefly discusses a biblical view of family worship. He has a few tips for using this study, and he explains how to use it. Then there are the pictures. The eye-catching artwork by Scotty Reifsnyder is sharp. It’s impressive what he’s done with just the colors red and blue.
Keep in mind this is a guide to exploring the Bible. Murray follows the broad contours of Scripture. He’s aiming to hit the peaks. You’re not going to read anything from some books such as Ruth and Esther. And there are going to be some leaps. Murray covers the monarchy of Judah and Babylonian exile in a single week. But, overall, I felt the pacing was good. The only adjustment I would make would be to reduce the four weeks spent on the Sermon on the Mount. Also bear in mind that Murray writes from a Reformed perspective. So when you encounter the very few occasions the kingdom comes up, if you’re a premillennialist like me, you’ll probably say something a little different than “Jesus, the son of David, set up an everlasting spiritual kingdom” (56). In the grand scheme, Murray doesn’t make these hermeneutical issues a major thrust of the book. Non-amillennialists need not fear.
If there’s a time Christians have needed to evaluate their family worship, it’s been the past several months. But even when regular church services are back in full swing, families should still be worshipping together at home. This book is a great way to start. After you make it through the year-long expedition, there are recommendations for a way forward such as reading through a Gospel together and then moving on to the Old Testament. This book is a needed reminder of the importance of family worship and a great resource to make it a reality.
Special thanks to Crossway for providing me temporary access to a digital copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding this work.