“The Bible is more often studied and searched and scrutinized and analyzed and theologized and memorized and dipped into and skimmed and scanned—all worthy and important actions—than it is read, that is really read. . . . The Bible is so constituted that it provides for and encourages a diversity of approaches that serve a diversity of needs. The formal study of Scripture yields knowledge and skills essential to accurate understanding and exegesis. The less formal approaches minister to the soul during personal times alone with God as well as in the gathered group. But what can get left out, what tends to fall through the cracks, is simply reading—what goes on when our attention is clenched to a page, captivated by a line of thought, adventuring within a biblical scene or situation we have staged in our minds.” So begins the introduction of a book by Ronald Horton entitled Alive to the Purpose.
His work is not an attack on serious, deep study, meditation, or memorization. Nor is it dismissive of the requirement that we believe and obey God’s Word. Rather, it is a reminder that reading God’s Word is the first essential. (We cannot study, meditate, or memorize without first reading. Nor can we believe and obey what we have not read.) Further, it serves as a reminder that we never outgrow the need to read God’s Word. Spirit-governed reading will blossom into the other activities mentioned above. I would say that it is especially critical to teach our children to read God’s Word, to help them recognize that great portions of it are naturally captivating: the historical accounts that read like a fascinating novel or short story, the rich poetic passages in Psalms and many of the prophetic books, the pithy sayings found in Proverbs, the biographical passages on the life of Christ, and the very real letters addressed to very real people with very real problems and needs. That is, I would say that, but I don’t because, regardless of our age or maturity, we never outgrow the need to read God’s Word.
Every student of the Bible is familiar with the blessing that opens the last book of the Bible: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). We almost always hasten to emphasize the “hear” and “heed” parts of this promise—and properly so. But the initial independent clause—“Blessed is he who reads”—separated from the remainder of the sentence with the conjunction and suggests that reading is a separate function warranting its own distinct blessing.
Reading is a productive activity that leads to more productive activity. Consider these words: “Then he [Moses] took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’” (Ex. 24:7). Scripture records the fact that Moses read the Law to the people after God had given it to him on Mt. Sinai. Joshua read the Law to the people after the military defeat at Ai exposed their sin (Josh. 8:34, 35). Nehemiah read the Law to all the people who had returned to Israel from Babylonian captivity “from early morning until midday” (Neh. 8:3b) after the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt and again “daily, from the first day to the last day” (8:18b) during the seven days of the Feast of Booths. At least six times in Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus is recorded as having asked, “Have you not read . . . ?” as He cited a pertinent portion of the Old Testament. The apostle Paul writes this: “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16); and again, “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (I Thess. 5:27).
Young, old, immature, mature—we should read the Word of God. Reading is not to be the end; neither should it be viewed as just a beginning. Yes, it is possible to read the Word mechanically and from a legalistic sense of duty. However, “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Is your reading careless or casual? Read anyway. It may just be that the sword of the Spirit will lay bare your coldness, convict, and sanctify you.
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