Reading The Scriptures

God wants us to know the scriptures; he wants us to read them or have them read to us, and for good reasons! Both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach this by way of commands and examples.

In the Old Testament we read: So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying: At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, "when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 31:9-13).

Furthermore, when God foretold of the time Israel would have a king, He instructed: " Also it shall be, when he ( Israel s king, h.h.) sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). God wanted the leaders of Israel — priests and kings — to be readers of the law, but He wanted the rest of Israel to hear it, also. God wanted all to fear Him and obey Him; reading the law would help ensure all having the right attitude toward God and obeying Him.

One outstanding Old Testament character was Daniel; many good things could be said of Daniel. At a young age he purposed not to defile himself (Daniel 1:8); he was also prayerful and faithful, refusing to compromise his principles of godliness even if it meant his death (Daniel 6). We know also that he read the scriptures and that the things he read encouraged him in prayer and penitence. Daniel, himself, wrote: In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans — in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes (Daniel 9:1-2).

Consider one more Old Testament example—- Nehemiah 8. On this occasion the children of Israel have returned from the Babylonian captivity and restored Jerusalem and her walls.

Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law (Nehemiah 8:1-3).

Through this reading of scripture, Israel became aware of how they had neglected certain commands of God and began to obey Him.

In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus, our supreme example, read the scriptures and expected others to have read them. Luke records this about Jesus: So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read (Luke 4:16). This was Jesus custom ; entering the synagogue to teach or to read the scriptures was something Jesus did regularly. Furthermore, Jesus often asked others, Have you not read ? (Matthew 12:5; 19:4; 21:16; 22:31; Luke 10:26). Had these people to whom Jesus addressed this question read the scriptures attentively, they could have avoided the spiritual ignorance, error, and disobedience that plagued them.

The New Testament also records for us the example of the Ethiopian eunuch, who, while returning from worship in Jerusalem, was reading the scriptures — in particular, from the prophet Isaiah (Acts 8:30). While the eunuch did not, at first, understand what he was reading, that scripture opening gave the evangelist, Philip, a place to start preaching Jesus to him; this led to the eunuch s conversion and salvation.

The wording of many of the New Testament epistles by Paul (2Corinthians 1:13; Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 4:16; 1Thessalonians 5:27) and the Revelation recorded by John (Revelation 1:1-3) shows that inspired letters were written to be read by the brethren. Blessings awaited those who read them attentively.

If reading the scriptures helped others to fear God and obey Him, will it not do the same for us? If reading the scriptures helped Daniel to be prayerful and penitent, can it not help us in our service to God? If reading the scriptures helped spark a revival among the Jews in the days of Nehemiah, can it not lead us to new life, also? If it was Jesus custom to read the scriptures, should it not be ours, too? If reading the scriptures could have helped some avoid spiritual ignorance and error, will reading them not help us avoid these things, also? Paul once exhorted Timothy, give attention to reading (1Timothy 4:13). We would be wise to give attention to the reading of the scriptures; God encourages us to do so by commands and examples and blesses those who do.