Since becoming a Christian 35 years ago I’ve lost count of the number of preachers who emphasized the importance of reading the Word (I’m one of those preachers). It’s good counsel. I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover many times and as a result, I have come to love the Lord more deeply, know Him more fully, and obey Him more gladly.
Surprisingly, the Bible emphasizes hearing, not reading the Scriptures. From the biblical perspective, it’s not the eye-gate; it’s the ear-gate through which we’re primarily invited to engage with the Word. The emphasis in both the Old and New Testaments is that God has spoken at many times and in many ways (cf. Hebrews 1:1) and that we should “listen” and “hear” God’s Word (cf. Proverbs 4:20-22; Luke 11:28; Romans 10:17).
An underlying reason why we may be more inclined to read the Bible could be individualism. Reading can be done privately, exclusively, and independently. It can be done in bed or on the bus, in the garden or in the gazebo. All we need is the text (printed or online), reading glasses (75% of adults), and we’re good to go.
Listening to the Bible isn’t as easy as reading the Bible because it requires two or more people. To hear God’s Word we need to be connected relationally – it can never be a solo affair. Someone has to read aloud in order for someone to hear. And the moment this occurs the process becomes more complex. For unlike reading; listening requires dependence, patience and humility.
Christian faith occurs in the context of community. Because we’re in a relationship with God, and others, we should make a concerted effort to create opportunities for public reading and listening to Scripture. Communal auditory engagement with the Bible shouldn’t play second fiddle to a private reading of the Bible. “Turn your ear to my words” says the Lord (cf. Proverbs 4:20).
Which begs a question: You may be reading the Word – but are you hearing it?
[Note: When the Scriptures mention the Bible being read it’s usually in the context of the community listening and hearing the Word, e.g. 2 Kings 22-23, Acts 15:21, 1 Thessalonians 5:27, 1 Timothy 4:13]
© Scripture Union Canada 2013