Christians have many good reasons for reading the Bible, and many books and articles extol the merits of Bible reading. But what does the Bible say about reading the Bible? Here are ten observations:
Bible reading should be communal. The majority of texts that mention Bible reading speak about reading the Scriptures together. The first mention of Bible reading (Exodus 24:7) and the second last mention (1 Thessalonians 5:27) focus on communal Bible reading.
Bible reading should be public. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scriptures” 1 Timothy 4:13. The emphasis in the Scriptures is on getting it out in the open. Reading the Bible should never be a solely private affair. In as much as it’s possible, we should be reading the Bible to “all people.”
Bible reading should be personal. There are two direct references in the Bible to personal Bible reading. The first concerns Ezra, a priest and scribe, who read the Bible every day of his life (Nehemiah 8:18). The second concerns the Ethiopian eunuch reading the Scriptures in his chariot on his way home (Acts 8:28).
Bible reading happens in different places. Wherever God’s people gather, we should read the Bible. This includes, but is not limited to, open-air settings (Joshua 8:34-35, 2 Kings 23:2), synagogues (Luke 4:16-17), and local churches (Colossians 4:16).
Bible reading is a mandate for kings. Rulers should read God’s Word every day to learn to fear God, live in reverent obedience, and not become proud or arrogant (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).
Bible reading should be in big chunks. There are examples in the Old Testament of Bible reading that took a long time, sometimes hours on end (e.g. Nehemiah 8:3), and involved reading whole books (2 Chronicles 34:30). As we usually do with letters, the epistles in the New Testament were read in one sitting.
Bible reading should include interpretation. When the Bible is read publicly, we should clearly articulate it in a way that aids understanding and facilitates attentiveness (Nehemiah 8:8).
Bible reading is what God’s people do. Jesus often asked, “Haven’t you read?” (e.g. Mark 12:10, 26). Bible reading isn’t an optional extra in our everyday affairs. Jesus anticipated, expected, and considered it normal for God’s people.
Bible reading leads people to Christ. Bible reading was the catalyst for the Ethiopian eunuch to place his faith in Jesus and be baptized (Acts 8:26-38).
Bible reading brings blessing. God gives His favour and protection to people who read the Bible. The final mention in the Bible concerning Bible reading (Revelation 1:3) is about God blessing those who read His Word, listen to it, and obey it.
The scriptures cited above account for the majority of verses and texts that specifically reference Bible reading. Why doesn’t the Bible say a whole lot more about this vital spiritual discipline? Maybe because God expects us to do it (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:1-9), which should be reason enough!
© Scripture Union Canada 2021