1The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. 3Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
It is always dangerous to introduce things into the worship of the Triune God that have no grounding in Sacred Scripture. The reason is that we human beings are corrupt and prone to idolatry. We drink iniquity like water. We find ways to subvert the worship of the true and living God and to replace pure worship with the traditions of men.
And so it is always good to ask questions of our service of worship. Are the things we are doing reflective of the patterns and principles laid out in the Word of God? Have we introduced certain practices simply because we think they are good ideas or because they faithfully reflect biblical principles?
The text in Revelation today addresses one of these practices. It helps us understand why the Church has historically included the reading of Scripture in the service of worship. For if we look carefully at the words in verse 3 we find this practice mentioned:
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”
John pronounces his blessing both on the reader of the biblical text and on the hearers. In other words, the Apostle John expected that the Word of God would be read in the public assembly of God’s people.
Knowing that our practice of reading the Word of God aloud each Lord’s Day is biblical requires us to ask another set of questions. For it is not enough to read the Word of God aloud and to hear its vibrational tones in our ear drums. We must read in a particular way and we must hear in a particular way.
First, how ought we to read the Word of God? The answer, quite simply, is that the Word of God should be read as though it were the Word of God – divinely powerful and authoritative, living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing as far as the joints and marrow, separating light from darkness, and wisdom from folly. The Word of God should be read as though we believe it.
Second, how ought we to listen to the Word of God? We ought to listen so as to be transformed by it. Notice that the blessing in the passage is pronounced not on the one who notices the general hum of the passage in his otherwise preoccupied mind, but on the one who hears and keeps the things revealed in it. We should listen to the Word of God in order to be transformed by it.
So what of you? Those who read for us, are you considering the passage carefully as you prepare, paying attention to meaning and tone? You who hear, are you using each Lord’s Day as an opportunity to train your ears to listen attentively to the Word of God? Are you training your ears, and the ears of your children, to listen with care – allowing our Lord to speak and transform us for His glory? Are you listening carefully, that God may break up your fallow ground and teach you to live in fear of Him all your days? Or are you treating the reading of the Word as simply one more activity to check off in worship so that you can get to the donuts?
Reminded of our calling to read and listen to the Word of God in faith, let us acknowledge that we often fail to read His Word and to give heed to it as we ought. We are often distracted and inattentive. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.