“The 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, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. 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.” Rev. 1:1-3
It is always dangerous to introduce things into the worship of the Triune God that have no grounding in the Word of God. The reason for this is obvious. We as human beings are corrupt and prone to idolatry. We drink iniquity like water. We study 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 this practice because we think it’s a good idea or because it genuinely reflects 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 revealed:
“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 listener, indicating that this was an oral communication of truth. John expected that in the assembly of God’s people the Word of God would be publicly read.
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.
And so let me encourage us to use each Lord’s Day as an opportunity to train our ears to listen attentively to the Word of God. Let us train our ears to listen with care – allowing our Lord to speak and transform us for His glory. Let us not treat the reading of the Word as simply one more activity to check off in our worship but rather as one more opportunity for God to break up our fallow ground and teach us to live in fear of Him all our days.
Reminded of our failure to give heed to the Word of our Heavenly Father, let us confess our sins to Him and pray that He would grant us hearing ears. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel as we confess.