1 Timothy 4:13 (NASB95)
13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
As we mentioned a couple weeks ago in a call to worship, traditions are unavoidable. Every church has traditions. The important element in traditions is recalling the distinction between our traditions and the Word of God and constantly subjecting our traditions to the Word of God.
Among the traditions which we have as a congregation, one of them is reading various passages from the Word of God each Lord’s Day. Apart from the sermon text, we read Old and New Testament passages. Why do this?
The passage today answers this question. For while many of our traditions are simply applications of biblical principles, the public reading of the Word of God is the implementation of a biblical tradition. Paul exhorts Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture.” Likewise, John in the book of Revelation pronounces his blessing on the one who was to read in worship the book he was composing. Reading portions of the Word of God each Lord’s Day is not simply a church tradition – it is one that has apostolic precedent.
Given that Paul places such a premium on reading the Word of God in our public assembly, how ought we to approach this activity? First, how ought the Word of God to be read? The Scriptures give us a number of principles. It ought to be read with reverence and awe for it is the Word of the Living God, the God who is a consuming fire. It ought to be read in a language that God’s people can understand – for when Ezra read the Word to the people of God in the Old Testament he translated to give the sense so that the people could understand the reading (Neh 8:8). It ought to be read with joy – for the Word is life itself, giving us wisdom and direction for our lives. Finally, it ought to be read with discretion – giving due attention to the tone of the passage – whether it is pronouncing doom upon the unrepentant or comfort to the afflicted; tone matters.
Second, what ought we to do who are listening to the Word of God? What should characterize the listeners? We are told in Nehemiah 8:3 that “all the people were attentive to the book of the law.” And this is our first and primary obligation. We should be straining our ears to hear the Words of the living God. Our ears should be attentive to His message; all our being should be focused on God’s revelation of Himself. Taking every thought captive, let us hear what the reading is announcing to us today.
And, having heard, let us not be like the man who looks at his face in a mirror and immediately forgets what sort of person he is. No, rather let us not only give ear to the Word but as God uses it to poke and prod us, let us give heed to in in the alteration of our attitudes and actions.
This reminds us that we often fail to give heed God’s Word as we ought. Our attention is often distracted when it is read. Our own opinions often intrude. Our heart often refuses to obey when we have heard. Let us then draw near to God and ask Him to cleanse us of our faults.