Reading the Scriptures

Intro: Matthew 12:1-8 –At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” 3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Jesus was often confronted by the religious elite and those who claimed to possess religious authority in His time. Here in Matthew 12, Jesus’ disciples were charged with violating the Sabbath because they plucked the heads of standing stalks of grain as they walked past a field, rubbed the heads together, and ate the grain. The Pharisees interpreted this as threshing the grain, and thus a violation of the law prohibiting work on the Sabbath. The Talmud said, “If a person roils wheat to remove the husks, it is sifting. If he rubs the heads of wheat, it is threshing. If he cleans off the side adherences, it is sifting. If he bruises the ears, it is grinding. And if he throws it up in his hand, it is winnowing.”

Rabbinic tradition was not God’s law. But many centuries of observance had given it that status in the minds of most Jews, especially the legalistic scribes and Pharisees. God’s Word was honored in name and was the supposed basis for the traditions. But Scripture was not studied and obeyed directly; it was rather used as a means to justify the traditions, many of which actually contradicted and “invalidated the word of God” (Matthew 15:6– …you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.)

It is important to note that these Pharisees were arduous students of the scriptures. They read the law daily and studied the sacred books constantly. They made notes of very little importance, such as which was the middle verse of the entire Old Testament, which verse was half-way to the middle, and how many times such a letter or word occurred in the text. They compiled a mass of notes on each verse.

Jesus’ response to their accusations was perfectly engineered to confront not only what they said, but who they were.

I. Haven’t you read? (v. 3)… Haven’t you read in the law (v. 5)… If you had known (v. 7)… These were cutting questions to these Pharisees. They prided themselves on being readers of the law. He knew they had read the passages in question many times. But He also knew they did not know or understand the true meaning on the words. There are many who read regularly from God’s word who do not know what it teaches. Later, in Matthew 13 Jesus explains why he employed parables in his teaching. Matt 13:13-1513 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ it is possible to hear and not really hear, and read and not understand.

A. The Imperativeness of Reading: I am confident that I do not have to tell this audience that we need to read the scriptures. It is only through reading that we can understand, and understanding is a necessary ingredient to faith. Romans 10:1717 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Although the N.T. was not fully written in Paul’s lifetime, he charged Christians was to read so as to understand the truth.

• Eph 3:3-4how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),

• Col 4:16Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

• 1 Thess 5:277 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.

1. What do you read? The newspaper, magazines, the internet, novels, mysteries, westerns? Reading is a major pastime for many, but fewer and fewer people read the Bible. As Christians we need to read the Bible. IF you have not, begin a regular Bible reading schedule – read through the Bible.

B. Reading to Understand: Why do you read the Bible? I remember as a child in Bible class reading the passages to fill in the blank in the workbook. At times I would put a word in the blank and not understand at all what the sentence meant. But I had the answer!

• Some people read sparingly – They read a passage here and there, in response to a sermon, or to satisfy a devotional daily reading.

• Some people read selectively – they only read the parts that they like, or are familiar with. They avoid revelation or Romans, or the O.T. prophets.

• Some folks read defensively– to prove that they are right and prove others wrong. Although the sword of the Spirit should be used to defeat the enemy and protect ourselves, proof-texting is not a legitimate approach to the Bible. We should not read to prove our position, but to improve our position.

1. The reason for reading the Bible is to understand God’s will. We must desire to understand. The Ethiopian was ready for Philip’s instruction in acts 8 because he desired to understand. He was reading with purpose. I believe that this attitude of seeking is key to understanding.

a. Jesus promises to fill those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who seek will find, those who strive can enter the narrow gate.

• Acts 17:10-1110 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

How can we read the Bible effectively? How can we understand what we read?

II. Read with Respect: The reading of God’s word is an act of worship. The Bible is not the object of our worship, but God’s word is an element of His person, and as such should be approached with reverence and respect. (the Word of God is not the book itself. But don’t mistreat your Bible)

• Neh 8:1-6Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. …5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

III. Meditate on the words: Psalms 1:1-3 1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. The word for meditate here in Hebrew also is translated as murmur… to talk to yourself about. Ponder on…

A. The Psalmist speaks of meditating on both the words and works of God. Ps 119:27 – Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works. Ps 119:48 – 8 My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, And I will meditate on Your statutes. Ps 119:148 – My eyes are awake through the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.

B. Paul instructed Timothy to meditate on the things 1 Tim 4:13-16 13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

IV. Pray to the Author: Charles Spurgeon said, It is a grand thing to be driven to think, it is a grander thing to be driven to pray through having been made to think. When we read God speaks to us. The necessary corollary is to speak back to Him. To come to understand what I read is not miraculous. So to pray for the understanding of what I read is not to solicit a miracle, but to recognize that my ability to comprehend anything is from God. Plus He promises to help me.

• Psalms 119:18– 18 Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.

A. Paul’s prayer…Eph 1:17-187 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; Col 1:9 – 9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

V. Read Comprehensively– all the scriptures. A proper understanding of scripture comes through looking at all that God says on the subject. We recognize the importance of this in other arenas of learning. We would not think we could read only part of the manual or instructions. Acts 20:277 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

VI. Walk according to your understanding – The ultimate purpose of learning is walking. Ps 119:355 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.

A. Put into practice what you learn, being prepared to repent of wrong and seek God’s forgiveness. This conformity to the words of the Spirit are what Bible study is all about. How would your life change if you read the Bible more often, as we have discussed it here?

B. The qualities that the Bible is able to bring into our lives is called the “fruit of the Spirit”. Galatians 5:22-2322 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

• Phil 3:1316 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

Conclusion: As the year begins to wind down and we look forward to a new year it may be a good time to think about our daily Bible reading habits. There are two basic opinions about daily Bible reading:

READ SOMETHING FROM THE BIBLE EVERY DAY. Those who take this position emphasize the need to be exposed to something from God’s word every day but are not concerned whether they cover the whole Bible on any regular schedule.

READ ALL OF THE BIBLE EVERY SO OFTEN. Those who take this position emphasize the importance of reading the entire Bible as often as possible.

I come down in favor of the second position. I believe we need to be exposed to every page in the Bible on some kind of regular schedule. If it is the Scriptures that make us “wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15), then we need exposure to all of the Scriptures as often as possible.

Why Should you plan to read through the Bible…

• REASON 1: Every part of God’s word is there for a purpose, whether we can see it or not. We must avoid focusing totally on the sections of the Bible that we “like.”

• REASON 2: We need to see the whole of the Bible as well as the individual parts. Reading the entire Bible every year or two helps us to keep the big picture in mind.

• REASON 3: There ought not to be any part of the Bible that we haven’t read “recently.” We cannot allow ourselves to be in the dark about what God says.

• REASON 4: As with our physical food, we need a balanced diet of Bible reading. The parts that we have been avoiding may contain the very truths in which our present “nutrition” is deficient.

• REASON 5: There is great value in the discipline that it takes to read the whole Bible. The effort and sacrifice that go into such a plan are beneficial because they increase our ability to do difficult things.

Conclusion: How often will you eat tomorrow? You do not have to answer that. But you will eat, won’t you? Why? Because you need nourishment. The word of God is your spiritual food. Without it you will grow weak and die.

• 1 Tim 4:6 – 6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

• Matthew 4:4 – 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”