On Reading 1: Under lockdown or not, Bible first
By Gerry Straker, 17 Apr 2020
Psalm 19: ‘The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.’ (Psalm 19:9-11 NIV 1984).
We start reading with the Bible. The Bible stands in a category on its own – there’s a reason it’s called the Holy Bible. It’s God’s powerful Word, written by the Holy Spirit and the Author is with us and working in us, when his Word is read and preached.
The Bible describes itself as:
- Powerful like fire.
- Penetrating like a double-edged sword.
- Vital like bread, milk, food and water.
- Sight-giving like light and a mirror.
- Bringing security like an anchor and a rock.
- More valuable than silver, gold and rubies.
- Creating life, like a seed.
- And satisfying like honey. 
The Bible is dangerous and delighful, weighty and wonderful, meat and drink, life-giving and life-fulfilling. As G. W. Briggs' hymn verses begin: 'God has spoken by his prophets', 'God has spoken by Christ Jesus', and 'God is speaking by his Spirit' - and so we had better listen, and it is better to listen! Through his Word we come to God himself. A W Tozer wrote this: ‘The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and centre of their hearts.’ 
And so, when we think about reading we must start with the Scriptures themselves. We are people of the book. Very early on things were written down for God’s people - I think the first reference is Exodus 17:14. God himself wrote the 10 commandments for Moses (Exodus 31:8) and 'Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD.' (Exodus 24:4). And God’s Word was read and taught by leaders - consider the Assembly in Nehemiah 8 when the people gather and Ezra reads and the leaders teach...
‘The Levites - Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah - instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all…’ (Nehemiah 8:7-9 NIV 1984).
God’s people from at least Moses' days, are people of the book, and we are to be too - making the most of the technology that put the Bible into our hands, or even into the palms of our hands on our smartphones. The Word of God brings us eternal life and changes our lives forever. Obviously the special book from God for us to know the Author, is to be our priority. Charles Spurgeon said: ‘Visit many good books but live in the Bible.’ John Wesley wanted to be a homo unius libri (a man of one book) - not that he wouldn’t read other books, but that all other books were to be compared to the one truly great book: the Bible.
And when it comes to reading the Word of God, we can talk to the Writer and ask for his help to make the most of the wonderful divine words that we are reading. This is a great prayer to pray from the Book of Common Prayer written by Thomas Cranmer in the 16th century, it’s the collect (a short general prayer used in Church meetings) for the second.Sunday in Advent (the season before Christmas):
'Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.'
So in our new series on reading and in our reading time, let’s make sure we are starting with the Bible, the very Word of God. Can I ask you:
- What are you reading in the Bible at the moment?
- Do you have more time on your hands? And if so are you reading more of God’s Word?
- How are you reading God’s Word? Do you have a plan?
- How are you approaching God’s Word? Are you asking for the Author’s help?
- How are you receiving God’s Word? Are you praying through what you are reading? Meditating on it? Obeying it?
- Would your unbelieving friends think you are a man or woman of one book?
As we think about reading in the coming days, please start here, continue here and finish here: with the Word of God. More tomorrow on reading... in the meantime, please pray we would be a Church of one book, living in the Bible.
 HT Barry Cooper, Can I really trust the Bible?, (Epsom, Surrey: The Good Book Company, 2014), 80.
 Quoted in Cooper, Can I really trust the Bible? 77.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.