The Public Reading of Scripture

I am so excited about a new ministry that the Lord has provided for me. I have the wonderful privilege of reading the sacred text in the weekly worship service of our church.

A key component of the vision statement for our church is that we be Word-saturated. This vision is accomplished in many ways including the preaching and teaching of the Bible. But the public reading of God’s Word is vital.

Let’s take a quick look at public reading of the Bible down the ages.

1.  The reading of Ezra.

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

(Nehemiah 8:1-8 ESV, emphasis mine)

When God restored his people in Jersusalem, the reading of the Scriptures keyed the revival of God’s work among his people.

2.  The reading in the synagogues.

For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
(Acts 15:21 ESV)

3.  The reading of Jesus.

And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
(Luke 4:16-17 ESV)

The Jewish custom was to read from the text. Jesus continued this practice by reading from the prophet Isaiah.

4.  The reading of the early churches.

Part of the worship of the early churches was to read the letters from the apostles. We continue to read and study these letters recognized as the Word of God.

5.  The reading of Timothy.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
(1 Timothy 4:13 ESV)

In this text, Paul gives specific instructions to Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture.

I pray that as I publicly read Scripture, the Spirit of God (who authored the words) will so burn into our hearts these words of life.

Throughout history God has used the reading of his word to bring men to faith. Examples abound including in the lives of men like Augustine, John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon.

Prayer: May we hear his word, and may God speak through his word.

See also: What important element of public worship goes largely neglected today? | Practical Shepherding.