“We have come… to hear and receive his word…”
This next phrase of our Morning Prayer is a reminder of the words in introduction to the 17th Century Book of Common Prayer that we looked at in the first week:
“… all the whole Bible… should be read over once every year; ….(to) be stirred up to godliness….., and be more able to exhort others by wholesome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the truth; and further, might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true Religion.”
Reading the Bible provides the food and nourishment we need to live out our Christian lives. But there are many ways in which we can partake. Some Christians would focus their time on the New Testament, finding the Old Testament hard work and unhelpful. Following the Lectionary, we will have a balanced diet each day containing a Psalm and readings from the Old and New Testaments. This practice allows us to reflect on God’s truth from three quite different perspectives. I am reminded that:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.2 Tim 3.16,17
In order to hear, we must make time each day to read or to listen, potentially in several different ways – using a traditional Bible, by reading texts supplied in devotional study books, through daily studies on internet sites or by listening to a recording. Eluned very kindly gave me a boxed set of David Suchet reading the whole Bible, recorded on CDs which I can play on long car journeys. We also have a great opportunity today to choose to read different translations to bring us closer to the meaning. What a pleasure it is to use one of the Bible apps on a mobile phone or tablet which allows us to switch between translations and compare and contrast the way that the words are expressed. A Study Bible or Concordance can help us get to understand the more obscure meanings, or to help link together themes running through different parts of scripture.
This is all very well, but the critical issue is whether we are “receiving” the word as well as “hearing” it. Jesus expressed it like this:
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.Matt. 13. 15,16
This statement was made in the context of the parable of the sower – where those in each of the different types of soil heard the word, but their response was quite different, and it changed the outcome of their lives. Only the seed which fell on the good soil yielded the crop of a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Our attitude and response when we read scripture is clearly important; a desire not only to be hearers but also those who apply the word to our lives.
What are the outcomes of a regular reading of scripture? Let’s go back to the Book of Common Prayer for some guidance: firstly, it will make a change to our godliness. Paul says “we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds” as we offer ourselves to God (Rom. 12.2); secondly, we will be able to use the Bible to encourage other people and to be able to distinguish and correct any false teaching; finally, we will get to know God better, and our hearts will be “set on fire” in a loving response to him. This will help us to respond to Jesus, the “Word, who became flesh” as he speaks to us through the written pages of the Bible.
Wishing you every blessing in the coming week,