17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18 Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him (Luke 8:17–18, NKJV).
How we listen to God’s word is a determining factor of whether we will understand it. When we make up our mind about any Bible subject before even considering what the whole counsel of God says, we have closed hearts, ears, and eyes (Luke 8:9-10; Matt. 13:10-17). We will never accept and hold fast the word of God with such a self-satisfied mindset (Luke 8:15). God’s word is not beyond comprehension. It reveals the purposes and will of God and the secrets of the human heart (Luke 8:17, 10; Heb. 4:12). A willingness to do God’s will, coupled with an earnest examination of God’s word, will result in knowing, accepting, and obeying His word (John 7:16-17; Acts 17:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:15). This person is assured abundant spiritual blessings (Luke 8:18). The person who dismisses the meaning of God’s word because it does not agree with feelings, experiences, and preconceived ideas has deceived himself. What he thinks he possesses (knowledge of the truth) is denied him due to conceit, self-righteousness, and arrogant assumptions. When we listen to God’s word, may we always keep humble hearts turned toward God and away from ourselves. Be careful how you listen to God’s word (John 8:43-47).
I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren (1 Thessalonians 5:27, NKJV).
Bible reading is essential to salvation from sins and living faithfully to the Lord. The Bible is the inspired word of God, His truth delivered in this last age by His Son, Jesus Christ (John 16:13; 17:17; Heb. 1:2; 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Jude 3). By it, faith is produced and strengthened in us (Rom. 10:17; Acts 20:32). Christians read the Bible! We read it to increase in knowledge of God’s will and wisdom to apply it to our lives (Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-11). It is little wonder the apostle Paul closes his letter to the Thessalonians with a charge to read it to all the holy brethren. His writings are the “commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). Paul’s “charge” (“to cause someone to swear,” TDNT, V:462) put them under oath to do so. It was not optional but mandatory that they read his epistle. Even so, we are under oath to read the Scriptures. Public Bible reading and teaching please God and should please us (Neh. 8:1-3, 7-9; 1 Tim. 4:13). The saints circulated the apostolic letters for all to read (Col. 4:16). We should never think there is “too much” Scripture in a gospel sermon. Private Bible reading allows quiet time for meditation, examination, and correction of personal spiritual needs (Acts 8:29-35; 1 Tim. 4:15-16; Phil. 4:8). The Holy Scriptures will make us “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” when we read and learn them (2 Tim. 3:14-15; 2 Pet. 3:15-16). Have you read your Bible today?
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. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose… (Nehemiah 8:3–4, NKJV)
They built a wooden platform on which Ezra read the Book of the Law to the people. It had a functional purpose, to gain and keep the people’s attention so they could hear God’s word. God’s word can be preached anywhere, not only from behind a pulpit. It can be preached in a chariot (Acts 8:29-35), in a home (Acts 10:24-25, 33-43), by a river (Acts 16:13-14), in places of worship, a marketplace, and a hillside (Acts 17:17, 22). The list goes on. Wherever the preaching occurs, the listener should be attentive to God’s message, and the preacher must “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). From the pulpit and everywhere else, God’s word must be proclaimed, not people’s opinions (1 Cor. 2:1-5; Rom. 1:15). Gospel preaching uses the word of God to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2, NASB95). The pulpit is for gospel preaching, so use it for that purpose. Leave political policies to the politicians and the public square. Leave psychology to the therapist’s couch. Leave philosophy to the halls of academia. When it comes to preaching, “give me the Bible.” It is truth, and the only message with the power to save the soul (Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:18-25).
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2–4, NKJV)
A Christian friend shared the following sign with me: “Too much sugar preaching leads to truth decay.” I like that. Just as we are drawn to the sugary high of candy (that leaves us without nutrition, and eventually with cavities), we can be lured away from sound doctrine by feel-good preaching (that fails to nourish our souls with truth, as it leaves spiritual decay of error in its wake). Do you “endure” (allow, bear with) sound doctrine, or have you replaced it with the soothing scratch of your itching ears? We must not become intolerant of Bible preaching that convinces, rebukes and exhorts. Preach me the word, because its truth convinces me of Christ, of my sin, and of His way of salvation. Preach me the word, because its truth rebukes my error, and does not comfort me in sin. Preach me the word, because its truth exhorts me to bear the image of Christ, to live by faith in holiness and righteousness of truth. The word is not always easy to accept, but it is exactly what we must hear, receive, and hold fast to be fruitful and blessed in the Lord (Lk. 8:15).
“Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Timothy 4:13, NKJV)
William Tyndale had already been on the run for five years by the start of the third decade of the 16th century. The king of England, Henry VIII, had declared him a felon. Fleeing Roman Catholic authorities of London (never to return to England), he first went to Cologne, France, and then Worms, Germany. What crime had this “evil” man committed? Of what rebellious act of treason was he guilty? He dared to translate and print the New Testament in the English language! Yes, it was a crime to read the Bible (William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire, 204-205)! Tyndale was eventually arrested and imprisoned in a castle near Brussels. In 1536, after being tried and convicted for heresy, he was publicly executed (tied to a stake, he was strangled to death and his corpse burned). Reflecting on Tyndale’s struggles and sacrifices to provide Englishmen with the word of God in their own language cause us to thank God for the accessibility of the Bible today. It has been translated into many hundreds of languages. Men died to give us the opportunity to read God’s word, the Bible. We really have no excuse for not giving attention to reading it and obeying it (Ephesians 3:3-4; 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 3:18).
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2, NKJV)
These words of Moses to Israel reveal a principle stated time and again in the Bible, namely, that God demands that men and women respect and follow His word by not adding to it or taking from it (Deuteronomy 12:32; Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 30:5-6; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 22:18-19). Just as it is disrespectful to put words into someone’s mouth that they did not say, it is disrespectful of God to say He approves and accepts that which takes from or adds to His word. Jesus scolded the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees for binding their religious traditions of people as if they were from God (Matthew 15:1-9). When we change the teachings of the Scriptures to suit our present desires, we are no different that they were, and we need the same rebuke. We too fall under condemnation when we reject the commandment of God to keep our traditions (Mark 7:9-13). All this comes down to how we choose to view the Bible. Is this collection of books merely the product of man’s mind and experiences? If so, then we are not bound to it by any heavenly authority. But, if the Bible was given by divine inspiration, then to change it shows great irreverence for God, who gave it (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How we view and use the Bible shows whether we respect God.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3, NKJV)
Regular Bible reading is very important. But, reading without listening to its message gives no lasting spiritual profit. One may have bragging rights to say, “I read through the Bible every year,” but without actually understanding and following its teachings, such a boost is vain glory. Without keeping the words of divine revelation, reading alone cannot prepare one for God’s purposes. God’s blessing is assured when we read and listen to God’s declarations, and then conform to what is written. This assurance is given throughout the Scriptures (see Psalm 119:33-35; Ephesians 3:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:13-16). Spend time with the Bible. Listen to what God has said by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). Keep His words in your heart and obey them in your life. God fulfills all His purposes, and by following the inspired guideline in today’s verse, you will be ready when He does all that He has promised.
147 I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word. 148 My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” (Psalm 119:147–148, NKJV)
There are no better ways to start your day than prayer to God and reading God’s word. Unhindered by the distractions and pressing demands of the day, such prayers rise early and reach the throne of God like incense from the altar (Revelation 5:8; 8:1-3). Our hope is in God’s response, which is sure and certain (Revelation 8:4). Reading and meditating on God’s word at the break of day equips us to be prepared and faithful throughout the day. Should sleep escape us during the night, even then, God’s word will be on our minds. Prayer is the communication of God’s children with their Father in heaven; His word is His communication to us. In tandem, prayer and the word form an unbreakable cord that assures our faith and anchors our hope. Make time for both (whether morning, noon or night). The spiritual blessings you derive from prayer and reading God’s word will be immeasurable.
1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3, NKJV)
This three-fold promise God made to Abram (Abraham) forms the thesis statement of the rest of the Bible. Its pages show God keeping His promise to make a great nation of Abraham’s offspring when He brought out the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and established Israel as a holy nation (Genesis 12:2; Exodus 19:4-6). The Scriptures show God keeping His promise to give the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham (“To your descendants I will give this land,” Genesis 12:7, 1). God kept His word as He promised, and gave Israel “all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers” (Joshua 21:43-45; Nehemiah 9:7-8). The Scriptures show God keeping His promise to bless all nations through the Seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). In Jesus Christ, “the blessing of Abraham” (redemption from sin) is available to all flesh (Galatians 3:14, 16, 22-29; 4:4-6). Let us praise God for His matchless wisdom, glory, power, love, mercy and grace! Salvation is only through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). The Bible teaches us how to be saved in Him (Acts 2:36-41; 10:34-35). The Bible is truly remarkable, and invaluable (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. (Ecclesiastes 12:12–13, NKJV)
As you see from the above notation, this is the 1200th Sword Tip. Seeing that number reminded me of today’s passage. People will always write books. And, people will continue to read and study them. Yet, making intellectual pursuit the goal of one’s life “is grasping for the wind,” as Solomon explained in Ecclesiastes 1:17-18. God’s word, the Bible, is complete; it will not be added to by God, and it cannot be improved upon by human wisdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19). Bible study is essential. But, Bible study is not an end in itself. Reading and knowing God’s word is vanity, unless we “fear God and keep His commandments” (verse 13). That is the purpose of life. The Bible teaches us why to fear God and how to obey Him. This is why we read, learn and study the Bible – so that we may live reverently, obey God completely, and thereby, fulfill our God-given purpose. By God’s good grace, may that ever be the purpose that drives our lives (2 Peter 3:17-18).