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).
Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18, NKJV)
The law of God is full of extraordinary things. There we find things too difficult for man, yet fully accomplished by our God. We marvel at the fulfilled prophecies it contains, where God has declared the end from the beginning, bringing about His purposes (Isaiah 42:9; 46:10). We are humbled as we see God’s great love and amazing plan to save us from our sins through the sacrifice His Son for us (1 John 4:9-10; Philippians 2:5-8). Gazing into the law of God, we learn of faith, of devotion and sacrifice, of God’s mercy, and justice. Therein we perceive God’s perfect standard of truth, and its power to convert the soul (Psalm 19:7; Hebrews 4:12). Take time each day to look into God’s law. Allow the Lord to open your eyes to His glory, power and blessings. Read the Bible and see it for what it is; the word of God that can save you, guide you through life to the shores of eternity and the everlasting home of the saved (Psalm 119:41, 105; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:7-8).
5 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. 6 Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5–6, NKJV)
As an assayer tests the purity of silver and gold, God’s word stands the test of purity. It has been tried in the crucible of conflict, rebellion, rejection, and alienation by men. With the word of God, His people have weathered every storm of attack from faithless foes. His word continues to stand, while its adversaries lie in the ash heap of history. Undaunted, men and women of faith trust in the word of God, and are delivered. That is why they dare not add to it or take away from it. It does its work as it stands, undefiled and incorruptible. We shall never be persuaded that God’s word is out of date – far from it. It is living and active, powerful and pure. God’s word is able to save the lost and protect the saved. It is indeed “a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” Respect it, believe it, obey it. To do less will bring God’s rebuke upon those who simply pretend to trust Him.