“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]”
The admonition in this passage refers specifically to the book of Revelation and those to whom the letter was written. However, throughout the Bible we see an emphasis on reading God’s word and the impact of reading God’s word in the lives of those who take the time to read it.
- One of the first things Moses did after coming down from the mountain was read God’s covenant to the Israelites. – “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.’ [Exodus 24:7 NKJV]”
- Moses emphasized to the people that once they had a king, the king should always keep a copy of the law handy and read it. – “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that [are] around me,’ … Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from [the one] before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment [to] the right hand or [to] the left, and that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. [Deuteronomy 17:14, 18-20 NKJV]”
- They were commanded to read the law publicly every seven years at the feat of Tabernacles. – “And Moses commanded them, saying: ‘At the end of [every] seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.’ [Deuteronomy 31:10-11 NKJV]”
- Joshua made a point to read the law to the people once they entered Canaan. – “And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them. [Joshua 8:34-35 NKJV]”
- The reading of the Law during King Josiah’s reign led to the observance of the Passover as it had not been observed since the days of the judges. – “Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. … Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read it before the king. Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. [2 Kings 22:8, 10-11 NKJV] … The king went up to the house of the LORD with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem–the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. … Then the king commanded all the people, saying, ‘Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as [it is] written in this Book of the Covenant.’ Such a Passover surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. [2 Kings 23:2, 21-22 NKJV]”
- After returning to the land after 70 years of captivity, Ezra read the Law to the people. – “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that [was] in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who [could] hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 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. [Nehemiah 8:1-3 NKJV]”
But what about in the New Testament? Is there any emphasis on reading there?
- In the book of Matthew alone, we have at least six times where Jesus asked the scribes and Pharisees and those who questioned him, “Have you not read?” (Mat. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31) He expected them to have read the word and have a working knowledge of it. And this was in a day and time where the written word was not readily available as it is today.
- In Acts 8, the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading and it led to his salvation: “The place in the Scripture which he read was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth.’ [Acts 8:32 NKJV]”
- In Acts 15, the Apostles expressed that they expected to Jews to be familiar with the Law because it was supposed to be read in the synagogues on the Sabbath: “For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath. [Acts 15:21 NKJV]”
- Paul wrote his epistles with the expectation that they would be read:
- “…by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, [Ephesians 3:4 NKJV]”
- “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the [epistle] from Laodicea. [Colossians 4:16 NKJV]”
- “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren. [1 Thessalonians 5:27 NKJV]”
God has always delivered His word with the expectation that it be read, heard, and obeyed.
- Shouldn’t we be reading and listening to what God has to say?
- Shouldn’t we be ashamed when we don’t read it instead of bragging when we do?
- Shouldn’t reading God’s word be our norm instead of the unusual thing we do occasionally when it’s convenient?
A final thought: How do we know what impact God’s word can have in our lives if we never open it and read it?
(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)