At a local retirement community where we conduct Sunday chapel services, we recently finished our second reading through the New Testament. When we began doing the services 13 years ago, we determined to include a five minute Scripture recitation as a part of each gathering, with no commentary. Just a reading, which Frances narrates skillfully and beautifully.
"Give attendance to reading" (I Timothy 4:13).
While not as commonly practiced in modern times, history records that churches of the past frequently included a Scripture reading in services as a show of respect to the Word of God, and as a determination to hear and ponder His Truth together. We find it to be a blessed portion of our meetings, and the thought of having twice journeyed through the New Testament with so many brothers and sisters in Christ greatly blesses our hearts. This raises an interesting point: none of the people who were with us at the outset of either reading still remain at the community. Some have moved to other facilities. Others finished rehab and returned home. Many - most - have passed away, and it is a poignant remembrance to consider faces, names, and most of all, hearts who have joined us in our readings of the Scriptures.
I have long felt that our first response to the Bible involves simply giving attendance, as the Apostle Paul commanded Timothy, to reading. Just read. In depth study and analysis can follow, but simply exposing ourselves to the Word of God on a consistent basis establishes the foundational means whereby His light illuminates our innermost being. The prophet Isaiah provides the fundamental principle of interpreting Scripture, namely, the Bible interprets itself as the Holy Spirit leads us to coordinate words, verses, passages and chapters:
"Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10).
We cannot place "line upon line" or "precept upon precept" without regular reading. Thus, we cannot rightly interpret the Bible without the capacity to understand a passage in Genesis as known in the light of Ephesians, or a statement in John that explains a verse in the Psalms. "Here a little, and there a little." We read in order to respond to our Heavenly Father's chosen way of revealing "the whole counsel of God" in its wondrously woven tapestry of Truth that reveals the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).
We begin a new reading this Sunday, and Lord willing, in 6 and 1/2 years, we'll conclude another journey through the New Testament. Frances and I look forward to the voyage with many more brothers and sisters in Christ. Most of all, we anticipate our Lord's blessing as we seek to honor Him and His Word by the simplest, but most vital response to Truth: "Give attendance to reading." What a gift God's Word is to us, and what a joy to give attendance together with beloved brothers and sisters.
"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts."
Weekly Memory Verse
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men.
(I Thessalonians 3:12)