By Roland W. Keith
After Moses had written the Law and given it to the priests the Bible records: “And Moses commanded them, "At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that He will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 31:10-12).
The great lawgiver understood the importance of keeping the knowledge of God’s word instilled in the people. In like manner, after the Israelites had defeated the city of Ai in the early stages of their conquest of the promised land, in accordance with Moses’ instruction Joshua placed half the people on Mt. Gerizim and half across the valley on Mt. Ebal to bless the people, then afterwards he read the blessings and the curses, all the Book of the Law, before the people (Joshua 8:33-35). Such devotion to God’s word was, and is, important to those who would faithfully follow Him, for to truly do His will we must know His word completely.
Nonetheless, while they remained a religious people somewhere along the way the Jewish people wandered away from the word of God. So far away in fact that the Book of the Law was found lying discarded in the neglected temple at one point only to be rediscovered by Hilkiah the high priest during the reign of Josiah, who read the book before the people and brought them back into a covenant relationship with the LORD (II Kings 22:8-23:3).
In Jesus time it was customary for the Law and the Prophets to be read before the assembly on the Sabbath and then to have someone, often a visiting rabbi, speak words of encouragement or teach a lesson based on the reading (Acts 13:15). Jesus used such an occasion to reveal Himself to the people according to Luke 4:16-21. Later, after the Lord’s church had been established, the apostles sought to ensure that their inspired teachings were read and taught in the church (Colossians 4:16; I Thessalonians 5:27; I Timothy 4:13).
The importance of teaching from God’s word was made manifest in the writings of the apostle Paul: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). It is through reading and studying the scriptures that we attain to the level of Christian living and service that is acceptable to the Lord. In the same letter to Timothy Paul also wrote, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (4:1-5).
In Josiah’s time the people had turned from God’s word because it had literally been placed out-of-sight-out-of-mind or they had willingly rejected it (Hosea 4:6). Since the time of the early church the word of God has been ever present and increasingly available to all men. However, one of the great dangers today is that people are either not devoted enough to personal study and too easily lead astray by false teaching, or they willfully look for preachers and teachers who will twist the word to tell them what they want to hear instead of the truth (II Corinthians 4:4).
Anyone who truly wants to follow God and do his or her part in getting the truth out to the world is going to look at the study and understanding of God’s word as one of life’s primary purposes and a Christian duty. How are we to obey all that the Lord has given us to do if we do not know and comprehend on a personal level what those things are? To keep His doctrines, we must be educated in them and able to clearly distinguish them from the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9). Only then can we demonstrate our love for the Lord by our obedience to Him (Matthew 5:19; John 14:15, 21; I John 2:3, 4; 3:24; 5:3; Revelation 14:12).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.