Give Attention To The Reading


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / July 16, 2017

For this morning’s sermon I have chosen the text of  1Timothy 4:13

Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

I am touching on another element in Bonhoeffer’s brief treatise, Life Together, pgs.50f.

It comes from a chapter entitled, “The Day With Others” followed by a chapter, “The Day Alone.”

In his chapter on The Day With Others, as one might expect, we encounter discussions on - - praying together,

singing together, reading Scripture together and of communing together (The Fellowship Of The Table).

Two additional elements that Bonhoeffer does not address in this particular book are preaching and giving.

Next Sunday, our plans are to focus on The Fellowship Of The Table.

Some have suggested that from time to time if wouldn’t hurt to do things differently.

“The only difference between a rut an a grave is the dimensions.” / Ellen Glasgow

Next Sunday will be different.  I’m not sure what to tell our Childrens Bible Time instructors.

As we did last Sunday on the topic of singing, our sermon will feature the interweaving of various songs and Scripture readings sprinkled throughout our spoken words as we focus on The Table Of The Lord and our participation in the eating of the bread and drinking of the wine, in commemoration of the laying down of our Lord’s life on our behalf.

It promises to be a very meaningful time or worship and I hope all of you will be here to take part.

In the days of the early church THE READING OF SCRIPTURE was a lifeline of strength.

While we rejoice in the spread of the Word - - complete Bibles are now everywhere - - perhaps one somewhat

negative impact of this superfluity or abundance, is that we sometimes take the reading of the Word for granted.

Of course, the answer to this is not to go on a campaign to confiscate Bibles, but rather

to keep accenting the need to read the many renditions of what we have (both hardback and electronic).

In our neighborhoods and in our region of the world (and U.S.), water is found in abundance.

We can drink all we want just with a slight turn of the faucet.  We can take long showers and fill up tubs for bathing without worry, knowing there’s plenty more where that came from.  We can wash our cars, water our gardens, and put the sprinkler out for the kids to cool off with on a hot day.  This plentiful reserve leads us to take water for granted.

Few of us are water conservationists.  Some may collect a little rain in a barrel and you’re to be commended.

In some regions, water restrictions are in place and prohibitions are levied and penalties are imposed for violators.

Likewise with God’s Word - - the fact that we have it in abundance causes us to not always appreciate every drop.

The spoken words of Jesus remind us of the intrinsic value of Scripture.

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Every word … every reading … every sermon … every class discussion - - they’re all valuable and ought to be cherished.

The strange twist here is that if restrictions and prohibitions were enforced, we would take the Word more seriously.

If someone told us we could only read a little, we would read a lot.

If we were threatened by a ban against reading the Word of God, many would refuse to comply and read all the more.

In the first-century, as in Old Testament times, it was common to stand for the reading of God’s Word.

It was also their practice to read out loud (somewhat of necessity).  cf. Acts 8:29-30

Ronald Ward writes (Commentary On 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus):  “In the days of the early church, all reading, even when alone, was out loud as there were no spaces between the written words and the reader had to ‘feel his way forward’.”

We see this in Lk.4:16-20 - -

(Jesus) came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the

 synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him.

 And he opened the book, and found the place where is was written: ‘the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,

and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’

And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue

were fixed upon Him.  And He began to say to them, ‘today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

This text is filled with wonder.  In passing, we see the custom of standing to read and reading out loud.

But it also provides some other noteworthy observations if we look closely.

Jesus didn’t really need the text.  He was the both the author and fulfillment of the text.

It is assigned to Isaiah, but John’s gospel opens with the declaration that Jesus was (is) The Word (Jn.1:1 & 14).

Jesus didn’t need an attendant to hand Him the scroll - - He knew the scroll inside and out.

What Jesus did on this occasion was common for that time period, but the text adds that it was His custom (Lk.4:16).

Jesus Himself didn’t need to discover the text. 

Yet, what He did in His humanity proved to be an example for all of us. 

He shows us the importance of gathering with others to read aloud the holy text of Scripture. 

The bold pronouncement that Jesus makes regarding the fulfillment of the text sets the room ablaze, first with wonder

(Is this not Joseph’s son?/vs.22) on the part of his sympathizers and then with rage (vs.28) on the part of his critics.

A quick note with some simple words of advice to our public readers.

  Accept your assignment as a high honor - - to read aloud the sacred writings.

  Read with clarity of speech.  Speak loudly and use the microphone so that all can hear clearly.

  Read the text carefully, noting the punctuation.

e.g.  Lk.2:16 can be read three ways but not all three are correct - -

They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in a manger

They went with haste (pause) and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in a manger

They went with haste (pause) and found Mary and Joseph (pause) and the child lying in the manger

  Look up when you read (to help project the words) and to let people see your eyes.

But, as you do so, try to avoid the head-bobbing effect.

  Practice reading aloud.

What I hope to do this morning is re-ignite within us a longing for reading the Scriptures.

My aim to help us appreciate the value of reading Scripture in community - - when we are gathered together.

I also have a secondary aim - - to instill within us a desire to read more Scripture personally and privately.

Distribute a survey regarding “on-your-own” reading.

Sometime soon I want to preach a series on, How To Read The Bible.

It’s going to be rather basic, but it will provide important insights for Christians at all levels.

In closing, let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to one more passage - - 2Kgs.22.

For the most part God directs adults to engage in teaching the children.

In this Old Testament story, a young man named Josiah leads the charge in teaching all ages.

There are two Josiahs in the Old Testament - - one was the son of Zephaniah, a Jew who returned from exile (Zech.6:10).

The Josiah found in 2Kgs.22 and 2Chron.34 is a young king.

He was a grandson to Manasseh and the son and successor of Amon as King of Judah.

He lived in the days of the prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah.

His birth was predicted by name in the time of Jeroboam (1Kgs.13:2).

He was one of the good kings of Judah.

He came to the throne at the age of 8 and soon began to make very important decisions.

2Chron.34:3a notes that in the eighth year of his reign (at age 16) he “began to seek after the God of his father David.”

In the 12th year of his reign (at age of 20) he began a serious spiritual reformation in Judah, Jerusalem & northern Israel.

This involved the tearing down and destruction of the altars of Baal and Asherim (cf. 2Chron34:3bf

He ground them into powder and scattered the ashes on the graves of those who had sacrificed to these false idols.

He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars.

It was a much-needed purge of evil influences that had turned God’s people away from Jehovah God.

In his 18th year (at the age of 26) he turned his attention to repairing the temple.  cf. 2Kgs.22:3ff

He directed that the monies collected at the temple be apportioned to trustworthy builders.

While Shaphan the scribe was consulting with Hilkiah the high priest, it was announced by Hilkiah

that a book of the law of the house of God, which had been lost, was found.

Scholars have concluded that this must have been the book of Deuteronomy (and perhaps other parts of the Torah).

Shaphan read the book himself and then read it again (aloud) in the hearing of the king.

When Josiah heard the reading of the law he immediately felt great remorse (he tore his clothes/vs.11).

Subsequently he directed Shaphan and others to consult with Huldah the prophetess (vs.14).

Huldah’s message was dark and dire with one caveat (vss.16-20):  Thus says the Lord

 ‘Behold I bring evil on this place and its inhabitants, even all the words of the book which the King of Judah has read.’

Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods that they might provoke Me to anger

with all the work of their hands, therefore My wrath burns against this place, and it shall not be quenched.

But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel,

Regarding the words which you have heard, because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord

when you heard what I spoke against this place and its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse,

And you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,’ declares the Lord.

Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace,

Neither shall your eyes see all the evil which I will bring on this place.

Chapter twenty-three continues to tell of the all-out effort Josiah engineered to turn things around.

However, it was too little, too late.

Now is the time to reform our Bible reading practices.

Let us not wait till its too late.  Let’s stop putting off that which we know to be so vitally important.

Let’s go home today and get serious about the Word and pray that God’s grace will allow us time to make changes.

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