In the Gospel of Matthew – Jesus repeatedly challenges his detractors and inquisitors with the question “haven’t you read?” (12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31). He follows these words with quotes and stories from the Scriptures. Jesus knew his Bible. He seems to have committed much of the Torah, Writings, and Prophets to memory – Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Isaiah, etc. This is intimidating to us moderns. It’s true that he had a lot fewer distractions. He didn’t have a smartphone, a Facebook, Twitter, or even an Instagram account – that opened up a big block of time right there. But Jesus was committed to what mattered. For Him, the word of God was an essential, life-giving thing.
“Haven't’ you read? Well...have you? When I read those verses in Matthew this week they cut to my heart. Are you committed to the systematic reading and study of the Scriptures? Or maybe you think you get a “pass” because of your present condition or situation. It is true that in the Bible Jesus confronts religious leaders, teachers of the law, and assorted Pharisees with this question. In 21:16 – the question is even more jagged - “haven’t you ever read the Scriptures...?” (New Living Translation). Ouch. I’m sure those religious scholars didn’t take that very well. Yes, he was dealing with some very negative people. Jesus saved his harshest rebukes for those who used the Bible for their own personal gain and ulterior motives – the “hypocrites” as He would refer to them. That said, we’re supposed to be like Him. Aren’t we? If Jesus was a reader of Scripture – so should we.
“Haven’t you read?” I personally would not want to hear that from Jesus. We love Him and He loves us – but in that love relationship, there are expectations and “givens” - including the consistent devotion to prayer, worship, and to the reading of Scripture. Let’s read our Bibles people of God. Please find the time – CARVE out the time!
In 1 Timothy 4, Paul gives Timothy, his protégé, a series of exhortations – in verse 13 he calls on him to read the Scripture: “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture...”. The word devote is translated in different ways. The NLT uses the word “focus” - as in making it a priority. (Note to Monrovia Vineyard Church – this is why I try to do this on Sunday as much as possible!)
Today we have more Bibles and English translations than ever before – coupled with greater accessibility. If you have a smartphone – you can download the YouVersion app on Apple or Android and have several dozen great translations at your fingertips. Furthermore, there are some amazingly good study Bibles out there – I recommend the NIV Study Bible and the NLT Study Bible. Those two, in my humble opinion, are the best – and the notes are sound and very good – from some of the leading scholars of our day. (I also use The One Year Bible – and try to read through the entire Bible in a year. I don’t always do it – but I come close.) Get those, read them – and check the notes!
There are several books about the Bible that I highly recommend – here are three:
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Fee and Stuart)
How to Read the Bible Book by Book (Fee and Stuart)
Taking God at His Word (Kevin DeYoung*)
*I know that DeYoung is a cessationist – meaning that he believes that the spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing ceased with the apostolic age. I don’t believe that and not too many people do these days – cessationism is rapidly disappearing – mainly because it isn’t Biblical. The most vocal cessationists seem to be in the U.S.! Anyway, most of the book is really good – and it should be read by Charismatics and Pentecostals – mainly because there is a general lack of understanding about the nature of the Scriptures in our circles.
Furthermore, prophetic people in the Bible knew the Scriptures! When we are steeped and grounded in the Written Word our prophetic words will be more accurate, powerful, and effective. There is great need for Biblical literacy within the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements.