Devote Yourself to Reading
“While I am coming, continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching.”—1 TIMOTHY 4:13.
1. How can we benefit from reading the Bible?
JEHOVAH GOD has given mankind the wonderful ability of learning to read and write. He has also provided his Word, the Bible, so that we can be well instructed. (Isaiah 30:20, 21) In effect, its pages enable us to “walk” with God-fearing patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We can “see” such godly women as Sarah, Rebekah, and the loyal Moabitess Ruth. Yes, and we can “hear” Jesus Christ give his Sermon on the Mount. All this pleasure and grand instruction from the Holy Scriptures can be ours if we are good readers.
2. What indicates that Jesus and his apostles could read well?
2 Undoubtedly, the perfect man Jesus Christ had excellent reading ability, and he certainly knew the Hebrew Scriptures very well. When tempted by the Devil, therefore, Jesus repeatedly referred to them and said, “It is written.” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10) On one occasion at the synagogue in Nazareth, he publicly read and applied to himself a portion of Isaiah’s prophecy. (Luke 4:16-21) What about Jesus’ apostles? In their writings, they often quoted the Hebrew Scriptures. Though the Jewish rulers viewed Peter and John as unlettered and ordinary because they were not educated in Hebrew schools of higher learning, their divinely inspired letters clearly prove that they could read and write well. (Acts 4:13) But is the ability to read really important?
“Happy Is He Who Reads Aloud”
3. Why is it so important to read the Scriptures and Christian publications?
3 Taking in and applying accurate knowledge of the Scriptures can result in life eternal. (John 17:3) Jehovah’s Witnesses therefore realize that it is vitally important to read and study the Holy Scriptures and the Christian publications provided by God through the faithful and discreet slave class of anointed Christians. (Matthew 24:45-47) In fact, by using specially designed Watch Tower publications, thousands have been taught to read and thus acquire life-giving knowledge of God’s Word.
4. (a) Why does happiness result from reading, studying, and applying God’s Word? (b) As regards reading, what did Paul tell Timothy?
4 Happiness results from reading, studying, and applying God’s Word. This is so because we thereby please and honor God, receive his blessing, and experience joy. Jehovah wants his servants to be happy. Hence, he commanded the priests to read his Law to the people of ancient Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:9-12) When Ezra the copyist and others read the Law to all the people assembled in Jerusalem, its meaning was made clear, and the result was “a great rejoicing.” (Nehemiah 8:6-8, 12) The Christian apostle Paul later told his coworker Timothy: “While I am coming, continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13) Another translation reads: “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture.”—New International Version.
5. How does Revelation 1:3 link happiness with reading?
5 That our happiness depends on reading and applying God’s Word is made clear at Revelation 1:3. There we are told: “Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it; for the appointed time is near.” Yes, we need to read aloud and hear the prophetic words of God in Revelation and throughout the Scriptures. The truly happy person is the one whose “delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” The result? “Everything he does will succeed.” (Psalm 1:1-3) For good reasons, therefore, Jehovah’s organization urges each one of us to read and study his Word privately, as families, and with friends.
Think Actively and Meditate
6. What was Joshua instructed to read, and how was this beneficial?
6 How can you get the most out of your reading of God’s Word and Christian publications? You are likely to find it beneficial to do what was done by Joshua, a God-fearing leader of ancient Israel. He was commanded: “This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.” (Joshua 1:8) ‘Reading in an undertone’ means saying the words to yourself in a low voice. This is a memory aid, for it impresses the material on the mind. Joshua was to read in God’s Law “day and night,” or regularly. That was the way to be successful and to act wisely in discharging God-given responsibilities. Such regular reading of God’s Word can help you in a similar way.
7. Why should we not let the idea of speed dominate when we read God’s Word?
7 Do not let the idea of speed dominate when reading God’s Word. If you have planned to spend a period of time reading the Bible or some Christian publication, you may want to take your time. This is particularly important when you are studying with the object of remembering significant points. And when you read, think actively. Analyze the Bible writer’s statements. Ask yourself, ‘What is his point? What should I do with this information?’
8. Why is it beneficial to meditate when reading the Scriptures?
8 Take time to meditate while reading the Holy Scriptures. This will help you to remember Bible accounts and to apply Scriptural principles. Meditating on God’s Word and thus fixing points in your mind will also enable you to speak from the heart, giving sincere inquirers fine answers instead of saying something that you may later regret. Says a divinely inspired proverb: “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.”—Proverbs 15:28.
Associate New Points With Old
9, 10. How can your Bible reading be enhanced by associating new Scriptural points with ones you already know?
9 Most Christians must admit that at one time they knew little about God, his Word, and his purposes. Today, however, these Christian ministers, starting with creation and man’s fall into sin, can explain the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice, can tell of the destruction of this wicked system of things, and can show how obedient mankind will be blessed with eternal life on a paradise earth. This is possible largely because these servants of Jehovah have taken in “the very knowledge of God” by studying the Bible and Christian publications. (Proverbs 2:1-5) They have gradually associated new points learned with older ones already understood.
10 Associating new Scriptural points with ones you already know is beneficial and rewarding. (Isaiah 48:17) When Bible laws, principles, or even somewhat abstract ideas are presented, associate these with what you already know. Fit the information into what you have learned about “the pattern of healthful words.” (2 Timothy 1:13) Look for information that may help you to strengthen your relationship with God, improve your Christian personality, or assist you to share Bible truths with others.
11. What might you do when reading something that the Bible says about conduct? Illustrate.
11 When reading something that the Bible says about conduct, try to discern the principle involved. Meditate on it, and decide what you would do under similar circumstances. Jacob’s son Joseph consistently refused to engage in sexual immorality with Potiphar’s wife, asking: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” (Genesis 39:7-9) In this moving account, you find an underlying principle—sexual immorality is a sin against God. You can mentally associate this principle with other statements in God’s Word, and you can remember it with profit if tempted to engage in such wrongdoing.—1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
Visualize Scriptural Incidents
12. Why visualize Bible accounts as you read them?
12 To impress points on your mind as you read, visualize what is occurring. Mentally see the terrain, the homes, the people. Hear their voices. Smell the bread baking in an oven. Relive the scenes. Then your reading will be a moving experience, for you may see an ancient city, ascend a lofty mountain, marvel at the wonders of creation, or associate with men and women of great faith.
13. How would you describe what is recorded at Judges 7:19-22?
13 Suppose you are reading Judges 7:19-22. Visualize what is taking place. Judge Gideon and three hundred valiant Israelite men have taken their places on the edge of the Midianite camp. It is about ten o’clock in the evening, the beginning of the “middle night watch.” The Midianite sentries have just been posted, and darkness covers the encampment of Israel’s sleeping enemies. Look! Gideon and his men are equipped with horns. They have large water jars that cover torches held in their left hands. Suddenly, the three bands of a hundred each blow the horns, shatter the jars, raise the torches aloft, and shout: “Jehovah’s sword and Gideon’s!” You look at the camp. Why, the Midianites get on the run and break into shouting! As the three hundred continue blowing their horns, God sets the swords of the Midianites against one another. Midian has been put to flight, and Jehovah has given Israel the victory.
Learning Valuable Lessons
14. How might Judges chapter 9 be used to teach a child the need to be humble?
14 By reading God’s Word, we can learn many lessons. For example, perhaps you want to impress your children with the need to be humble. Well, it should be easy to visualize and get the point of what was said in the prophecy of Gideon’s son Jotham. Begin reading at Judges 9:8. “Once upon a time,” said Jotham, “the trees went to anoint a king over them.” The olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine refused to rule. But the lowly bramble was glad to become a ruler. Having read the account aloud to your children, you might explain that the valuable plants represented worthy persons who did not seek the position of kingship over their fellow Israelites. The bramble, which was useful only for fuel, represented the kingship of proud Abimelech, a murderer who wanted to dominate others but met an end in fulfillment of Jotham’s prophecy. (Judges, chapter 9) What child would want to grow up and become like a bramble?
15. How is the importance of loyalty highlighted in the book of Ruth?
15 The importance of loyalty is made clear in the Bible book of Ruth. Suppose members of your family are taking turns reading that account aloud and trying to absorb what it says. You see the Moabitess Ruth on a journey to Bethlehem with her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, and you hear Ruth say: “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Industrious Ruth is seen gleaning behind the harvesters in the field of Boaz. You hear him compliment her, saying: “Everyone in the gate of my people is aware that you are an excellent woman.” (Ruth 3:11) Soon, Boaz marries Ruth. In harmony with the arrangement for brother-in-law marriage, by Boaz she bears a son “to Naomi.” Ruth becomes an ancestress of David and eventually of Jesus Christ. She thus received “a perfect wage.” Moreover, those reading the Scriptural account learn a valuable lesson: Be loyal to Jehovah, and you will be richly blessed.—Ruth 2:12; 4:17-22; Proverbs 10:22; Matthew 1:1, 5, 6.
16. What test did the three Hebrews undergo, and how can this account help us?
16 The account of the Hebrews named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego can help us to be faithful to God in trialsome situations. Visualize the event as Daniel chapter 3 is read aloud. A huge image of gold towers above the plain of Dura, where Babylonian officials have been assembled. At the sound of musical instruments, they fall down and worship the image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. That is, all except Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do so. Respectfully, but firmly, they tell the king that they will not serve his gods and worship the image of gold. These young Hebrews are cast into a superheated furnace. But what happens? Looking inside, the king sees four able-bodied men, one of them “resembling a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25) The three Hebrews are brought out of the furnace, and Nebuchadnezzar blesses their God. It has been rewarding to visualize the account. And what a lesson it provides regarding faithfulness to Jehovah under test!
Benefit From Reading the Bible as a Family
17. Briefly cite some of the beneficial things your family can learn by reading the Bible together.
17 Your family can enjoy many benefits if you regularly spend time reading the Bible together. Beginning in Genesis, you can witness creation and peer into man’s original Paradise home. You can share experiences of the faithful patriarchs and their families and follow the Israelites as they pass through the Red Sea dry-shod. You can see the shepherd lad David vanquish the Philistine giant Goliath. Your family can note the construction of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem, can see its desolation by Babylonian hordes, and can view its reconstruction under Governor Zerubbabel. Along with humble shepherds near Bethlehem, you can hear the angelic announcement of Jesus’ birth. You can get details about his baptism and his ministry, can see him give up his human life as a ransom, and can share the joy of his resurrection. Next, you can travel with the apostle Paul and observe the establishment of congregations as Christianity spreads. Then, in the book of Revelation, your family can enjoy the apostle John’s grand vision of the future, including Christ’s Thousand Year Reign.
18, 19. What suggestions are offered regarding family Bible reading?
18 If you are reading the Bible aloud as a family, read it with clarity and enthusiasm. When reading some portions of the Scriptures, one family member—possibly the father—might read the words of the general account. Others of you can assume the roles of Bible characters, reading your parts with suitable feeling.
19 As you share in Bible reading as a family, your ability to read may improve. Likely, your knowledge of God will increase, and this should draw you closer to him. Asaph sang: “As for me, the drawing near to God is good for me. In the Sovereign Lord Jehovah I have placed my refuge, to declare all your works.” (Psalm 73:28) This will help your family to be like Moses, who “continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible,” that is, Jehovah God.—Hebrews 11:27.
Reading and the Christian Ministry
20, 21. How is our preaching commission related to the ability to read?
20 Our desire to worship “the One who is invisible” should move us to work at being good readers. The ability to read well helps us to bear witness from God’s Word. It certainly helps us to carry on in the Kingdom-preaching work for which Jesus commissioned his followers when he said: “Go . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) Witnessing is the chief work of Jehovah’s people, and reading ability helps us to accomplish it.
21 Effort is required to be a good reader and a skillful teacher of God’s Word. (Ephesians 6:17) So, ‘do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, handling the word of the truth aright.’ (2 Timothy 2:15) Increase your knowledge of Scriptural truth and your ability as a Witness of Jehovah by devoting yourself to reading.
What Are Your Answers?
□ How does happiness depend on reading God’s Word?
□ Why meditate on what you read in the Bible?
□ Why use association and visualization when reading the Scriptures?
□ What are some lessons to be learned from Bible reading?
□ Why read the Bible aloud as a family, and what bearing does reading have on the Christian ministry?
[Pictures on page 13]
When reading the Bible as a family, visualize the accounts and meditate on their significance