Bible Reading—Profitable and Pleasurable
“You must . . . read in it day and night.”—JOSHUA 1:8.
1. What are some benefits of reading in general and Bible reading in particular?
READING worthwhile material is a beneficial pursuit. French political philosopher Montesquieu (Charles-Louis de Secondat) wrote: “For me, study has always been the sovereign remedy for the weariness of life. No distress has ever come upon me that an hour’s reading has not dispelled.” To a supreme degree, this is true of Bible reading. Said the inspired psalmist: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise. The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice.”—Psalm 19:7, 8.
2. Why has Jehovah preserved the Bible through the ages, and what does he expect his people to do with it?
2 As the Bible’s Author, Jehovah God has preserved it through centuries of virulent opposition from its enemies, both religious and secular. Since it is his will that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth,” he has seen to it that his Word is made available to all humankind. (1 Timothy 2:4) It is estimated that about 80 percent of earth’s inhabitants can be reached by the use of 100 languages. The text of the entire Bible is available in 370 languages, and parts of the Scriptures can be read in a further 1,860 languages and dialects. Jehovah wants his people to read his Word. He blesses his servants who give attention to his Word, yes, who read it daily.—Psalm 1:1, 2.
Bible Reading Required of Overseers
3, 4. What did Jehovah require of Israel’s kings, and what reasons for this requirement apply also to Christian elders today?
3 Speaking in anticipation of the time when the nation of Israel would have a human king, Jehovah said: “It must occur that when he takes his seat on the throne of his kingdom, he must write in a book for himself a copy of this law from that which is in the charge of the priests, the Levites. And it must continue with him, and he must read in it all the days of his life, in order that he may learn to fear Jehovah his God so as to keep all the words of this law and these regulations by doing them; that his heart may not exalt itself above his brothers and that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right or to the left.”—Deuteronomy 17:18-20.
4 Notice the reasons why Jehovah required all future kings of Israel to read the book of divine law daily: (1) “in order that he may learn to fear Jehovah his God so as to keep all the words of this law and these regulations by doing them”; (2) “that his heart may not exalt itself above his brothers”; (3) “that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right or to the left.” Do not Christian overseers today need to fear Jehovah, obey his laws, refrain from exalting themselves above their brothers, and avoid deviating from Jehovah’s commandments? Daily Bible reading is surely no less important for them than it was for the kings of Israel.
5. What did the Governing Body recently write to Branch Committee members regarding Bible reading, and why would all Christian elders do well to follow such counsel?
5 Christian elders today have a very busy schedule, making daily Bible reading a challenge. For example, members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of Branch Committees worldwide are all very busy men. Yet, a recent letter from the Governing Body to all Branch Committees emphasized the need for daily Bible reading and good study habits. This, the letter pointed out, will increase our love for Jehovah and for the truth, and it “will help us to maintain our faith, joy, and perseverance down to the glorious end.” All elders in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses feel the same need. Daily reading of the Scriptures will help them to “act wisely.” (Joshua 1:7, 8) For them, in particular, Bible reading is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”—2 Timothy 3:16, Revised Standard Version.
A Necessity for Young and Old
6. Why did Joshua read aloud all the words of Jehovah’s law before the assembled tribes of Israel and the alien residents?
6 In ancient times, individual copies of the Scriptures were not available for personal use, so Bible reading was done before the congregated throng. After Jehovah had given him the victory over the city of Ai, Joshua assembled the tribes of Israel before Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Then, the account tells us: “He read aloud all the words of the law, the blessing and the malediction, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There proved to be not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read aloud in front of all the congregation of Israel, together with the women and the little ones and the alien residents who walked in their midst.” (Joshua 8:34, 35) Young and old, native and alien resident, needed to have engraved, as it were, in their hearts and minds what conduct would bring Jehovah’s blessing and what would bring his disapproval. Bible reading done on a regular basis will surely help us in this regard.
7, 8. (a) Who today are like “the alien residents,” and why do they need to read the Bible daily? (b) In what ways can “little ones” among Jehovah’s people follow Jesus’ example?
7 Today, millions of Jehovah’s servants are like those “alien residents” in a spiritual sense. At one time, they were living according to the world’s standards, but they have transformed their lives. (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:7, 8) They constantly need to remind themselves of Jehovah’s standards of good and bad. (Amos 5:14, 15) Daily reading of God’s Word helps them to do this.—Hebrews 4:12; James 1:25.
8 There are also many “little ones” among Jehovah’s people who have been taught Jehovah’s standards by their parents but who need to convince themselves of the rightness of his will. (Romans 12:1, 2) How can they do so? In Israel, the priests and older men were instructed: “You will read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. Congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones and your alien resident who is within your gates, in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn, as they must fear Jehovah your God and take care to carry out all the words of this law. And their sons who have not known should listen, and they must learn to fear Jehovah your God.” (Deuteronomy 31:11-13) Living under the Law, Jesus at the early age of 12 showed a keen interest in understanding his Father’s laws. (Luke 2:41-49) Later, it was his custom to listen to and participate in Scripture reading in the synagogue. (Luke 4:16; Acts 15:21) Young ones today would do well to follow Jesus’ example by reading God’s Word daily and by regularly attending meetings where the Bible is read and studied.
Bible Reading—A Priority
9. (a) Why do we need to be selective in what we read? (b) What did the founding editor of this magazine state with regard to Bible study aids?
9 Wise King Solomon wrote: “Take a warning: To the making of many books there is no end, and much devotion to them is wearisome to the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) One might add that the reading of many books published today is not only wearisome to the flesh but, frankly, dangerous to the mind. So it is important to be selective. In addition to reading our Bible study publications, we need to read the Bible itself. The founding editor of this magazine wrote to its readers: “Never forget that the Bible is our Standard and that however God-given our helps may be they are ‘helps’ and not substitutes for the Bible.”a Hence, while not neglecting Bible-based publications, we need to read the Bible itself.
10. How has “the faithful and discreet slave” emphasized the importance of Bible reading?
10 Conscious of this need, for years now “the faithful and discreet slave” has scheduled Bible reading as a part of the Theocratic Ministry School program in each congregation. (Matthew 24:45) The present Bible-reading program covers the entire Bible in a period of about seven years. This schedule is beneficial for all but particularly so for new ones who have never read the Bible in its entirety. Those who attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead for missionaries and the Ministerial Training School as well as new members of the Bethel family are required to read the whole Bible in one year. Whatever schedule you follow, as an individual or as a family, meeting it requires giving priority to Bible reading.
What Do Your Reading Habits Reveal?
11. How and why should we feed on Jehovah’s utterances every day?
11 If you have trouble keeping to your Bible-reading schedule, it might be appropriate to ask yourself: ‘What impact might my reading or TV-viewing habits have on my ability to read Jehovah’s Word?’ Remember what Moses wrote—and Jesus repeated—that “man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3) Just as we need to eat bread or its equivalent every day of our lives in order to sustain our physical body, we likewise need to absorb Jehovah’s thoughts daily to maintain our spirituality. We can have access to God’s thoughts each day by reading the Scriptures.
12, 13. (a) How does the apostle Peter illustrate the longing we should have for God’s Word? (b) How does Paul use the illustration of milk differently from Peter?
12 If we appreciate the Bible, “not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God,” we will be drawn to it just as a baby craves its mother’s milk. (1 Thessalonians 2:13) The apostle Peter made that comparison, writing: “As newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it you may grow to salvation, provided you have tasted that the Lord is kind.” (1 Peter 2:2, 3) If we have truly tasted, by personal experience, that “the Lord is kind,” we will develop a craving for Bible reading.
13 It should be noted that Peter in this passage used the analogy with milk differently from the apostle Paul. For a newborn baby, milk meets its full nutritional needs. Peter’s illustration shows that God’s Word contains all we need to “grow to salvation.” Paul, on the other hand, uses the need for milk to illustrate the poor feeding habits on the part of some who claim to be spiritual adults. In his letter to Hebrew Christians, Paul wrote: “Although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God; and you have become such as need milk, not solid food. For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:12-14) Attentive Bible reading can do much to develop our perceptive powers and to stimulate our appetite for spiritual things.
How to Read the Bible
14, 15. (a) What privilege does the Bible’s Author offer us? (b) How can we benefit from divine wisdom? (Give examples.)
14 The most profitable Bible reading starts, not by reading, but by praying. Prayer is a remarkable privilege. It is as if you began perusing a book on some deep subject by calling on the author for his help in understanding what you were about to read. What a tremendous advantage that can be! The Bible’s Author, Jehovah, offers you that privilege. A member of the first-century governing body wrote to his brothers: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all.” (James 1:5, 6) The modern-day Governing Body constantly exhorts us to engage in prayerful Bible reading.
15 Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge. So before opening your Bible, ask Jehovah to help you recognize points in your reading that need to be applied in your personal life. Associate new things learned with previous knowledge. Fit them into “the pattern of healthful words” you have come to recognize. (2 Timothy 1:13) Ponder episodes in the lives of Jehovah’s servants of the past, and ask yourself how you would have acted under similar circumstances.—Genesis 39:7-9; Daniel 3:3-6, 16-18; Acts 4:18-20.
16. What practical suggestions are given to enable us to make our Bible reading more beneficial and useful?
16 Do not read just to cover pages. Take your time. Dwell on what you are reading. When intrigued by a certain point, look up the cross references if your Bible contains such. If the point is still not clear, make a note to do further research later. As you read, mark the texts you especially want to remember or copy them. You may also add personal notes and cross references to the margin. For texts you feel you may someday need in your preaching and teaching work, note the key word and check in the index of Bible words at the back of your Bible.b
Make Bible Reading a Delight
17. Why should we delight in reading the Bible?
17 The psalmist spoke of the happy man whose “delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” (Psalm 1:2) Our daily Bible reading should not be a chore but a real delight. One way to make it a pleasure is to be ever conscious of the value of the things learned. Wise King Solomon wrote: “Happy is the man that has found wisdom . . . Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its roadways are peace. It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.” (Proverbs 3:13, 17, 18) The effort needed to acquire wisdom is truly worthwhile, for its ways are ways of pleasantness, peace, happiness, and finally, life.
18. What is necessary in addition to Bible reading, and what will we consider in the following article?
18 Yes, Bible reading is both profitable and pleasurable. But is it enough? Christendom’s church members have been reading the Bible for centuries, “always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) For Bible reading to be fruitful, we must do it with a view to applying the knowledge thus acquired in our personal lives and using it in our work of preaching and teaching. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) This requires effort and good methods of study, which can also be enjoyable and rewarding, as we shall see in the following article.
• What counsel given to Israel’s kings applies today to overseers, and why?
• Who today are like “the alien residents” and “the little ones,” and why do they need to read the Bible daily?
• In what practical ways has “the faithful and discreet slave” helped us to read the Bible regularly?
• How can we derive real benefit and pleasure from our Bible reading?
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Elders, in particular, need to read the Bible daily
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It was Jesus’ custom to participate in Scripture reading in the synagogue