Being Able to Read the Bible Doesn’t Mean that You Do

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Picture of Scrabble letters spelling out "Read the book"

As I read the chapters in today’s Bible reading* I asked myself, “Why is Moses repeating the same things over and over again? Haven’t these people heard this before?” And then it dawned on me! No, they hadn’t! The reason Moses is going over the story again is because his hearers weren’t alive when God brought His people out of Egypt. They weren’t alive when Moses brought the God-engraved stone tablets down from the mountain. They may have heard the stories from their parents. But Moses wanted to ensure that the people knew the story accurately. He wanted the people to know the story without biases that their parents may have added to their stories.

Over and over again through the Bible, we’re reminded of the history of God’s dealings with His people. Over and over we’re told the stories. Why? Because God’s people have a tendency to forget. Even today. The author of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us,

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Hebrews 12:1–3 (The Message)

It’s easy to forget that, although Moses had the best education available to a prince in Pharaoh’s house, the Hebrew people didn’t. Moses was able to write down and read God’s Words, but probably very few of the people could. They were totally dependent on someone else to tell them what God said about Himself, His ways, and His covenant. So God’s covenant people learned in the only way they could: they listened. To instill God’s Word in their hearts, they listened to the stories. They listened to the history. They listened to God’s statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. Through repetition, they memorized God’s Word.

Application

We are very fortunate! The world is probably more literate than at any point in our planet’s history. In the Twenty-first Century Western Civilization, we have access to more copies of the Bible in more heart languages than one could have imagined just a few hundred years ago. And in just a few more years, it’s possible that every people group on the earth will have at least part of God’s Word available to them in their heart language!

But just because we can read God’s Word doesn’t mean we do. Unfortunately, instead of reading the Bible for ourselves, too often, we settle on letting other people read and study God’s Word and tell us what they’ve read and studied.

So are we really any better off than the illiterate Hebrew people Moses led wandering in the desert for forty years?

What changes can you make in your life to take more ownership in your own spiritual growth? Do you need to spend more time reading and studying God’s Word for yourself? Are there some Bible verses you can memorize and hide in your heart?

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
Deuteronomy 8
Deuteronomy 9
Deuteronomy 10
Deuteronomy 11