They were the best scholars of the day. They read their Scriptures meticulously. They had memorized large portions of it. They had discussed and debated it at length. But when Jesus Christ came, his repeated challenge to the Scribes and Pharisees was, “Have ye not read?” The Scribes and Pharisees had read and did know the passages Jesus Christ was referring to. But they had not read and understood the deeper meaning behind God’s Word. Their reading was a superficial, surface reading of the Scriptures which did not uncover its power and true meaning.

This is a big challenge for us today! The reading of the Scribes and Pharisees shows that it is possible to read the Bible, and yet not come to know the God who wrote it. The real challenge for us in our generation is to read and meditate on God’s living Word in a way that enables us to penetrate below surface level and come to know our God more closely. How necessary this is! It is His message to us. On every page we can learn something about God, His ways, His character, His purpose and how He interacts with men and women.

Both Reading and Meditation are Needed

If we are to know God, both reading and meditation are needed. Reading allows us to become familiar with the Scriptures. We take in the concepts, the stories, the principles—and most importantly, learn about our God. But something more is required than a quick reading of the Bible now and again. Determined effort, consistency, careful reading and thought are essential to unlock the beauty and wonder of God’s living Word, and its power for life.

Meditating on the Scriptures is the next stage on from reading. The word “meditation” literally means “to speak with oneself, to murmur”. It carries the idea of pondering and reflecting upon something. Meditating on the Scripture means that we take what we have read and think about it, muse upon it and contemplate it. This process opens our eyes to behold the wondrous, precious and deep things of God, and brings us closer to Him.

The importance of reading and meditation can be seen in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, where both words are used in the same context. To prepare Timothy for his responsibilities in ecclesial work, Paul says: “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim 4:13). Reading is one of three vital activities which provide a sound basis for personal spiritual development, and a worthwhile contribution in ecclesial life. Paul continues, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all” (1 Tim 4:15). Timothy was to reflect, ponder and muse on these things, and the profit from this would be there for others to see.

How can we improve our reading and meditation? How can we get to know our God more closely? Listed below are practical points based on scriptural examples which can make our reading and meditation more effective.

(1) See the Need

The psalmist hid God’s Word in his own heart (Psa 119:11). The righteous man applied himself personally in delighting in the law of God and making it his meditation every day (Psa 1:2). God’s law was to be taken on personally by every Israelite so that God’s Word might be in their own hearts (Deut 6:5–6). From these examples it is clear that God intended every one of His children to personally apply themselves to His Word. When we see the vital need to apply ourselves to the Word of God, we will ensure that our lives are structured to allow time for reading and meditation.

(2) Pray for Help

Reading and meditation need to be accompanied by prayer. The reading of the law by Ezra was preceded by prayer (Neh 8:6). In praying to God we thank Him for the Scriptures He has given us and ask for help to understand His Word. Praying before reading and meditation is helpful in preparing our minds to receive the Scriptures effectively.

(3) Be Self-disciplined and Consistent

How busy the life of a king would be with so many responsibilities and duties to deal with! Despite this pressure, God required each king of Israel to write out a copy of the Law for himself, which would be with him, and which he was to read all the days of his life (Deut 17:18–20). The law of God was central to the king’s work. For a king to comply with this requirement would have involved discipline and consistency. Our lives are busy, and we can often find it hard to allow enough time for the reading of God’s Word, and meditation upon it. We need to be self-disciplined in the use of our time. Our human minds can easily forget divine things, so consistency is also important. Daily reading following the Bible Companion is an ideal way to do ensure that reading and meditation are an integral part of our everyday routine.

(4) Become Familiar with God’s Word

It’s amazing to see how well Bible characters knew their Scriptures—particularly when very few of them had access to a written copy! Mary offered a prayer of thanksgiving which is full of Old Testament references (Luke 1:46–55). It is obvious that she knew her Scriptures well, and thought about them: and she was therefore able to pull on such knowledge at the appropriate time. The same familiarity with the Scriptures is evident in the lives of many other Bible characters—wellknown examples include Daniel, Nehemiah and Zacharias. The ultimate example of familiarity with God’s Word is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. When he was tempted, his mind went immediately to Scripture to repel the temptation. All of us can become more familiar with God’s Word, in one way or another. We need to develop keen, well-equipped minds able to recall relevant Scriptures in appropriate situations.

(5) Read with a Thirst to Learn

Our approach to reading God’s Word is very important. The law of God is the righteous man’s delight (Psa 1:2). He really wanted to come and read and learn and think on the Scriptures. We must approach the Word of God with a real desire to learn and understand. We need questioning, searching minds: Why was this recorded? What were the circumstances of the original readers? What is the main theme or point that is being made? What are the key words? What can we learn about God from this passage? What can we learn about His Son? How should I adjust my life to reflect what I am reading?

(6) Develop the Skill of Good Reading

Ezra read the book of the Law to the people for five to six hours straight, during which time they had to listen and concentrate! This would have required the skill of good reading. We are told, “They read in the book in the Law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Neh 8:8). Emphasis was put in the right places and the Word of God came alive through such reading. We, too, need to develop this skill. The Bible is a living book from God, and we need to let it come alive for us. This means we must read with sensitivity to the situation, putting the emphasis in the right place and attempting to convey the feeling.

(7) Let God’s Word Hit Home

Ezra’s reading from the Law of God hit home, and the people wept (Neh 8:9). They felt the power of God’s Word and saw that their lives needed significant change. Josiah rent his clothes in anguish when he heard the Law of God read to him (2 Kings 22:11). Similarly, we need to take the message of God’s Word to heart when we read it—let it hit home to our hearts, and feel an emotional response. We must be moved by what we read, draw closer to God, and resolve to make real changes in our lives if change is needed.

(8) Develop the Skill of Meditation

Meditation is not an easy skill to develop and practise in our fast-paced modern age. But meditation is important because it brings us very near to our God. That is when we start to really appreciate the deep and precious truths of the Scriptures. Joshua was instructed by Moses, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh 1:8). Only if Joshua gave himself to consistent, daily meditation would he observe to do what was written in God’s law. Meditation requires quality time contemplating, musing, pondering the things of Scripture slowly, in an unhurried way. Concentration is required to practise such deep and prolonged thinking; so finding somewhere free of distractions is essential.

(9) Seek Guidance from Others When Needed

The Ethiopian eunuch was keenly reading Isaiah 53, but he knew full well that he did not understand what he read. When Philip offered help, he gladly accepted it (Acts 8:30–31). At times we may not understand certain points during our Bible reading, and we should be completely comfortable about seeking guidance and help from our brothers and sisters when required.

(10) Share What we have Learned with Others

“They that feared the Lord spake often one to another” (Mal 3:16). It is good to discuss with other brothers and sisters what we have learned in our own personal Bible reading. This will encourage us in our own reading, and provides a basis for profitable discussion when we meet together. Following the Bible Reader’s Companion provides a structure shared with others around the world. It provides a sense of fellowship and togetherness. Our God has preserved His Word down through the ages so that we can read and meditate on what He wants from us, and so draw closer to Him. By doing this regularly and with perseverance we come to know our God and let His Word sink deeply into our hearts. Let us strive to continually improve our reading and meditation, so that we might know God more fully and say, with Jeremiah, that His Word is the joy and rejoicing of our hearts.