February 4, 1997
A Nashville, Tennessee congregation held a Bible-reading marathon as part of a week of activities leading up to the dedication of a new church building. During this marathon, over two hundred volunteers took part in reading thirty-minute segments, starting with Genesis and ending with the last verse in Revelation. It took them five days and five nights.
One participant said hearing Scripture read like that, especially all night, gave them a sense of awe and reverence. It seems the entire congregation plus many visitors were affected in a positive way. With such an enthusiastic response, perhaps this unusual marathon will prompt them to a continuing commitment to read Scripture aloud.
More than being a novel undertaking, reading the Bible audibly has attached benefits. For one thing, Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
Earlier in that same passage, it says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” then asks the question, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” The point is, unless Scripture is heard, it is impossible to believe in its life-giving message.
A second possible benefit from reading Scripture aloud is that it enters our minds through another gate. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it...”
Notice the transition. Reading is good. Hearing is good. Both are important. However, the blessing has yet another prerequisite attached. What is heard must be taken to heart, moved from the ears to the inner person. Reading or hearing the Bible read is useless unless it makes a difference to the way we think and respond to God and to life.
God said much the same thing in the Old Testament. He told Joshua, Moses’ successor, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
Joshua was just beginning his season of leadership. He was not a young man but filling the steps of Moses was probably intimidating. Also, the task before him included moving a huge group of people into a new land. They faced hostile residents who were not putting out a welcome mat. For Joshua, reading and thinking about what he read was important to this task, but notice that his success was ensured by doing what it says, not merely reading it.
James, brother of Jesus, also had something to say about reading and hearing. Like the direction given to Joshua, he also takes it one step farther. He says, “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”
Any individual or group that undertakes reading the entire Bible aloud will no doubt be blessed just as were those Christians in Nashville. Most of them will have greater insight into the mind of God. They will also better understand the human condition. However, for them and for all who read the Bible, the greater task and the greater blessing depends on what happens after the reading is finished.