A Delight, not a Duty

Reading Scripture can be the joy of your heart.

Reading God’s Word (3)

So shall I keep Your law continually,
Forever and ever.
And I will walk at liberty,
For I seek Your precepts.
I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings,
And will not be ashamed.
And I will delight myself in Your commandments,
Which I love.
My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments,
Which I love,
And I will meditate on Your statutes.
Psalm 119.44-48

“Legalistic”?
I want to insist that you are reading the Scriptures wrong if you’re not reading them daily and comprehensively. You need a plan to help you develop the discipline of setting aside time each day to read, meditate in, and study the Word of God, and to do so in a way that takes you through the whole of Scripture, over and over again.

Perhaps this sounds a bit “legalistic” to you? I’ve been told as much by pastors and church leaders who believe that, if they take up such a “rigid discipline”, as they see it, they’ll just become like the Pharisees of old, doing their duty and checking off their list of good works to prove their righteousness.

Is daily, comprehensive reading of the life-giving, glory-revealing, power-wielding Word of God a mere duty? Are we being “legalistic” by insisting that we’re only reading Scripture rightly when we read it this way?

It depends…
Certainly, Bible reading can become a work of legalism by which we try to prove our “righteousness” and flaunt our presumed piety. But just because it can be this doesn’t mean that it must or that God intends it should.

What if, rather than being a mere duty, daily and comprehensive reading of God’s Word were to become a great delight? This, after all, was how the prophet Jeremiah saw his time in the Scriptures. He wrote, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jer. 15.16). Job, the greatest man of his day, said that he valued his time in the Word of God more than the meals he took three times a day (Job 23.12). Jesus acknowledged that depending on Scripture is more important than our bodily nutritional needs, as important as these truly are (Matt. 4.4). He certainly took great delight in all the counsel of God in Scripture.

So it depends on how we approach daily reading, meditating in, and studying the Word of God. If we approach it as a duty, something we have to do, then that’s what it will be. And as a duty, our discipline of reading will not yield the fruit of transforming grace God intends. Instead, it will only make us smug and self-righteous.

On the other hand, if we learn to delight in the Word and to cherish the time we have to read it, we’re likely to find, like Jeremiah and Job and Jesus, that these moments in the Word of God are the most important, most enjoyable moments of our day.

So how do we get to that mindset?

Seek the Lord
God is the Lord of the heart; He can shape our attitudes and affections when it comes to daily reading in His Word. If we will seek the Lord daily as we come to the Scriptures, looking to Him to help us delight in His Word, we can expect that He will do so, for this is His will for every one of us.

One way to do this is to let Psalm 119 be your prayer of preparation for the reading of God’s Word. Psalm 119 is divided into 22 sections; the verses in each section begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. If you read one section a day before beginning your Bible reading, using that section as your preparation prayer, you will find your own attitude increasingly lining up with God’s desire for you concerning His Word.

The focus of Psalm 119 is on the Law of God; however, the Law and Word of God – that is, all of Scripture – are the same cloth. So as we pray our way through Psalm 119 a little more than once a month, we may expect God to shape our heart to delight in Him and all the Scriptures.

Consider just the text for today, the second half of the vav section of Psalm 119. It leads us to make a commitment, a decision of conscience and will, to keep what we are learning from God’s Word. It teaches us to seek His Word, and thus to regard it as extremely important – like finding your lost car keys, for example. These verses lead us to anticipate growing confidence in the Word, and they encourage us to delight in reading, meditating, and studying it. The passage even puts us in the posture of a child, lifting our hands to our beloved Father, that He might take us up, draw us near, and hold us fast.

Pray like this every day before you read, and as you are reading, and you’ll find your attitude toward daily and comprehensive reading of God’s Word is becoming not a duty, but an increasing delight. And then you’ll be reading the Word right, as you should.

For reflection
1.  What are some of the differences between reading Scripture as a duty and reading it as a delight?

2.  Can reading Scripture regularly and comprehensively be both a duty and a delight? Explain.

3.  Suggest some additional ways of preparing for daily reading that might help you to take more delight in this discipline:

Next steps – Preparation: Try our suggestion about praying Psalm 119 for the next several days. Pray the verses from Psalm 119 as though they were your own words. Pray them slowly, seriously, reflectively. Do you sense any change in your attitude toward your time in God’s Word? Share your thoughts with your reading partner or a Christian friend.

T. M. Moore

To learn more about understanding and using the Bible, enroll in the course, Introduction to Biblical Theology. It’s free and online, and you can study at your own pace or with friends. To learn more and to register, click here. This week’s study is Part 4 of a series on The Word of God, and is available as a free download by clicking here.

Your next step every day should be to improve your work in your Personal Mission Field. Our Mission Partners Outreach can help. This six-month, stay-at-home missions effort will show you and a study partner how to identify and begin working your Personal Mission Field faithfully and effectively. It’s free and online, so watch this brief video, then find a friend to join you and get started right away.

Please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. We ask the Lord to move and enable many more of our readers to provide for the needs of our ministry. Please seek Him in prayer concerning your part in supporting our work. You can contribute online, via PayPal, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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