By Don Ruhl
Nehemiah 8.1 says:
“Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel.”
Why did the Jews ask Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses? Ezra 7.10 shows us the kind of man that Ezra was:
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
Based on this reading, what kind of public reader of Scripture do you think Ezra was? He did not rush through the reading of Scripture, but read it with all reverence. Following are some pointers for the proper reverent reading of Scripture in public.
- Give the congregation time to find the Scripture text, which you have announced loudly and clearly.
- If you are reading a passage as part of a sermon or class, pause before reading and after. This sets apart God’s word from your word. Do not blend your comments with the words of God. Even as when writing a report and lengthy quotations are have an extra space before and after and the margins are indented.
- Do not rush through the reading. I once heard a well-known preacher carefully articulate his words, but when he read Scripture he did it as fast as possible and then slowed down to emphasize his own words. Without intending it he gave greater emphasis to his words. He knew the passage by heart and this led to the quick reading. A reader must discipline himself to read the word of God carefully.
- Follow the grammatical notations. Periods, commas, semicolons and other punctuation are there for a reason. Even as music has notations to tell you how to sing, so reading has notations to tell you how to read.
- Read with the feeling of the text. The word of God is like a song. It has been assembled with certain literary devices to make the truth stand out. Moreover, singers are instructed to understand what a song is about. If the song is sad, it needs to be sung sad. Likewise, figure out the feeling of the passage in the Bible and bring that out when you read.
- Practice reading the text before you read it in public. As with anything, the more you practice it, the better you will be at doing it. Remember you are reading the word of God and how you come across in your reading will show others how you think about the word of God, leaving them an example of how they should think about it.
Revelation 1.3 promises:
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”
I conclude with the first seven of McGuffey’s Plain Rules for Reading taken from the third and fourth readers of the famous McGuffey’s Readers. I encourage you to find a set of the books and learn the other rules.
- Hold your book up well and do not bend forward.
- Speak each word distinctly and be careful to pronounce correctly.
- Endeavor to understand what you read.
- Avoid the habit of clearing your throat by coughing, or making other unpleasant noises as you begin to read aloud.
- Reflect upon what you have read and when you have a proper opportunity, converse about it. To relate what you have read is the best way to remember it yourselves. This will be profitable employment of your time and will afford you great pleasure.
- Sit or stand erect when you read. To hold the head down and the shoulders forward in reading makes the voice sound badly, and it injures the health to read much in this way.
- Be careful to learn and remember the stops and marks so well that you will know their uses whenever you meet with them.