From my earliest days as a Christian, I have been greatly helped by the writings of Harry Ironside, former pastor of Moody Church. He seemed to be a man of the people and he certainly was a man of the Word. His public ministry was one of Bible exposition. Encouraged by his mother from the age of three, he memorized many parts of the Bible. By the age of fourteen he had read through the Bible fourteen times. In fact, during the rest of his life, it is said that he read the Bible through at least once a year. While preaching at a conference he was asked one morning by a fellow pastor what he had read for his devotions, he replied, “I read the book of Isaiah.” Dr. Ironside was a life-long student of the Bible, and yet, during his last lecture at the Dallas Theological Seminary and almost blind, he held up his Bible and said to the students assembled, “Men, I wish I had read other books less and this Book more.”
Now that is convicting and challenging coming from a life saturated in the Bible. Harry Ironside was a committed student of Scripture but as he looks over his shoulder at a long life of study and learning he fears other books were allowed to get in the way of reading “The Book.” One would assume that the other books he refers to included books about the Bible. What Dr. Ironside is reinforcing is the need that in all our reading, even reading about the Bible, that the Bible itself remain our preferred reading. For the Christian, the Bible must remain our preferred reading for as the inspired Word of the living God, it is a different kind of book. It is the only book we cannot afford to ignore and as such, it is the book we must read first and foremost.
Writing to Timothy, Paul underscores the need for this young and developing minister to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim. 4:13). Following the example of the Synagogue (Luke 4:16-21), it would seem that early Christian churches made it a sacred tradition that portions of the Bible be read out loud during the public gathering of God’s people. The reading of Scripture would normally be followed by an exposition on the passage read. Our takeaway is simply to recognize the importance attached to the reading of Scripture within the life of the church. Timothy was to devote himself to reading the Bible. One could easily assume that the discipline of reading Scripture extended to private lives and the home as well. In fact, when writing to Timothy a second time, Paul acknowledged that his mother and grandmother had diligently read and taught him the Scripture from his earliest days (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15).
Devotion to reading the Bible is a hallmark of Christianity (Rev. 1:3)! Therefore let us each commit with renewed fervor to make time to read our Bibles, commit to read through the Bible cover to cover, and commit to reading others books less, even books about the Bible (Psa. 1:1-2; 119:15-16). Read your Bible, let your Bible read you, and act accordingly, so that when the books are opened on the great judgment day, God will read of a life lived according to His word. According to Jesus that is the only life worth living (Matt. 7:24-27)!
Make the Bible your preferred reading!