In Deuteronomy, God instructed the kings of Israel to develop a relationship with the scriptures:
“And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel” (17:18-20).
Very few of us are kings in the natural sense. But this ancient advice to kings offers helpful insights to us who have been made “kings and priests” (Revelation 1:6) through the blood of Jesus. Just like the Hebrew kings of long ago, we need to develop a relationship with the Bible. We need to read the Bible like a king.
It is worth noting the source of scriptures which the king was to read. The Book that the king read was to be copied “out of [the book] which is before the priests the Levites”. When Moses finished writing the Law, “Moses commanded the Levites…saying, Take this book of the law, and put in the side of the ark of the covenant” (Deuteronomy 31:25-26). The book of the law was right beside the ark of the covenant in that most holy place of the temple, in the place where God’s glory was. When we approach the scriptures we need to realize that the word of God is surrounded by glory, and it is from that glory that we get his word. The most holy, inmost place of God’s presence: that is where his word comes from, and that is where we go to when we approach the scriptures.
Notice that king’s relationship with the word had to be personal. God said that “he shall write him a copy of this law…and it shall be with him“. God expected the king to make a personal copy of the scriptures: he had to write a copy for himself and keep it with him. Similarly, our relationship with the scriptures can never be second-hand. It amazes me how many people expect to get all of their knowledge from the pastor; they never open the Bible for themselves. We must have a personal relationship with the Bible, and we must keep his word with us. His word should be in our heart, so that his word is with us even when our Bible isn’t. Reading the Bible and keeping his word in our heart is something that no one can do for us; it must be personal.
The king’s relationship with the word had to be perpetual. God said that the king “shall read therein all the days of his life“. Reading God’s word is a life-long endeavor, and it is something that we should strive to do every day. I have met people who are proud to tell you that they have read “all the way through the Bible”; but upon further investigation, we discover that they have read the Bible once—and only once—and they do not feel the slightest need to ever pick it up again. That isn’t how a relationship with the Bible works. The more we learn, the more we want to learn; the more we read, the more we want to read. And plus, it’s just a part of reality: we are human and we forget, and if we don’t read God’s word every day we often forget what God’s word teaches. Our relationship with God’s word is more than personal; it must be day-by-day, a perpetual relationship.
Perhaps most importantly, though, the king’s relationship with the scriptures was purposeful. Why was the king to read God’s word? First of all, so “that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them”. The king was commanded to read the Bible so that he could learn how to have an obedient relationship with him. When we read the Bible, it is not some religious, monotonous act that we do because we want to be good people. Reading the Bible is something that we do because we want to have a relationship with our creator, because we want to obey and please him. And in this sense, reading the Bible isn’t enough. We must also do what it says. And our obedience concerns more people than ourselves. The king was supposed to read so “that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel”. Future generations will be impacted by how we obey God’s word! Lasting blessings and lasting cursings depend on our reception of what God has revealed to us in the Bible.
But there is also a second purpose for reading: “that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren”. The king was supposed to read the Bible so that he would stay humble and not think of himself more highly than the people around him. How many people have we met who can quote the Bible, chapter and verse; but who are so arrogant and condescending with their knowledge that nobody wants to talk to them about God? May the Lord forgive me for the times I have been this way, and may I never again fall into that sin of pride! As kings for God, we read the Bible so that we can stay humble and be a servant-leader, NOT so that we can learn more than others, show off, and be pretentious. The first purpose of reading the Bible is so that we can learn obedience; but obedience without humility will make us arrogant Pharisees and poor witnesses for Jesus.
So, now that we are a couple months into the year and all of the “new year’s resolutions” have worn off, why don’t we dedicate ourselves to a relationship with God’s word? Let’s make it a glorious experience that pushes us into his holy place. Let’s make it personal, let’s make it perpetual, let’s make it personal. Let’s read like a king!!