Listen To This Post

The Proverbs give great advice about how to balance listening and speaking. In the New Testament, James wrote, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak…” (James 1:19).[1] Plus, your mama advises, “You have two ears and one mouth!” If we incorporate this principle in corporate worship, which will have the greater proportion: singing or Scripture reading? It’s obvious, isn’t it?

The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to, “…devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture…” (1 Timothy 4:13). Because the church of Jesus Christ is a “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:16), her ministers must give themselves to the reading and proclamation of that truth.

The reading of Scripture turned King Josiah’s heart to the Lord (2 Kings 22:11). When a remnant of Israel returned to Jerusalem after the exile, Ezra the scribe stood before the people and “read from (the Law)…from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:3).

When Jesus stayed in the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha, Martha busied herself “with much serving” (Luke 10:39). But Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39). Martha commanded Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help. That’s just like siblings, isn’t it? But Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:42). Jesus commended Mary for choosing to listen to him rather than fretfully trying to serve him.

Think of the number of imminent men converted under the reading of Scripture. We think of Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle. Jonathan Edwards noted, upon reading 1 Timothy 1:17, “there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being, a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before.”[2] 

In a 2013 article, Dr. Carl Trueman wrote about attending worship at a liberal Anglican Church. A Muslim woman was also in the congregation. Although the preaching was liberal (and empty), the worship service still included lots of Scripture reading. Dr. Trueman noted, “Yet here is the irony: in this liberal Anglican chapel, the hijabi experienced an hour long service in which most of the time was spent occupied with words drawn directly from scripture. She heard more of the Bible read, said, sung and prayed than in any Protestant evangelical church of which I am aware – than any church, in other words, which actually claims to take the word of God seriously and place it at the centre of its life.”[3]

If we truly believe Scripture is the life-giving Word of God, why don’t more Protestant churches read it to their congregations? Why is not our worship centered around hearing from the living God rather than making ourselves heard? As Christians, we need to sing less and listen more! Let’s make worship a Mary moment not a Martha one, and invite the congregation to sit and listen to Jesus speak.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, Scripture references from English Standard Version.

[2] Murray, Iain H., Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000.

[3] Trueman, Carl. “What the Hijabi Witnessed (And What She Didn’t).” Blog. Reformation21, August 26, 2013. Accessed May 13, 2021.

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