all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Lawbefore the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.” NIV

For effective preaching to happen two things have to synchronise. There must be ‘priests’ (leaders), like Ezra, who have a heart to set the Lord’s Word before the people; and there must be a people who have hearts to heed what God says. This was a long service by any standards, but the people were alert and attentive. It caused me to remember Luke’s statement about the first Christian church in Jerusalem: ‘’They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…’’ (Acts 2:42a). (By the way, the Bible reading was probably the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Old Testament. If Ezra did not read all of it, he no doubt read large chunks. The Pentateuch, it has to be confessed, contains large sections of Scripture we may find difficult to digest. So it’s good to be reminded that this is God’s Word and it is all important).

But I’m also reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy:

’Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.’’ (1 Timothy 4:13 New Living Translation).

The public reading of Scripture is very important. This is where the more liturgical churches may have an advantage over the ‘free’ congregations at times. The reading of both Old and New Testament passages is embedded in their services.

 If you get the opportunity to read the Bible out loud in a service, approach your task with reverence, care, thought and prayer. It is God’s Word you are handling, and you want people to understand’’ what He is saying.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for the fact that your Word is so freely available to us. Thank you for those who have given their lives to put it in our hands. Give us hearts to sit at your feet and listen attentively.