This is the text of the speech Rev. Huizinga gave at the annual meeting of the RFPA on September 19, 2013. Previous article in this series: November 15, 2013, p. 88.
Reading’s Great Significance in God’s Covenant
The next generation must be encouraged to read. The necessity, even urgency, of doing so is twofold. First, reading has a significant place in the covenant of grace as an instrument of God for the fulfilling of His promises. That reading has a significant place in God’s covenant can be demonstrated from Scripture.
First of all,(and all similar Old Testament passages): “And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” Throughout Israel’s history as a constituted nation, the book of the covenant, which contained God’s laws and promises for Israel, was read. The book of the covenant was not read by every individual but it was read to the people by Moses and the leaders after him, over and over again. Apostasy in Israel was always characterized by the neglect of reading the book of the covenant, either because it had been lost or because it was deliberately ignored. One of the greatest reformations that ever occurred among God’s covenant people, although sadly it did not last very long, took place during the reign of good king Josiah. The book of the covenant was found after having been lost, “and the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great [they had little children there, of course]: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord” ( ). The book of the covenant was read. When it was read Israel usually prospered. When it was neglected, invariably apostasy occurred. Clearly, reading had a significant place in God’s covenant already in the Old Testament.
Second,: “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” To the young pastor Timothy and to every pastor comes the command, “Read. Give attendance to reading.” Read publicly in the worship of the church and in teaching catechism. Read privately so that you may know how to exhort and may grow in and teach doctrine. But is the inspired apostle’s command to read to be understood as a command only to pastors like Timothy, or is it a command principally and primarily to pastors, but also to every child of God? Because not only the minister, but everyone, must know doctrine, so all ought to give attendance to reading. Read! Give attendance to reading! Reading has a significant place in God’s covenant.
Third,: “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” When an older, experienced minister has been thrown into prison in Rome, and has been sentenced to death and is simply awaiting the time of his departure when the Roman soldiers will take him to the execution block, he has one last request: “Timothy, when you come [and hasten lest I die before you arrive] bring me the books, especially the parchments.” Bring me books! Bring me good literature to read, for I have read often and it edifies my soul as little else can. Is this the desire only of Paul and those in similar circumstances, or is this the desire of all of God’s children? In God’s covenant, God’s people say, “Bring me books. My soul needs books!” Reading has a significant place in God’s covenant.
Fourth,: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Blessed is he that readeth the book of Revelation publicly in worship and they who hear it. Blessed is he that readeth the book of Revelation privately. However, because Scripture is one united whole, and the book of Revelation is part of the whole, “Blessed is he that readeth” means “Blessed is he that readeth the whole Bible.” By lawful extension, then, blessed is he that readeth a faithful exposition of this book to help him understand it, such as Behold He Cometh by Rev. Hoeksema. Blessed is he that readeth any such literature that helps him understand God’s revelation. Blessed, happy, privileged is he that readeth! To be pitied is he who rejects or minimizes reading! Reading has a significant place in God’s covenant.
Finally, the Bible. The aforementioned passages are all secondary. The primary proof that reading has a significant place in God’s covenant is the Bible itself. In His inscrutable wisdom God determined from all eternity that He would be revealed to His people through the Bible, His written revelation, the entirety of which we new dispensation believers now have in our hands. And the Bible as a written revelation must be read. God could have revealed Himself savingly in Jesus Christ through some other means, but He determined that He would be revealed through a written revelation that must be read. That the revelation of God comes to us in a book with words that are written and must be read is the proof that reading has a significant place in God’s covenant. And whom does this written revelation reveal but Him who is called the Word, and the Alpha and Omega (Greek letters)? The necessity and urgency of reading in the covenant is indisputable and could not be emphasized too strongly. To deny the significance of reading in the covenant is to deny Scripture as such, and thus the Word Himself! The church will let reading vanish to her peril and destruction. The divine form of revelation—which demands reading—is the incontrovertible proof that the reading of the Bible and all spiritually-edifying literature is necessary. No matter what technological developments and transformations take place in the modern world, reading among the covenant people must not be allowed to disappear. Reading cannot disappear so long as Christ tarries.
Why is reading so significant in the covenant? It is an instrument of God for fulfilling His promises. The covenant of grace is the relationship of friendship between the triune God and His elect people in their generations through the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ. In that covenant, God makes promises to us and our children—chiefly that He will be our God and reveal Himself to us, and that He will shower saving blessings upon us now and everlastingly in Jesus Christ. That particular promise God will sovereignly realize by His own power and grace. However, He is pleased to fulfill it by using various instruments, the chief of which is the gospel of the Scriptures preached, but another is the Scriptures and then, by extension, all spiritually edifying literature read. The purpose of reading therefore is to know Jehovah and His saving works and ways. The more we know Him the more we will love Him and trust Him and hope in Him and will grow in our relationship with Him. That is our salvation! That is the fulfillment of His promise in Christ! If we love God we will not be able to keep from reading any more than the new bride can keep from reading the letters her husband sends to her from the battlefield across the sea. I must read to know my beloved! Through reading we come to know and love our faithful God as He has promised. Reading has a significant place in the covenant of grace as an instrument of God for the fulfilling of His promises. We must read! Our young people must read!
Reading’s Disappearing Significance in the Modern World
Secondly, the necessity and even urgency of encouraging the next generation to read is the fact that the modern world is not conducive to, and even indirectly discourages, the deep thinking that reading requires. This is a world where information is increasingly communicated through bright images; stimulating, real-life pictures; and action-packed videos. If the message is communicated through words, the words are reduced to abbreviations so that the mind spends minimal time with the words, flitting around like a hummingbird from one image to the next. When information is communicated this way it makes the human mind increasingly passive. Less discipline and effort are required. Little, if any, critical thinking, careful contemplation, reflection, and meditation are practiced. Technology is a wonderful tool. However, by its own admission, the modern world is not developing the smart man, but the Smart Phone. And as the tool gets smarter, does the mind get proportionally duller?
There was a day not so long ago when the father of a family would plan a vacation from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Yellowstone National Park by clearing off the dining table and hauling out his Rand/McNally Road Map. He would lay it out there on the table along with a piece of legal-sized paper, a pencil, and a ruler. He would look at the bottom corner of the map, where it said “One inch equals seventy-five miles.” And he would map out the journey, carefully calculating for himself which route to take, and how far the family will travel each day. He would lay it all out and have it all envisioned in his mind. He did all the work. Not necessary today. If he so desires, the man can wait until the very morning of departure, grab his GPS, set as his destination the campground in Yellowstone National Park, hit “go,” and it begins issuing commands: “Proceed one hundred feet and turn right. Continue on highway 1 for fifty-five miles and merge unto highway 2….” And who is doing the thinking? The GPS is terrific—an incredible tool. But as we put away our road maps, forethought, and careful thinking, is that thinking and speaking navigator who takes our hand and guides us every turn of the way unto our final destination producing among us a generation of people navigationally brain-dead?
And that is only one example. Technology is great. Yet, what is happening to the human mind?
Now consider the activity of reading the Bible and all spiritually-edifying literature. Reading demands active participation. The moment the mind enters the passive mode we are no longer reading but blankly staring at words on a page. Often we work our way to the end of a page we never actually read. Reading demands mental activity, discipline, effort, careful contemplation, meditation, and reflection. Sometimes you have to go back and read the same sentence over again in order to understand the concepts and their relationships to each other, and the relationship of the sentence to its preceding context. Reading demands deep thinking.
It is no surprise that reading, or any other spiritually edifying activity of the Christian life requires deep thinking, and the exercise of the mind. For,says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind….” By the renewing of your mind! The mind is not like the cottage on the lake, which has to be renovated and updated every twenty or fifty years or so. The mind has to be renovated every single day lest it decay and corrode. Every day renew your mind! Do not be conformed to this world, which conformity can be accelerated by the decaying of the mind, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. : “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober….” Gird up the loins of your mind. Think of a man in Israel with a long robe. If he had to move quickly, he would pull up the bottom of his robe and tuck it in his girdle, lest it get caught in his sandals or in his legs. And now the apostle Peter says, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” We have to be sharp and active and diligent with our mind. Gird it up, so it is ready to go. The Christian life in general and reading in particular demand a sharp, regenerated mind.
It is always necessary to encourage the next generation to read, but it is especially urgent now because the modern world in which we live is not conducive to and even indirectly discourages the deep thinking of the mind that spiritually-edifying reading requires.
We must encourage the next generation to read. Next time: “What can we do?”