My Bible - thanks Mum

If you can't make out the date, I received this on September 9, 1988.

Twenty-nine years ago this month, I received the best present I’ve ever received. I was 8 years old then and I still have it today. If you can’t make out the date in the picture above, my mother gave it to me on September 9, 1988.

Thanks, Mum.

To be really honest, I didn’t appreciate that gift for almost two decades after I got it. I look at it now and there’s not that much wear and tear – it was barely read, back then, as I spent years wandering in the wilderness – another story for another day.

But eventually, at 26, I started going back to church, and taking God seriously. At 26, I was finally, finally reading the Bible for the first time in living memory.

There is a passage in the Bible which describes a similar situation: Nehemiah 8.

At that time, Israel had been so messed up for so many hundreds of years that many of those alive at the time of Nehemiah hadn’t heard the Book of the Law of Moses – their Bible, at that time – publicly read out in their lifetime, because they were always under some foreign king who hated the Jewish God.

In Nehemiah 8, the nation finally had a public reading of their Holy Book. They gathered with a hunger and desire for the Word not seen in that country for many generations.

What can we learn from the Israelites about how to approach God’s written Word?

HOW DO WE READ THE WORD OF GOD?

1. WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

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. (Nehemiah 8:1)

The hunger of the Israelites – their thirst – was evident. They wanted to hear the Word of God. They were hungry for it! They told Ezra, come out, we’re waiting, we want this.

If you’re a coffee addict, you may have said this before/daily: I need a coffee or I don’t feel alive. I need a coffee or I can’t function. I need a coffee NOW.

What if we took out these passions and replace them with the Word of God? I need the Word of God or I don’t feel alive. I need to hear from Him or I can’t function. God, I need you NOW.

Why can’t we do without our daily caffeine shot, but not without our creator’s voice?

That’s the attitude that would really please God: Where we can function without our coffee, our caffeine shot, but not without our creator’s voice. Not without the Word.

The Israelites came hungry and expectant; one principle that’s repeated throughout the Bible is that a hungry Christian will be fed (Matthew 7:7-8, Proverbs 8:17, Jeremiah 29:13, Deuteronomy 4:29-31).

In Psalm 14:2, it says that “the LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand – who seek after God”.

Does this describe you? When God looks down from heaven upon the sons of men, looking for those who seek after Him – will He find you waiting, or will He find you wanting?

2. WITH THE RIGHT ARRANGEMENT

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. (Nehemiah 8:3a)

There was a when, a where, and a who about this arrangement. The setting is important!

1. The people prioritised the reading of the Word. They set aside the best time for everyone, while they were still fresh, and there was sunlight to read off.

2. They gave it sufficient time. I know many people whose daily Word intake is reading the Verse of the Day that pops up on their YouVersion app. I suppose that’s better than nothing, but the truth is, if that’s all you’re hearing from God, that is your loss. He’s got so much to say about everything you’re facing in life – He gave you this life, remember? – and you limit Him to 1 sentence?

3. They found the right place. Now, the right place will differ between people. Some people are early birds, some are night owls. Some prefer being indoors, some outdoors. Kinesthetic learners may want to read on the move, while auditory learner might want to consider an audio Bible.

I’ve written previously about my personal arrangement – my happy place.

Not because of the teh, or the toast, which I love, but that’s just the supporting cast. The main act is that book in the middle. The kopitiam isn’t your traditional recommended QT spot – but it works for me.

I don’t want to be prescriptive – the key is you find the right time and place, where you have minimal distractions, and then just get started.

3. WITH THE RIGHT ATTENTION

And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:3b)

Each time you open the Bible, God is clearing His throat to speak. Pay attention! Turn off the TV! When you’re doing your QT, put down your phone, turn it upside down, turn it off!

Also, from my personal experience, I’d advise you to read the Bible slowly. How slow? As slow as you need to fully absorb and understand what’s going on. Don’t rush through it. Enjoy it. Like fine dining, or a good wine. Soak it up. Chew on it. Savour it.

And reading with the right attention means that when you find something that catches your attention – a verse that speaks right into your situation in life, a word that jumps out at you – don’t let it go. God is speaking!

Grab a pen and dirty your Bible. Highlight it. Underline it. Put an asterisk***. Whatever it takes to remind you that THIS IS IMPORTANT.


I know the OCD in you is appalled. Your poor pristine Bible! But here’s the truth: The worse shape your Bible is in, the better shape your life is in.

4. WITH THE RIGHT ASSISTANCE

The Levites … instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. (Nehemiah 8:7-8)

Sometimes, the Bible just completely stumps you. Befuddles you. Confounds you. Parts of it are just way too cheem – especially when you read Paul’s letters.

Even Peter says about Paul, “his letters contain some things that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). If Peter, who walked and talked with Jesus, has trouble understanding the letters written by Paul, what hope do we have?

From the example of Nehemiah 8, that’s where the Priests came in. Find a spiritual elder – a cell leader, a pastor, or just someone whom you trust correctly handles the Word of God – and wrestle with the truth. Find someone who can help you make God’s Word clear, so that you understand what you’re reading.

As iron sharpens iron, be part of a fellowship of believers that sharpens each other on right understanding and grasp of the Word.

5. WITH THE RIGHT AWE

Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:9)

You might think this is a slightly strange response. The Word is being read out and everyone’s crying? Kinda awkward.

But the truth is, this was the fulfilment of a prophecy issued in Jeremiah 50:4. Hundreds of years before, Jeremiah had released a Word from God that Babylon would be captured, and Israelites return to their Promised Land.

“In those days and at that time,” declares the LORD, “the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be the LORD their God they will seek.” (Jeremiah 50:4)

This is why the Israelites were crying: They were finally realising the fullness of the true goodness and glory of God. As they hear His Word – Genesis, about the promises made to Abraham, through to Deuteronomy, and the concept of obedience bringing blessings and disobedience reaping curses – they are realising how God’s promises always come true, and that His love and faithfulness reach to the skies.

In the revelation in the Word, comes reverence – awe – for the power and sovereignty of God.

They were kept alive as a nation by the grace of God alone.

In the revelation in the Word, comes reverence – awe – for the power and sovereignty of God.

When you read the Bible, be conscious of who is speaking. Not merely a Very Important Person. Not merely a king. The King of kings is talking to you!

So take His love letter out of the bottom of the drawer where it’s been buried, brush off the dust of the years, and peel it open. God is speaking – are we listening with the right attitude, amid the right arrangement, paying Him the right attention, guided by the right assistance, and with the right degree of awe?

About the author

Edric Sng

Edric has spent a lifetime in mainstream and digital newsrooms, and has the waistline to prove it. He is a lapsed divemaster, a father to four and husband to one. Could use more sleep.