Deuteronomy 31: The Public Reading of Scripture

Deuteronomy 31: The Public Reading of Scripture September 12, 2012

“12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” -Deuteronomy 31:12-13

The public reading of Scripture has become a lost art in today’s churches. Rather than a reading of the text, the focus has shifted to technology, utilizing screens, videos, storytelling and other forms of communication to present sermons. While technology has many positive uses, the corresponding de-emphasis on the public reading of the Bible has taken its toll.

Despite the fact that most Americans own one or more Bibles, only a minority read them. Even many sermons contain only a brief mention of the verses used to communicate the day’s principles. Yet the tradition begun by Moses was one emphasized much later in one of the apostle Paul’s last letters when writing to Timothy. He wrote to the young church leader, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13). The public reading of Scripture (primarily concerning the Old Testament writings at that time) were to serve as the basis of all preaching and teaching.

If you are a church leader reading these words today, let me encourage and challenge you: Never teach or preach a sermon without clearly and publicly reading the words from the biblical text you intend to present. Do not assume others will read it in their own copies of the Bible or that you will cover it at some point in your sermon. Read the words. Join the ancient tradition of Moses, Paul, and others who used the Scriptures themselves as the basis for their spoken communication.

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Dillon Burroughs is the author and coauthor of numerous books and is handwriting a copy of all 31,173 verses of the Bible at Find out more about Dillon at or

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