30 Days in the Bible, Day 24: Nehemiah 8:1-3
Studying the Word of God on your own is an important discipline. We can open the Word whenever we want to, and spend as much time as we can reading, meditating, and studying. (This is, of course, not true for all Christians, and we need to pray for our brothers and sisters who do not have free access to the Bible.) There is no substitute for time spent listening to the Holy Spirit speak to us through the inspired Word.
For many Christians, personal study is their chief focus. They don’t want to spend time listening to others preach or teach the Word. Perhaps they believe that as long as they have the Spirit, they can learn everything they need to know on their own. While there is some truth to this, it misses a much bigger point.
When we look through Scripture to find how the Holy Spirit guides us into truth, we find an interesting fact: He does this partly by giving us pastors and teachers that He has gifted to build us up. We saw this when we looked at Ephesians 4. If we do not take advantage of times when we can study the Bible together under the instruction of a Spirit-gifted teacher, we are missing part of what He wants to teach us.
Here in Nehemiah we see Ezra, who in Jewish thought is considered the greatest teacher of the Law, bringing in help from other gifted Levites to explain to the people the meaning of the Law. The Israelites gathered for hours to hear the Law read and taught. They understood that this was all part of their worship, and that what they were hearing through these teachers was God speaking to them through His Word.
We have many opportunities to find good teachers and to study the Word under their leadership. A godly, Spirit-led teacher can help us to see truths we may have missed on our own. Pastors and teachers who have spent time studying the history, culture, and languages of Biblical times can help us bridge the gap between those times and ours. They can also help us to avoid drawing erroneous conclusions from the Bible by helping us place its teachings in context and in their place in the whole of Biblical truth.
Studying in groups should not replace personal study, but be added to it. We do need to learn to search the Scriptures on our own, but we also need to be guided (and to guide) others as we search together. If you are not currently involved in a Bible study led by a solid, Spirit-led teacher, I encourage you to find one and start adding the benefits of studying together to your spiritual journey.