One very fundamental reason for studying the Bible is that God commands it. It is impossible to argue against this fact. In Knowing Scripture, at pages 22-26, R. C. Sproul points to two passages that demand we study the Bible. This article looks at the Old Testament passage of Deuteronomy 6:6–9 (ESV), which reads:
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
This passage begins with the expression “these words,” which comprise the full content that Moses had delivered to the people. In the context of the 21st Century, the term “these words” correlates to the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible. The use of the verb “command” means just that, a command or instruction. This command to put “these words … on your heart” is consistent with many earlier commands to obey: (1) listen to what you are taught to perform (see Deuteronomy 4:1); (2) learn and carefully observe (see Deuteronomy 5:1); and (3) God commanded Moses to teach the people what to do when in the promised land (see Deuteronomy 6:1).
The verb “shall be on your heart” is an idiom that means to memorize these words. In Hebrew thought, the heart is the seat of one’s intellect or rational side. Hence, to be on one’s heart is to be on one’s mind always. See Merrill, E. H. (1994). Deuteronomy (Vol. 4, p. 167). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers. It is not much of a leap to move from Scripture memorization to Bible study. Bible study no doubt can lead to Bible memorization, and especially memorization and understanding of the substance of Scripture.
Verses 7-9 then proceed to set out more details about how to put “these words,” i.e., the Bible, on one’s heart.
Verse 7a says that one should “teach them diligently to your children.” This phrase can equate to instruction for one to spend the time and effort in the sense of to chisel these words into the thinking of one’s children. In this regard, while inscribing words on a rock slab, for example, is hard work, it is well worth it because of the permanency resulting from the effort. Verse 7a is consistent, in the context of the 21st Century, with the overall command to study the Bible.
Verse 7b presents four “when” instances wherein you “shall talk of them [these words] when …”. These are: (1) when you sit in your house; (2) when you walk by the way; (3) when you lie down, and (4) when you rise. Even a cursory consideration of these four “when” actions leads to a command to talk of these words during all the time one lives life. “These words” must be at the very center of one’s life in all its aspects. For Moses to command that “these words” be so central to one’s life correlates in the 21st Century context to a command by God to study the Bible.
Verse 8 presents two commands relating to one’s person; namely, to bind “these words” on one’s hand and wear “these words” as frontlets on one’s forehead between their eyes. Both of these commands are most likely metaphorical, but they signify constant exposure to “these words,” as well as comprise a visual display of the covenant relationship the people had with God. To correlate in the 21st Century, verse 8 commands Bible study as normative behavior for the Christian.
Finally, verse 9 commands that the people “shall write” “these words” on the doorposts of their houses and their gates. While, like for verse 8, these are most likely metaphorical, these instructions show God’s intention to expose the people and their entire household, as well as the community, to “these words,” i.e., the Bible in the context of the 21st Century.
Given the completeness and totality of the commands of verses 6-9, it is clear that this Old Testament text, when contextualized to the 21st Century, teaches that God commands a Christian study the Bible. In other words, Bible study is to be normative behavior for a 21st Century Christian.
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Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.