"Have You Not Read?"
When some Pharisees came to Jesus testing Him with the question of whether it was lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause, the Lord answered with a question of His own: “Have you not read . . . ?” (Matthew 19:3-4). His response is thought-provoking. Consider it with me.
1. The Scriptures ought to be read. The Living Bible paraphrases Jesus’ question, “Don’t you read the Scriptures?” That is an appropriate response to many questions being asked.
Bible reading belongs in our assemblies. Paul told Timothy, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13). Though the word public has been added by the translators, it seems to be the correct sense.
Private reading of Scripture is also needed. Reading schedules, such as the ones found in the helps in some Bibles, tend to place more emphasis on volume read than under-standing the content; but at least they have the merit of establishing the routine of Bible reading. Spend some time with the Book every day. It is God speaking to you.
2. The Scriptures are authentic. Jesus recommended reading the Scriptures because He knew their origin. Peter put it this way: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Jesus knew nothing of higher criticism, redactors, compilers, etc. He never referred to the Old Testament as a book of myths and legends. In fact, it is interesting to note that two of the Old Testament narratives that most frequently come under attack—the creation account and the story of Jonah—were both used by our Lord in His teaching.
3. The Scriptures can be understood. The divorce question was a major issue in Jesus’ day. Historians tell us the controversy centered on the “indecency” of Deuteronomy 24:1. Shammai took a conservative view; Hillel, a liberal one. Perhaps the Pharisees were trying to get Jesus to line up with one or the other of those rabbis. He did not. His question was, “Have you not read?”
The tendency to let others do our thinking for us is all too common. It is easy to run to our favorite preacher and accept what he says on a certain subject as “gospel”; it is also dangerous. God revealed His will in such a way that all of us have the opportunity to understand it. “For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand” (2 Corinthians 1:13). See also Ephesains 3:3-4. Make your own investigation into truth. “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God” (Romans 15:22).
4. The Scriptures are practical. The Pharisees’ question in our text was, “Is it [divorce] lawful?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read?” In other words, “If you were familiar with the Scriptures, your question would be answered.” The Bible is the revelation of the mind of God. It is the only source to which we can go to find the answer to the question, “Is it lawful?”
The Scriptures are practical for other things. Jesus found them useful in repelling temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). He also said they proved His claim to deity (John 5:39). Paul noted that the things written in earlier times encourage us (Romans 15:4). They also warn us. One could sum up the practical benefits of the Scriptures by saying they equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).
5. The Scriptures must be kept. Jesus answered the divorce question by citing Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. He then added, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6). In other words, we must do what the Scriptures say. It also seems that He was saying there was too much quibbling about divorce and not enough emphasis on God’s plan for marriage. Surely there is a lesson here for us too!
The force of Jesus’ argument was that God’ pattern, as revealed in Scripture, must be adhered to. He did not consider these commands out of date, even though they were thousands of years old. He did not look at violations of them as minor infractions which God would overlook. The Son of God did not determine truth by hypothetical cases or through sympathy for any hardship following God’s instructions might create. He simply asked, “Have you not read?”
You and I will face Jesus’ words at the judgment (John 12:48). Why not face them now so He will not say then, “Have you not read?”