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New City Catechism Question 42

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Question 42
How is the Word of God to be read and heard?

With diligence, preparation, and prayer; so that we may accept it with faith, store it in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.


When God visisted Israel at Mount Sinai, there were "thunder and lightning flashes and thick cloud upon the mountain and very loud trumpet sound, so that all who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain" (Exod 19:16-17). The whole mountain was engulfed in smoke because Yahweh descended upon the peak in fire (19:18)!

From the fire, God spoke to Moses the words of his covenant with Israel. Then Moses spoke all these words to the people and they entered the covenant with the Lord (Exodus 24). This whole section of Exodus is remarkable, but let's note a few things in connection to our catechism.

First, the people prepared/consecrated themselves for the Lord's visitation. In Exodus 19 they are instructed to wash their garments, abstain from marital relations, and set up boundaries around the mountain lest they get too close and die. While we aren't commanded to emulate exactly how they consecrated themselves to meet with and hear from God, we should follow what they did, namely prepare themselves. We should ready ourselves to encounter the living God as we read and hear his word. Practically speaking, this looks like being well-rested for Sunday morning, reading the sermon text beforehand, praying for God's grace in our reading/hearing, etc.

Second, the people responded as those who had heard the voice of God. There was excitement and dread, joy and terror, as God spoke to them from the fire. The word of God is exactly that, the word of God! It is not light or flippant or common or hollow or inconsequential. May God give us a right estimation of the Scriptures. And may his powerful word accomplish all he intends in us for his glory.