By Michael E. Brooks
“Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:19 NKJV).
Ujjal is a Bangla preacher in the remote hill tracts of southeastern Bangladesh. He speaks a little English, and we talk by phone fairly regularly.
Recently I called to ask him to check something for me in his area. He had me repeat my request several times, finally saying “Okay, I understand.” A few minutes later however he called me back asking, “Please send me a written message with your request; I will understand it better.”
I agreed and immediately text-messaged him by phone. Within an hour he responded with the answer to my question.
We understand that learning is a process that is enhanced by repetition, and not only by multiple exposures in one medium, but by the use of all our senses.
We may learn only from hearing a lesson spoken to us several times. However, if we hear it, then read it, then recite it ourselves, we usually learn better and more quickly.
Moses was instructed to teach Israel a song. He did so by oral instruction, by writing it down so it could be read (seen with the eyes), and by having them sing it (“put it in their mouths”). This detailed process not only illustrates the methods of learning, it also emphasizes the importance of the lesson.
Many have asked, “Why did God reveal his word in a written book (the Bible)? Why does he not simply speak to each generation as he did in Biblical times? Would that not be more impressive? Would more people not believe him if they could hear or see him in a miraculous appearance?”
We do not presume to understand fully the purposes of God. Except for those instances when he has told us precisely why he has done a particular thing, it is impossible for finite man to comprehend the workings of the infinite mind of God.
Yet it seems likely that his choice to reveal himself gradually over many years and through many methods, is at least partly suited to man’s own needs, and especially to his learning processes.
A principle of the Law of Moses was “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15).
This principle is endorsed and applied repeatedly in the New Testament (Matthew 18:16, 19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19).
John mentions a triple witness to the person and deity of Jesus (1 John 5:7-8). God has not testified only one time or in only one way to the truths of the Gospel, nor to his own existence and nature. His testimony is repeated in different forms, that our understanding might be more complete. So John attests,
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life . . . that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:1-4).
The apostles, whose mission included being the original eye-witnesses to the physical events of the Gospel, received their divinely revealed knowledge through the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. They in turn passed on their knowledge to others through oral declaration (hearing) and writing (sight).
The more ways in which we come into contact with God’s word and will, the better we will learn them. We should read our Bibles, hear good teaching from mature and faithful Christians, and then teach others what we have learned.
James reminds us of the final step of learning and retaining God’s will. “. . . Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21-22).
After we have absorbed as much of God’s word as is possible, then we must put it into practice, making it truly part of our lives.