After Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah, He delivered a message—a sermon, if you will—to those assembled in the synagogue (Luke 4:21-27). All the references to Jesus teaching or preaching in the synagogues of Galilee also bear testimony to the fact that the synagogue was pre-eminently a place of biblical instruction (see Mathew 4:23, 9:35, etc.) where the sermon was as regular a part of the service as the prayers and the Bible reading.
While accepting the complete OT canon of the Jews, NT-era Christians also recognized additional written works as divinely-inspired and therefore authoritative. As the various Apostolic writings were composed and circulated, their authority was recognized and they began to be read in the churches in addition to the Old Testament Scriptures.
In 1 Timothy, Paul’s “textbook” on “church polity” (see 3:14-15), he instructs Timothy, proseche tei anagnosei, “devote yourself to the reading” (4:13). That this is the public reading of the Scriptures and not simply an exhortation to extensive private study is evident, first, from the presence in Greek of the definite article, “the reading,” that is, something well-known The article is similarly used in the references to the reading of the Scriptures in the synagogue, Acts 13:15; 2 Corinthians 3:14. Second, the two following activities, “the exhortation, the instruction,” are clearly public activities carried out in the assembly. Most commentators seem to understand the reading to be public and in the church, rather than private. Included in this number are Alford,1 Ellicott,2 Fairbairn,3 Van Oosterzee,4 Liddon,5 White,6 Lock,7 Robertson,8 Hendricksen,9 and Earle.10 On the other hand, there are those who understand the verse to mean private study, including Calvin,11 Gill,12 and Barnes13 (Clarke understands it of both public and private reading).14
Inasmuch as Bible instruction was an important function of both the synagogue and the church, it is no surprise to discover that the public reading of the Scriptures was among the regular activities of both. The value, even necessity, of the reading of Scriptures orally in both the synagogue and the church is further recognized when it is pointed out that considerable numbers of individuals in the first century were completely illiterate and could not read the sacred text for themselves at all. Besides this, the high cost of manuscript copies of the Bible made private possession and private reading of the Scriptures well beyond the reach of most individuals.
The Psalms teach us to be deeply occupied with our God. They magnify and exalt Him as the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe. What is it to be much occupied with God? It is to treasure His Word, to delight in His worship, to reflect on His glorious attributes, to rehearse His great acts in history, to trust in His care, to glory in His gospel and to anticipate His final victory. The more we are occupied with God, the more strength we find for living.
The Psalms teach us to praise our God and also show us how to praise Him. There are few lessons that we need more. So very often we mumble mechanical praise from hearts that are crowded with unworthy loves and occupied with earthly concerns. The need is for robust praise from hearts that are deeply schooled in the stunning truths of the Sovereign Lord who not only made us but pours from his bounty countless blessings, the chief of which is eternal salvation through his Son.