I’m thinking here primarily of those in both Catholicism and Judaism, who have at some point been taught that scripture is not for the “ordinary” person to discern, but rather that only those who’ve spent years studying it or reading it are “wise” enough to be able to discern its meaning enough to pass that on to the masses. Catholicism has its priests and Judaism its Rabbis (and even Islam has its Imams) – all of these remove any responsibility from the believer to do much in the way of reading for themselves. Islam and Judaism force a rote learning of the scriptures on the youth in particular, but it’s purely a repetitious learning; most don’t understand what they’re reading. And therein lies many dangers. If you’re in one of those belief systems, then you’re perhaps guilty of accepting 3rd hand information as your foundation for life, and that I feel is a rather errant way of living any sort of belief system.
Jehovah God has been gracious enough to provide us with scriptures – His Word, which I presume we would all agree on. Thus, why would you then believe that He provided it cloaked in some sort of disguise or overlay to make it almost impossible for anyone to understand unless they spent years stuck away in a monastery, or searching out the hidden depths of every single word and punctuation mark. God is not a God of pretence, nor confusion. His Word was given to those who couldn’t read much of the time, but they were skilled with the ability to remember the history of their ancestors and were able to verbally pass that on to others – where in scripture do you read about any one of them spending years trying to search out the hidden meaning of what they knew (i.e. the Jewish Kaballah) or hiding away somewhere repeating what they knew ad infinitum (as many monks do).
Scripture is given by God to be readily and easily understood by those who are truly seeking Him. He has given his Ruach Ha Kodesh (the Holy Spirit) to all those who desire to know Him fully and He is the One who leads us into all Truth for God is Truth. Therefore, the only thing you need to do if you want to know God, is to read scripture for yourself, and ask Him to reveal the meaning to you. If the thought of that scares you, you really need to ask why, and be willing to dive in and find out for yourself if you have anything to fear.
So many nowadays are led astray by the sometimes very errant discernment of others whom they hold in esteem. Too many Jews only listen to what their Rabbis say because they consider the Rabbi to be pretty much the equivalent of the Pope (i.e. someone who couldn’t possibly get spiritual matters wrong), and the Rabbis equally look to their own mentors (who look to someone “above” them, but ironically rarely God Himself), in trying to determine how to live their lives or what to believe of any portion of scripture. If you want to know what God wants you to do – read His Word yourself and discover the multitude of things I guarantee your priest or Rabbi has never told you. Ultimately in any church service you will only ever hear at best maybe 5-10 minutes of scripture read and only what the “leader” thinks you will be “smart” enough to understand. You may be quite surprised when you read either side of those particular passages to get the true context of what they mean.
Most people are fully aware that one of the biggest problems in Protestantism is the opposite problem – we nearly all read scripture for ourselves, and then we all come up with a different interpretation of it, BUT I firmly believe that is exactly what God intended – that we would read it, and discern it for ourselves, because He provides it for the needs of very unique individuals with totally different problem, and thus the same passage can mean totally different things to two different people.
I feel Judaism in particular fails on this point so heavily as I only ever hear of Jews reading their allotted portion for the day, and that is provided for them by the Rabbis in the synagogue, so few bother to then go away and read it for themselves. Or, they will only read certain sections and rarely bother with others. How many Jews (religious or otherwise) are familiar with prophecies that are being fulfilled in their own Land (if they live in Israel) or within Judaism as a whole, as well as those that are coming to pass in the world at large. God has provided His Word to reveal Himself, to provide us with a guide book to life, and to reveal the future – the one thing so many nowadays are instead seeking Satan’s minions (mediums, spiritists etc) to reveal. The Kaballah is steeped in the occult, but because it’s laced with scripture quotes it gives the impression of being a wholesome practice within Judaism, but instead is utterly deceptive and occultic – seeking to find “hidden” meanings of scripture texts but in doing so, it has removed God out of His Creation and made Him like Allah – unknowable, and unattainable – a weak God unable to sort out the problems of the world Himself, and thus wholly dependent on man to achieve “healing” of the world. That is so oppositional to the Torah’s teachings of a personal God Who created man specifically to have a relationship with him, and moreover has a perfect plan for the world which He is working out Himself, graciously allowing man to be involved, but not dependent on man for anything!
The time is so utterly short before Messiah comes to this earth (again) to change the course of history once more, and everyone needs to figure out exactly what sort of God they think they know and serve. If you are Jewish, I urge you above all else to read scripture for yourself and discover its Truth for yourself without anyone else’s interpretation blinding your own. If you are Catholic, likewise, read your bible and aim to learn more about the Truth for yourself and put God above the traditions of your church. And remember, God desires you to know Him, and has given you everything you need in order to do so, so heed Him today and learn His Word for yourself. He will absolutely hold you accountable to it!