"But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' they became indignant and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?' And Jesus said to them, 'Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself'?'" (Matthew 21:15-16)Have you never read? For some of us, we fail at the first gate. We simply have never read the scriptures. We may have grown up in a Christian home, heard the preacher preach from the scriptures, heard our parents talk about the scriptures, but never read them for ourselves. Others grew up in an environment where, if they had the scriptures at all, they were nothing more than a show piece on the living room coffee table; growing up never hearing, let alone reading, the scriptures. Sometimes they may hazard a guess at what the scripture say, saying something like, "that's not what Jesus would say." or "God helps those who help themselves" but never actually having read the scriptures themselves, they are in fact completely ignorant of what they contain. We cannot learn the scriptures by guessing, imagining, or even by listening to others, we must learn it for ourselves.
However, some, like the religious leaders that Jesus was speaking to, read the scriptures but still failed to understand the scriptures. Yes the read them, but no the did not understand them. When some lawyers came to test and trap Jesus with a question about a woman who had been married seven times, Jesus responded to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?" (Mark 12:24) Its not enough to read and know the scriptures, we must also understand them before they can have any benefit in our lives. When we fail to understand the scriptures, it is as if their meaning is falling on deaf ears. "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road." (Matthew 13:19)
There are two main reasons why people fail to understand the scriptures. Firstly, because the have no relationship with God. The scriptures contain spiritual words that have spiritual meanings and those who are not spiritual have a hard time understanding their significance and meaning. After Jesus' death and resurrection, Jesus meet two disciples on their way to Emmaus who were despondent over what had happened to Jesus. He said to them, "'O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?' Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24:25-27) When we read the scriptures we need Jesus and the Holy Spirit to unlock them to our understanding. We must read them in communion with God so that He might enlighten His word within us so that we might understand and gain from their meaning. Knowing the scriptures is made much more difficult if you do not know its author!
The second reason why we fail to understand the scripture is because we lack interest in what it has to say and intend no obedience to what it commands. Jesus once told the Pharisees, who failed to understand the scriptures, "go and learn what this means: 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:13) Sometimes, understanding comes through doing. We understand the scriptures when we place them into practice in our lives. When we step out, often in simple obedience, and do what the scriptures teach, then we understand why they say what they say and come to know their fuller meaning in our lives. However, if we approach them as mere knowledge or with no real intention of obeying them, then we will never come to "the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7) and never come to understand what they say. Let us determine, first of all, to obey them and let us, with diligence, put them into practice in our lives.