What do you think of your Bible? A strange question perhaps, but think about it. We say the Bible is God’s holy word. Does that mean it is to be worshiped, put in a special place and honored? By no means. On the one hand your Bible is a material object like any other book. It is a possession you have to be used. And I encourage you to use it. Write in it. Underline places you find meaningful. Write notes in the margins. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”(4:12) The Bible is not like a novel to be read once and put on the shelf. It is, in fact, God speaking to you. It is a conversation between you and the good Lord who made you. It is a “living and active word” that speaks to your “soul and spirit”. So the material book itself is only an object like many others we have for daily use. It is the truth that is in it that keep us opening it day by day as the food that sustains our life.
We have a repairman coming today to fix one of our appliances. He is sent by a company who has trained him and verifies his skill to do the job. When you take your car for repairs there is usually a sign somewhere on the shop wall saying the repairman is a certified technician. This is to give us confidence that the one working on our equipment knows what they are doing, and will do a competent job. This should be no less true with our faith. Paul writing to Timothy says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”(2T2:15) Reading and sharing God’s Word, our holy Scriptures, is a task for all of us. It is not just pastors who need training in God’s Word. All of us who read the Scriptures need to continually study and search out God’s truth. This is more important, and necessary than any repairman’s task.
My wife and I enjoy looking at lighthouses. There were quite a few built along the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1800s to aid navigation. Many were manned by a lighthouse keeper, often with his family, up until the 1960s when most were automated. The history of these men, their families, and some of the trials they faced is quite interesting. Their efforts guided and protected the lives of many sailing these waters. Churches are to be like those lighthouses. Many, in fact, have that in their name or take it as a symbol for their ministry. In John 9:5 Jesus refers to Himself as the light of the world, and, in turn, He speaks of His followers as lights in the world.(Matthew 5:14) We live in a time when that light is desperately needed. The Prophet Hosea said that his people were stumbling both day and night. They were being destroyed for lack of knowledge.(4:5-6) God has given us His revealed Word. It is our food, our knowledge, our light for life. We need to receive light from that Word daily so we can be a light for others.
Famine is a serious problem. We know the extreme dangers of famine in Africa, for example. Many are working to alleviate it. But suppose you were told that we have a severe famine in the U.S. You wouldn’t believe it, especially considering the many campaigns against obesity. It’s true. We are in a severe famine. The prophet Amos wrote, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.'”(8:11) Statistics show that Biblical literacy in the U.S. is at an all time low, even among church goers. Many churches no longer preach from the Scriptures, opting for social causes or life affirming messages. We are the richest, most well fed country in the world, but are starving for the truth of God’s Holy Word. Even further, we don’t recognize it. I can’t really see this condition changing. All I can say is that it must not be so among us. We must feed daily upon God’s Word. Meditate upon it. Think about what God is saying to our day. It is the only real food for life.
The Prophet Amos spoke to the prosperous Northern Kingdom of Israel. He told them, “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.”(8:11) Our country has a large majority who say they are Christian. We have the largest percentage of people attending church each week of any country in the world. Yet, surveys of Biblical knowledge reveal pitiful results. Many say they honor a book of which they have virtually no knowledge. It is not sufficient to wave it in the air as a good luck charm. Within 40 years of Amos’ prophecy the Northern Kingdom was destroyed. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”(Matthew 4:4) People may have all the appearances of an active physical life, but without the recreating power of God’s Word they die. I would hope that some could begin to see the Bible as a book of grace, spoken by our Father in the deepest love, seeking the best for us all, and then long to know more of Him.
In talking with people about reading the Bible some will respond, “Once you’ve read the Bible through what’s the point of reading it again. You already know what’s there.” They were treating the Bible like a common novel. Once you’ve got the general story, that’s it. Put it aside. Yesterday I wrote about seeing the overall account the Bible gives from beginning to end. That is important, but there is also so much more. That’s what makes the Bible unique. I’ve been reading or hearing the Bible read for more than 70 years, and still find it a thrill. I’ve listened to Jewish Christians pointed out a truth about the Old Testament that I had not seen before. It was like finding a new gold coin in a corner of the house. Our pastors, whose lives are spent in Bible study, get together annually for further lectures and discussions about God’s Word. That is the point. It is God’s Word, and God cannot be exhausted. Genesis tells us that God walked with man in the Garden before the rebellion. They talked together. Jesus walked for many hours with His disciples. They talked together. God has continually desired to share truths of His life with the people He created. That has not stopped, down to this very day, in your very life. Stay in the Scriptures. It is a treasure to be mined.
I am currently reading a novel. As with all stories it begins introducing the characters involved, and setting out the plot. It progresses through a variety of twists and turns, but heads to a climax. The events involved are usually resolved, the characters brought to a completion of their personal stories for good or bad. In other words there is a complete flow of the story from beginning to end. The Bible is like that as well. It is the greatest of stories, better to say true accounts, of God’s creation and redemption of mankind. The Bible is a long book. Certainly not read in one sitting, and we sometimes get sidetracked by names or events we find confusing. We need to see the complete story of the Bible from creation and man’s first rebellion from God, through God’s work with Israel, our redemption in Christ, the Gospel brought to the world through the Church, and to the promised final completion of God’s plan in the return of Jesus, and the fullness of God’s Kingdom. It is one account from Genesis through Revelation of God’s hand working for the good of the people He created for His purpose. We should have that full account firmly in mind, just as we would be able to tell the plot and flow of a good novel we’ve read. This is the greatest story ever written. One that includes us, and is about the content and future of our very lives.
We speak of hard and soft water meaning its degree of mineral content. Or hard and soft wood meaning its density and workability. There are also hard and soft people. We could think about personalities and how easy they are to get along with – or not. But I’m thinking more of teachability. Some have preconceived ideas so ingrained that they are unable to hear any truth to the contrary. This was Jesus’ problem with the Pharisees in general, but His words did touch something in the hearts of a few that rang true and changed them. I think there is a difference between conviction and teachability. One does need a framework for determining what is true for their life, a framework that cannot be yielded. My framework is Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Both the written and the spoken word. The receptor for that truth is not just the intellect, but the heart. We are spiritual beings created in the image of God. We are to communicate Spirit to spirit, even as the two men on the road to Emmas hearing the risen Lord Jesus speak. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”(Luke 24:32) We are called to meditate on God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to bring the truth of that word into our life. That is teachability.
There is an account in II Kings 19 about Elijah fleeing from Jezebel for fear of his life. He hides himself, and cries out to the Lord, “I’ve had enough Lord. Take my life away…”(vs.4) We see the problems of the world, as we spoke about yesterday. We see the persecutions happening to Christians around the world. We see no end to the political correctness leading our nation in the wrong direction. We can feel like Elijah, “I’ve had enough Lord.” In the midst of it all the Lord ministered to Elijah and finally assured him, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”(vs.19) We need to remind ourselves of this. The Lord has not abandoned His world, and we are a lot more than 7000. We are Lutherans, and Baptists, and Catholics, and independents. We have our different doctrines, but we stand under the authority of the one Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Head. We are one body of believers in Him. We don’t know all of the others. The 7000 didn’t either. Each one often felt alone, but they weren’t. We are a body of Christian believers, encouraged to stand strong in our faith in Jesus Christ. We are not an army to bear arms, but to take up the “Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God”.(Ephesians 6:17) We look beyond our differences to stand together in prayer. With the full armor of God we are able to stand. And more than stand, we reach out in love to many around us who are hurting in this broken world. Remind yourself often that you are a part of a vast company believers who know the victory we have in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many people treat the Bible as a loose leaf notebook. They are able to remove and discard pages they don’t like. By the time you get a group of people doing this you end up with a pretty thin volume. The moral teachings of Jesus, and His call to love others is great, but the rest we do away with. There are parts of the Bible I don’t like, and parts I don’t understand, but that really underlines the veracity of the whole. It is a real book, about real people with all of their sins, and about a Lord, our Lord, who has worked through many centuries to redeem them. The Bible is one book given to us by the guidance of God, the Holy Spirit. We do call it the Word of God. Even the parts I don’t like give me instruction. Even the parts that show people’s sins become a mirror for my own life showing my need for the Saviour. The Bible is not a loose leaf book. It is one whole text from our Lord reaching out to us in grace and love.