I read a book a while back entitled How The News Makes You Dumb. It’s point was, given the necessity of filling 24 hours a day with some kind of material, there are redundant, and often conflicting reports that lead to more confusion than truth. News pages and air time are also filled with useless, and at times sensational details of people’s lives that we really don’t need to know. In the U.S. we have the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press. This is a right to be cherished and guarded. But it also takes a great deal of discernment on our part to filter through what is useful and important, and what is not. This discernment, like everything else in a Christian’s life, is guided by our understanding of God’s Word, and His purpose for mankind. We view the world through God’s truth, and the life we are called to in Jesus Christ. In this way we can skim over 80% of the news presented, and prayerfully take the remainder for whatever understanding or action is needed. I find it helpful to begin with the comics first!! That sets the rest in the proper perspective.
Getting children to do something isn’t always easy. Parents will call them to come and they will continue to watch TV or stay at the game they are playing. A second, third, even fourth call will come, usually with increasing volume. God’s people are often like that. The “I wants” are always strong in us. Like children wanting to continue our game we ignore the voice of our Lord. This is stated numerous time in the Old Testament. Shortly before their captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem, God said through Jeremiah, “These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts…”(13:10) Relating to God is not so much a matter of following some set of dos and don’ts, but listening to His voice. He has spoken to us clearly in both Testaments of Scripture. His words are that of a Father who has done all for our good. In listening to His word we learn to know Him, to want to be a part of Him, and to willing yield more of our “I wants” for His direction in life.
A colleague of mine pointed out a quote from Martin Luther concerning education. “Where the Holy Scripture does not rule I certainly advise no one to send his child. Everyone not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt; therefore we must see what people in the higher schools are and grow up to be… I greatly fear that schools for higher learning are wide gates to hell if they do not diligently teach the Holy Scriptures and impress them on the young folk.” That was written almost 500 years ago and to a society far more homogeneous than ours today. Yet there is truth here for Christians. All life is to be guided first, by the truth of the sacrifice our Lord made on our behalf so that we could be a part of Him. And then by an ever deepening understanding of the Scriptures He gave us. That is what makes a difference in all aspects of 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.
We have been studying the words of the Prophet Jeremiah in our Men’s Bible Study. This is a prophet God sent to His people just before the destruction of their nation, and the people being carried off into captivity. In one form or another, God says through the prophet, “I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen;…”(7:13) The call to “listen” is repeated more than 45 times in this prophetic book. God is simply asking that we listen to his voice, that we pay attention to all He says for our good. I am struck by the fact of how little listening we do. It seems that between the business of our days, the constant presence of earbuds, multiple TVs going in restaurants, and so forth, we carve out little time for listening, for simply being quiet before our Lord, of reading and thinking about His Word. I’m afraid our direction is not dissimilar to that of ancient Israel. Maybe we need to find more time to listen.
God gave Solomon great wisdom. Many of his words in the Book of Proverbs make good sense. He speaks on a whole range of topics from personal relationships, good business practices, avoiding sexual sins, family matters, and so on. There are right and wrong ways to live and get along in the world. We cannot do our own thing believing everything will be fine. We need to listen to good counselors. Unfortunately, good counselors are hard to find in the midst of all the voices that are speaking today. That is why we continue to turn to Solomon, and all of the other writers of Holy Scripture. We go to the wisdom above all others, Almighty God who gave us His Word. We declare that it is our guide in all matters of faith and life. All true wisdom is from God. With the guidance of His Spirit, we search out that wisdom from Scripture, and we say with the Psalmist, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. “(119:105)
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.
Taking the Bible as a whole, the complete revelation of God’s will, we realize a couple of things. That the values of society change over time compared to those the Bible holds true. But Scripture also makes clear that God does not change. The Prophet Malachi recorded the Lord’s words, “I the LORD do not change.(3:6) and the New Testament writer of Hebrews said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”(13:8) Orthodox Christianity holds to the truth that, from the beginning of creation, God has given certain absolute values for the good of all mankind. I’m not talking about sacrificing lambs, and cleaning pots in a certain way. There is a way of life given by God for men and women that is for their best good as God created beings. Those values do not change with the changes in society. This is the very thing that most today deny. They live by a variable standard that conforms to human will, rather than seeking to live by our Lord’s absolute standards given for our good. Certainly, none of us lives perfectly according to God’s values. It is why our gracious Lord sent us a Redeemer in Jesus Christ. We have God’s forgiving grace when we turn to Him in repentance, but we do not try to change God’s values. Modern man finds it far easier to change the standards than follow God’s revealed will, but then we also ultimately suffer the consequences of our choices. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”(Galatians 6:7)
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.