My subject is quite simple, but one that I think has to be reiterated. It is the preciousness of the Word of God.
As well as being a description of the Bible that we have in our hands, Word of God is a title given to God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men … And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1–4, 14)
When John wrote his gospel, he began with these words, giving to Christ that title: The Word. It was a very familiar concept both to the Jews to whom he was writing and to the Greeks, because both nations had in common the concept of divine power associated with the Word. The Greeks associated the Word (Reason) with the governing power of the universe, and the Jews associated that Word with Wisdom. It was also substituted in their writings for the Name of God.
For us, a word describes or expresses a concept. We read that Christ is the Word of God, and He, as no other can be, is the expression of God. He came to show us who God is and what God is like. And the God that He showed was a tremendous revelation to the world into which He came and to us down through the ages. He showed that God was full of grace and truth, that He was a God who loved His world, a God who did not condone iniquity but found a way for us to be free, and free from the domination of sin and of the wicked one. And how grateful we are for that Word of God in both senses: for the Christ who is the very Word and expression of God, and for the way that that has been brought down to us, which is through the written Word.
The written Word of God is extremely powerful. We in our country have many Bibles. A lot of us will have many translations, and we will have had Bibles in our hands all our lives. When my generation was at school we were taught it regularly and probably heard it every day in school. The danger is that we can forget just how very precious it is, and at what cost it has been won for us.
I have been re-reading the story of the Reformation in England. How it really began was by the Word of God coming into the hands of the people. First of all the Greek New Testament began to come into the hands of the scholars, and as they began to read it they found the way of salvation. They found that they didn’t need anybody to mediate between them and God apart from Jesus Christ. This truth of the light of salvation of the gospel, as it broke upon them, they were willing to suffer for. It came down to the common people, the less learned, and we owe a tremendous debt to them and to those like Tyndale who determined that the gospel would be made known in English to everybody in the land. These people paid with their lives. Tyndale had to go into exile to get his Bible into English and brought back to our shores, but he was hunted down and martyred. Many of the ordinary people were very cruelly treated and burned at the stake. There is one outstanding example that always comes to me. It was of a widow woman, Dame Smith, who along with some of her neighbours had taught her children something of the ways of God and read to them from the Bible in English. She and others were arrested, and the menfolk were all condemned to be burned at the stake, but because she was the only one to look after the children she was spared. The man who had arrested her offered to escort her home in the dark. As he was taking her arm he felt something in her sleeve, and out fell a scroll, on which was written the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments in English. Outraged, he took her back to her accusers, and she too was sent to the stake for possessing a copy of these words of Scripture in English.
It’s not that long ago: a few hundred years. The longer one lives, the more one realises that a hundred years is not nearly as long a time as it seems when one is a child. I had a grandmother who lived to nearly 100, and you feel that if her immediate forebears had all lived to nearly that age … it wasn’t so many generations back that people suffered so very deeply to bring us the gospel.
We read it and love it. I was very pleased when I tuned into the first of our Sunday School broadcasts last Sunday morning, and almost the first thing was that Johanna gave all the children a verse to learn. I was very pleased that they were learning a verse of Scripture every week, because the verses that we learn and that are ingrained in our conscious and our subconscious mind will come to our rescue again and again.
If you don’t know the Bible at all, you probably want to read it through and get an understanding of it, especially of the New Testament. But once we are familiar with the Bible it becomes exceedingly precious. We don’t need to get into any legalistic way of thinking where we must read so many chapters daily or at night. Sometimes a single verse lives, it lives in us, we meditate upon it, we find rich treasure in it, and we find it is the living Word of God: it has a power that no other writings have, because it is the living Word of God.
It is what Christ used as He was resisting the enemy, and it’s what comes to our rescue again and again. A verse will spring to mind that answers the taunts of the enemy; a verse will come to mind that brings comfort, strength, and direction. The living Word of God is powerful. Treasure it, love it, meditate upon it. Let it be to you and me food and manna.
In a verse that I came upon this week in a daily reading book, which is partly what has led to this, Peter speaks of
exceeding great and precious promises. (2 Peter 1:4)
In other translations, the promises are ‘precious and supreme’, ‘precious and very great’. We have to have read His Word to know something of what these promises are. Peter was about to be crucified, and he knew that, but he speaks of the triumph of his faith and the exceeding great and precious promises. We think of some of them:
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.
The Bible provides wonderful food and manna. Peter goes on to say in that same chapter that if we lead a godly life and obey the Word of God, an abundant entrance will be ministered to us into the eternal kingdom.
This is a week where a number of people known to some of us have died of various causes. Here in Greenock we have been so aware of the passing of Betty Logan. For her an abundant entrance has been ministered into the eternal kingdom. And so shall it be for all those who have followed the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me just leave you with a few verses from Paul’s writings that again bring to us the promises of God.
For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–9)
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