The history of our Bible is fascinating. We readily say that God’s Word is inspired, infallible, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient. Given that it is God’s Word, of what value is it to us today?
The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., chronicles the rather extreme measures that have taken place for us to have a personal copy of the Holy Scripture in our own language. Of course, God inspired human instruments such as Moses, David, John, Paul, and others to pen His Words, but the story didn’t end there.
God continued to use human instruments, often through extreme measures, to transcribe, translate, and disseminate His message to us. Some of those human instruments we may recall by name such as Luther, Tyndale, and Wycliffe. Martin Luther was ex-communicated from the Catholic Church as a heretic. William Tyndale was executed for his translation efforts. John Wycliffe is credited with the first complete English translation of the Bible. Wycliffe was so hated by Church officials that, following his death, his body was dug up and burned at the stake. These are but a few examples. Others, such as Gutenberg, and King James, though not translators themselves, were very instrumental in the proliferation of God’s Word. Again, many more examples could be mentioned.
Even as we reflect on God’s grace and the gift of His Word, the history is not the real story. What’s of true importance is the life-changing content of the Bible itself. It’s value is the transforming Word of God, Himself.
I’m reminded of prisoners such as Dmitri, imprisoned in Siberia for holding Bible studies in his Soviet home. Dmitri would collect scraps of paper, write scripture verses on them from memory, and paste them on the wet walls of his prison cell until the guards would find them, beat him, and tear down his copy of the scriptures. Then he’d start over. So high was his value of Scripture. Mind you, the scraps of paper were often toilet paper, thrown at him by fellow prisoners because of his verbal prayers and songs of praise.
I’m reminded of the many, many peoples who don’t have God’s Word. As you exit the Bible museum’s gallery displaying the numerous manuscripts, translations and editions that have brought us to the Bible we use today, you find yourself in a circular room completely filled with shelves. Roughly half the room is filled with books quickly recognized as being Bibles in the languages of the world today. But the remaining shelves are empty, save for an empty magazine file intended to hold a Bible in a yet untranslated language. Each empty holder is labeled with a language, a language representing a people group … a people made in the image of God, yet without God’s Word. According to the Wycliffe foundation, at this time there are 3832 languages into which the Bible needs to be translated. Let that sink in.
I don’t know how many copies of God’s word I have, just in paper alone. Multiple translations, Study Bibles, New Testaments, Pocket Bibles, illustrated, indexed, hard cover, soft cover, leather bound … you name it. I have a couple of Bibles in languages that I can’t even read. But the Bible was never intended to be a collector’s item.
There may be a day when it is considered “hate” message. What if our phone company stopped supporting the Bible apps? What if our browser company blocked Christian websites? Far-fetched ideas? Perhaps, but until recently, who would have thought we’d be where we are today?
But in this moment, putting aside the past and the future, are we better off for having God’s Word? We have it … but do we use it? If it sits on the shelf, it’s of no use to us. Do we use it to share the gospel? Do we use it to personally grow in Christ-likeness? Do we use it to make disciples? To pray? To praise God for who He is and what He has done?
The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and His will for mankind. He wants to transform me and you through it, but that won’t happen by osmosis. To value God’s word means to delve into it, to study it, to understand it, to apply it. Only then is the Bible of personal value.
May God bless you as He reveals Himself to you in His word.