Just Another Book?

For the audio version read by the author click here. just-anotherbook-1.mp3

“Indeed, has God said…?” Famous first words of our mortal enemy. Other ways of asking that question are “Can it be that God has said …”(say that with incredulity in your tone). Or “Is it true…?”. “Did God really say…?”. The insinuation of distrust emerges from simply posing that question, although the deceiver then elaborated to ensure that doubt blossomed into rebellion. Millenia have not diminished the intensity or importance of that vital first inquiry! It is a question that is shaping even the “christian” culture these days as many doubt the veracity of the Scriptures. One often hears the cynical accusation that people “worship the Bible” by insisting on its accuracy. Of course there are many literary and cultural inflections that must be investigated and filtered through linguistic understanding, but the fact remains that the written word is direct revelation from the Eternal.

In my experience the resistance stems from something deeper than an intellectual objection. Autonomy and freedom for self-determination subtly (or not) shape the mind to reject a written directive that seems to have flaws and objectionable depictions of the God we wish to believe in. I myself at one time clung skeptcism to save myself from conviction. Yet in the back of my atheistic mind was the quiet nagging thought “What if that book is true?”. It is not uncommon to dismiss and distrust the word – spoken or written. Even Jesus, Who humbly entered this broken world to bring a message from eternity, was largely ignored and misrepresented. “He entered our world, a world He made; yet the world did not recognize Him.  Even though He came to His own people, they refused to listen and receive Him.” John 1:10-11 V

Earlier, a nation fleeing from God’s restraints and rebukes were pursued by the prophet Jeremiah at the request of the Eternal. He uses object lessons like the famous potter’s wheel, a rotting yoke, he speaks, warns, reminds over a span of years. Rejection! All this while they maintained the ruse of religious observance, a small outward ritualistic interaction with God that cost them little and salved their conscience. Finally God told him to write everything down so they could see the continuity of the message and hopefully get the picture. As it was read, king Jehoiakim piece by piece cut it up and threw the scrolls into the fire. Jeremiah’s predictions and call to repentance spanned the lives, fortunes, and misfortunes of several kings, some of whom were antagonistic to his message, others persuaded but weak. Consequently the country was ravaged, occupied by enemy forces and exiled. Jeremiah had a long and difficult career – despised and reviled by so many, but God noted that he ‘faithfully delivered the message”. Disregarding the prophecies did not affect their veracity. Everything that Jeremiah predicted happened. What does that mean to us who have the writings of not only the prophets, but of eye witnesses to Jesus’ message? How dangerous to wield doubt and dismissal as our knife and fire!

The Lord often instructed people to write down His words. Habakkuk decried the grievous violence and injustice God’s people stubbornly refused to let go of. It grieved God’s heart. He too was told to write down His revelations at a time when death by stoning was the penalty for misrepresenting the Lord’s words. What we read in those enigmatic prophetic books is verifiable in retrospect. What about the rest of the Bible?

Much can be said and discussed. One interesting observation came as the result of fifty years of painstaking exploration of the mathematical structure of the Bible by a man named Ivan Panin. In 1890 he discovered some phenomenal mathematical designs underlying both the Greek text of the New Testament and the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. He generated over 43,000 detailed, hand-penned pages of analysis of underlying patterns below the surface. Panin noted the amazing numerical properties of the Biblical text – an intricacy of design that defy anything other than supernatural explanation. (See Ivan Panin’s Bible Numerics) As it turns out God is a mathematician!

The upshot is that we should treat the Bible with the respect it deserves, reading AND studying it before judging it as ‘just another book”. Yes, God can speak to you personally. There is nothing more thrilling than to hear His voice. But what if He told you to write it down? Would it become less authentic? I love what Dallas Willard says:

Walking with God is also a conversation with Him

All of the things we see in the Bible are there to teach us what is real and present to us today. When we read about God invading history in the lives of individuals, we are dealing with a reality that is continuing, and unless it continues, there really is nothing that you can call a personal relationship to God. If all there is to Christianity is getting the right belief and going to heaven when you die, what is the role of human existence from here on? Yes, it is certainly to preach the gospel and to invite others to receive the grace of God in salvation, but is that all there is to it? Or are we to live now in union with God in his kingdom?

The presupposition of all of the New Testament teachings is that we will have a personal walk with God, and that will be a matter of real events that occur in our lives as we live and work with him, where we are, as his children. And that is what, finally, will be the only satisfactory answer to our friend who asks, “What is going on in your life?” The answer has to be, “I will tell you and I will show you how it works in my life, and you can have it too. You really can know what it is like to deal with God and for God to deal with you in the daily moments of your existence.” God creates and sustains personal relationships with individuals by his individual word to them, within the confines of biblical teachings. His kingdom works by words!

From The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus.

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