The last chapter of my forthcoming book is titled “Tying up the loose ends”. Here I discuss “Bible”.
While nearing in to my allocated three score and ten years is no guarantee that I have the needed wisdom to pass on to the next generation, there is nevertheless a lot I would like to say that I think will be of benefit, on a wide range of topics, among which is study your Bible. I have been privileged that from an early age I have been exposed to those who knew and loved the Bible. I remember as a 7 or 8-year-old being taught in Sunday School the chorus: “The best book to read is the Bible. The best book to read is the Bible. If you read it every day, it will help you on your way. The best book to read is the Bible”. Later in my teens, I became associated with the Plymouth Brethren. The PBs were far from perfect but one thing they helped instill into me is a love for the Bible and desire to understand what it had to say (which is a lot). While I have often failed to apply what I know, ever since that time it seemed to me a matter of great importance to know what the Bible really says and then apply it to how we live our lives.
Fifty years on, it is still the best book; I still read it every day and it does help me on my way. While many acknowledge I know the Bible well, I lament I do not know it well enough. And every day when I do study the Bible, even those sections I know very well, I discover new things. It is why if I were to imagine that I am in a room of young people and exhorting them on things they should attend to, near the top of that list is get to know the Bible, but always do so with humility. I confess, I prefer to use the KJV, although if I were starting again it might be the ESV. The reasons are I love the language, I am familiar with that translation, I remember specific verses in the KJV, it is still a good translation despite its archaic language, and deep down I believe the manuscripts used by the translators are more accurate than the ones used for most modern versions.
What matters more is actually reading the Bible and this is a far more important matter than arguing the relative merits of different translations. We need to do so carefully, meditate prayerfully, comparing wisely scripture with scripture and apply practically what we learn. Often it is worth reading it in more than one translation as this often gives fresh insights into the meaning, and bear in mind some are better at conveying God’s thoughts and some God’s feelings. While some sections may seem more relevant than others (I generally suggest start with the Gospels), all sixty-six books, Genesis to Revelation, warrant study to get full understanding. In the most unlikely sections there is gold to be found.
“It is the story of how God was seeking a bride for his son. Each book is different from every other book. I am trying to give you the keys for you to unlock the key itself”. That is how the late David Pawson introduced his “Unlocking the Bible” talks (often referred to in preparing this book). At the beginning of his book, “A Pathway into the Bible” (also referred to while preparing this book), Stuart Kimber quotes William Tyndale: “I marvel greatly, dearly beloved in Christ, that any man would ever contend or speak against having the scripture available in every language, for every man”. Tyndale played an important part in seeing this desire realized and it is worth pausing to think that he considered it important enough to do so at the cost of his life.
I have found “Biblegateway” and “Biblestudytools” provide some great online resources: reading the Bible in any number of versions, and listening to it being read. The truth is when it comes to resources (online and those in traditional book form) to help us in our study the Bible, we are spoiled for choice. I have named some used in my “prophets” studies in the “Acknowledgements” section of this book and there is so much more, including excellent aids to help us in regular Bible study. We are without excuse. The Bible is to be read, with an open mind and an enquiring spirit. It is a matter of discipline and application.
Undoubtedly, we live in a time that people are largely ignorant of the contents of the Bible, and sadly we note the consequences. It is evident that the teachings of the Bible have often been distorted, including by church leaders who we might think ought to know better. It sometimes seems that ignorance is a virtue and worldly wisdom is promoted. Those with some knowledge often disagree on interpretation and application. While knowledge of the Bible is no guarantee against embracing false teaching or living in a way that is at odds with how the God of the Bible would have us live, too often ignorance of the Bible is a factor for people living in what is NOT the way God would have us live.
I am not going to persuade those reading this what is the right interpretation and I recognize even the best of scholars and saints differ at times, and sometimes the challenge is differentiating on what is essential or important and what isn’t, but I am going to encourage you to diligently search the scriptures yourself. Many metaphors can be used to describe the Word of God that is given in the Bible: gold, hammer, fire, light, sword etc., and the very images these conjure up should enthuse us to want to study. The most important reason is it will lead us to the knowledge needed for having an all important personal relationship with the God of the Bible and knowing the way which we ought to be going.
If you want a goal, why not read the Bible through at least once every year, and when possible commit sections of it to memory, maybe a verse each day? The Bible is the only set of books I can say is divinely inspired and, while there will be parts we will struggle with, it covers the whole plethora of human experience from how humankind began to how it will end, the meaning of life, a guide to living in a turbulent world and source of true wisdom and precious promises.