Monday evening, I enjoyed a wonderful phone conversation with my grandfather; who, as you may know, is in declining health. In spite of that, he loves to talk about how good God has been to him—particularly when it comes to his marriage to my grandfather...
The time is World War II, and he’s stationed in Hawaii. He becomes good friends with his bunk mate, who had a girlfriend in Pittsburgh. Every chance he’d get, he’d write her letters—and he received plenty in return.
One day, my grandfather worked up the courage to ask his bunkmate if his special lady had any good friends that he could write to, and he was delighted to learn that, yes he did...
So began what would eventually become a sixty-two year marriage—with letters. Mere words giving birth to love that reached across thousands of miles and the most challenging of circumstances...
This is exactly what does in giving us Holy Scripture. Yes, God is invisible; yes God is in heaven—but in Scripture, God becomes both present and knowable. It is from the words of Scripture that God’s love reaches into our lives and becomes an ever-present reality. It is from Scripture that humankind learns of the greatest truth that can ever be known—that our God reigns; a God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
But what is our relationship to this great gift that is the Word of God? What place does it have in our daily lives?
Are our Bibles open as long or as often as our favorite books or magazines? How does the time we spend in the Scriptures compare to the time we spend watching TV? Engaging social media? Or texting?
One of the greatest problems in the life of the average Christian is the dusty, unread Bible. All too often, the Word of God’s love to us sits on the shelf—and God’s truths remain unknown.
Yet in the same way as my grandparents would have never fallen in love without their letters—our relationship with God cannot flourish without Scripture. Nor can we flourish as children of God...
This is exactly what had happened to the nation of Israel, as we hear in our first lesson for today.
The year is about 400 B.C. The exodus from Egypt under Moses was 850 years ago. 550 years ago, Israel was at the height of its power under King David. Yet that was all ancient history for the people in today’s text. What they would have known is the horror of nearly 50 years of exile in Babylon.
And the major reason why they suffered the exile is because they neglected God’s Word. They didn’t bother teaching it or listening to it—and their relationship with God broke down as a result. People did whatever they felt like. They chased after other gods; they gave no regard to those in need... It was only a matter of time that their nation would fall...
Then, all of the sudden, Babylon falls, and the exile is over. The new king permits the survivors to go home and rebuild Jerusalem. And this they do—but this was the most arduous of tasks for a broken and battered people.
It isn’t for another 140 years that of Jerusalem is rebuilt, including the temple. So now the time has come for their relationship with God to be rebuilt.
So Ezra the priest gathers the entire nation together to hear the Word of God. The people listen; and those who understood it taught others and helped it to make sense of it—so that everyone could understand.
What we see in this story is exactly what we as the Body of Christ are called to do: we hear the Word, we teach the Word, and we understand the Word.
Yes, the Bible is hard to read... Yes, it can be confusing and frustrating and sometimes even scary. That is why God gives to some the gifts of teaching, to help us all make sense of the Word. That is why we have Sunday school and vacation bible school and confirmation. God gathers us together as a Body, around the Word—so that we talk about it, ask the tough questions, confront whatever scares us and may even offend us. And in the end, we are all teachers of God’s Word. Your questions and your experiences and perspectives will always go a long way in helping everyone else to make sense of it.
We can’t treat the Bible as just another book; because that’s not what it is. It is the power of God giving birth to the faith that saves us. The Holy Spirit draws us to the Word, to be claimed by God; to be reborn in God; then transformed into the people God wants us to be.
And the more and more that we know God’s Word, the more that Christ will live in us—and the better we’ll know his will for our lives. God’s Word will become a fountain of healing and comfort and wisdom. We ourselves will become living bibles who proclaim God’s love by what we say and especially by what we do.
When we’re tempted to sin, we’ll remember that God will never allow us to be tested beyond our ability to endure, and that God will provide a way out [1 Corinthians 10:13].
When everything goes wrong, we’ll remember that all things work together for the good of those who are loved by God [Romans 8:28].
When we do sin, we’ll that “as far as the East is from the West, so has God removed our sins from us” [Psalm 103:12]
When we’re lost and afraid, we’ll remember that “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”
When we’re at death’s door, we’ll remember that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life” [John 3:16].
When the future looks dim, we’ll remember that that Christ is soon to return to make all things new, to wipe away every tear from our eyes [Revelation 21, 4-5].
So don’t let your Bibles get dusty. Be made alive by power of the living Word. Know God and experience God by knowing the Word. Let the Word of the Lord dwell in you richly.