There was a lady in one of my previous churches who believed that I had a special ‘hot line’ to God – which of course I do – but so does every Christian! She was always coming to me and asking, ‘Do you have any word from the Lord for me?’ It actually became very wearing. In the end, when she came to me for the umpteenth time asking, ‘Do you have any word from the Lord for me?’ I finally cracked! ‘Yes’ I said, ‘Read this!’ and I gave her my Bible.
Today is the Second Sunday of Advent – that time in the Church Year when the Church seeks to prepare its people for the Advent or Coming of Christ! Each Sunday in Advent usually follows a suitable theme that helps us to reflect prayerfully on the significance of the Incarnation. Today these themes vary depending on which denomination you belong to, which spirituality you adhere to, or even which particular local church you go to (this seems to be especially true of Baptist-Christians). Back in the day, however, the Second Sunday in Advent was always delineated as ‘Bible Sunday’ – an opportunity to reflect on the place and the importance of the Bible both for us as individuals, in the Church and the world, and in God’s great scheme of things. It was also often used to raise money to support such organisations as the Bible Society, and so on, with the offerings on a Sunday being donated to such causes. All that has changed now it would appear, with ‘Bible Sunday’ reassigned to another Sunday in the year, or forgotten about altogether.
As an evangelical Christian – albeit a progressive evangelical (not one of those really dreadful right-wing American kind of evangelical) – the Bible is especially important to me, not least because just about everything we know about God we know courtesy of the Biblical record. It was Karl Barth (probably the greatest theologian of the 20th century) who, when asked what the most profound theological truth he had learned was, replied (quoting the old children’s chorus), ‘Jesus loves me this I know, Because the Bible tells me so!’ For me, the Bible is (under God) our authority in all matters of faith and doctrine, belief and behaviour. As Paul reminds us, ‘There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us’ (2 Timothy 3:16,17 The Message).
Having said this, however, it is important that we keep the Bible in its proper context and don’t raise the written Word of God (the Scriptures) above the Living Word of God (Jesus). Sadly, there are those Christians who seem to worship the Bible of God rather than the God of the Bible! Those who use the Bible to beat others. Those who hurl Bible texts at family and friends, neighbours and work colleagues in much the same way as Satan hurls his fiery darts at us (Ephesians 6:16) or the Pharisees sought to stone the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). My friends, we are not meant to use the Bible in such a way. As we have already seen whilst there are occasions when the Bible does ‘expose our rebellion’, for the most part it ‘reveals God’s truth to us, corrects our mistakes, teaches us how to live God’s way, puts us back together (when we fall apart), and shapes us for the tasks God has for us’.
Primarily, however, the Bible reveals Jesus Christ to us as both God and Saviour! Where do we see this in the Bible itself? Well … just about everywhere! In 1909 A M Hodgkin wrote a hugely popular book (still in publication today) entitled Christ in All the Scriptures. The book’s premise stems from Jesus’ response to the two on Emmaus Road (thoroughly confused by the events of Good Friday). Luke tells us that ‘starting with the Books of Moses, [Jesus] went through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him’ (Luke 24:27). As one recent reviewer of Hodgkin’s book suggests, ‘The Gospels tell us about Jesus’ life on earth, but we are missing out on the big picture if we only look for Him there … [we] find Him in every part of Scripture’. Beginning (in Genesis) with the Creation stories … all the way through to the Judgment before the Great White Throne (in the Book of Revelation) we find reference to Jesus (in some way or other) on virtually every page of the Bible.
With this in mind it is imperative we always keep before us the salient words with which the Writer to the Hebrews begins his Letter: ‘Throughout our history God has spoken to our ancestors by his prophets in many different ways. The revelation he gave them was only a fragment at a time, building one truth upon another. But to us living in these last days, God now speaks to us openly in the language of a Son, the appointed Heir of everything, for through him God created the panorama of all things and all time. The Son is the dazzling radiance of God’s splendour, the exact expression of God’s true nature – his mirror image! He holds the universe together and expands it by the mighty power of his spoken word. He accomplished for us the complete cleansing of sins, and then took his seat on the highest throne at the right hand of the majestic One’ (Hebrews 1:1-4). In some ways the Bible is like an icon. Although icons are often highly venerated in the Orthodox Church, they are really meant to be a vehicle, a channel, a lens – something that you look through to see something greater, more important. In a similar way, we are meant to use the Bible as a vehicle, a channel, a lens, through which we see Jesus in all his glory! And in seeing him we also see our salvation. We see the things that are important to him. And we see his plan and purpose for our lives.
‘Is there any word from the Lord?’ King Zedekiah enquired of the Prophet Jeremiah. ‘There is!’ Jeremiah replied (Jeremiah 37:17). Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bad word for both king and nation. ‘Is there any word from the Lord?’ we ask today. ‘There is!’ I say (and it is a good word for us as individuals and as a nation). And what is that word? It is JESUS!
When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart
I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart
I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus
~ Matt Redman (b.1974)