There have been many, and there still are many, who cannot read. Consequently, the printed Word of God is of little benefit to these illiterate individuals.
There have been many, and there still are many, in political and ecclesiastical bodies who keep God’s Word from those under their governance. Prior to the Reformation, the older Roman Catholic Church insisted that the Bible be kept from the common tongue. Today, many communistic governments, Islamic societies, and atheistic parents continue to do the same.
There have been many people groups, and there are still many cultures, which do not have the Word of God translated in their language. According to Wycliffe Translators, the full Bible is now available in 636 different languages, the New Testament is available in another 1442 languages, and selections of God’s Word have been translated in another 1145 languages. Therefore, 6.1 billion people have access to the printed Word. Yet, it is estimated there remains 160 million people without access to any part of Scripture in their primary language, and 1.5 billion individuals do not have the privilege of having a full Bible in their primary tongue.
In addition, due to proximity, poverty, or apathy, there have been many, and there still are many, who do not have personal copies of the Bible in their possession. God’s Word is out and about; it is all around them; but they are not impacted by it.
However, this is not the case for most reading this blog. Most of us hear the Bible read to us from the pulpit each Lord’s Day. We can then get in our cars and hear God’s Word read to us on the radio as we drive home. Following our time of worship, at any time we can select one of our many translations and hear God speak to us at our leisure. Then we can go about our business, and through our applications on our smart phones we can hide God’s Word in our hearts and in our pockets.
What a privilege!
What a responsibility! To whom much has been given, much is expected. Yes, we who have God’s Word always around us ought to think and walk differently than those suffering from biblical scarcity.
Therefore friends, how should we take advantage of the undeserved privilege given to us by God? We should devour his Word properly. And how should this be done? Christian fathers, writing from the seventeenth century in the Westminster Larger Catechism, have given us some good biblical counsel:
Question 157: How is the Word of God to be read?
Answer: The Holy Scriptures are to be read with a high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very Word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with mediation, application, self-denial, and prayer.
We must see the Bible as having greater value than gold — even the finest of gold. (Psalm 19:10) Fellow believers, do we highly view and revere the Scripture as an incredible keepsake passed down from our fathers from one generation to another? In one biblical example, people gave the Scripture a standing ovation; they stood in honor as it was read. (Neh. 8:3-10) Do we treasure God’s Word?
We should, for it is the very Word of God. The Holy Spirit made sure men penned perfect revelation. (2 Peter 1:19-21) It was inerrant, and it is infallible. Therefore, through God’s providential care we still have God’s divine thoughts faithfully preserved, passed along, and printed. Consider our privilege; we do not have to wait for an occasional voice from heaven. We are not forced to wait for a prophet to visit our town. Right before us, beside our bed, at our desk, in our car, in our purse, any time we desire, inspired words of wisdom from our Heavenly Father are at hand.
And they are not too high for us to grasp; they are understandable to those of us who have been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:13-16) Sure, today we might not understand everything in the Bible, but we can understand that which we need for the time being. God’s Word contains digestible truth for the elementary-age child and the elderly, for the student and the scholar. Comprehensible truth is there for the taking.
Therefore, let us go to the Word every morning and read that we might know, believe, and obey. This is what God does. He opens our minds, transforms our hearts, and makes us hungry to worship. Let us be Bible-devourers who hear and do.
And let us do it regularly. Traditionally, our morning reading time has been called “personal devotions.” Why such a title? It is because to such a daily practice we are to be “devoted.” We are to read God’s Word with prioritized diligence. As disciplined as we are in going to work, going to the gym, going to the dinner table, and going to bed, so we are to be disciplined in going to the Word for sustenance and Gospel-rest. It is our daily delight, and as such we safeguard our time in God’s Word. (Psalm 1:1-2; Acts 2:42)
However, we do not stop with our fifteen minutes of God and I time. Following our reading, we mediate upon God’s truths. (Ps. 119:97) As we walk about throughout the day, we apply it, deny ourselves, and pray. All the day we seek to say “No” to our rebellious, foolish, selfish, sinful flesh as we communicate with God about his communication to us.
Oh friends, are we thankful for our printed texts? Are we taking advantage of the privilege set before us? In conclusion, before going to read the Word of God, hear now words from the wisest of men; hear now words from your Heavenly Father:
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:1-6)