My wife Stephane has an old Bible that has seen better days. There are a few pages that are completely ripped out, along with other smaller tears and rips. When I say that this Bible is “old” I don’t mean that it is super ancient or anything. It’s just that it lived through the John and Jeremiah baby years of our family. Often when Steph was reading her Bible and the boys were nearby, they would make their way over and would grab and pull and rip with lightening quick speed. As you can imagine, they did quite a number on this bible that wasn’t designed to withstand the curiosities of little boys.
As I think about my wife’s Bible, it makes me think of two things……believers in other parts of the world with little or no access to the Scriptures, and the Bible translator William Tyndale.
I don’t know how many Bible’s I own, but I am guessing it is around a dozen. And that is not counting the Bible apps I have on my smartphone. Living in this part of the world and in this day and age, we are blessed to have such easy access to the Scriptures. But not all Christians have that same access. I have heard several stories of Christians in other parts of the world who literally rip out pages and sections of the Bible and distribute them among a group of believers. For some, the only Bible they have access to might be Paul’s letter to Titus. But as you can imagine, they would treasure that portion of Scripture and read it over and over and over. That kind of thing is more common than you think.
And then there is the remarkable story of William Tyndale. If you are unfamiliar with Tyndale, he was the first to translate the Bible (at least a substantial portion of it) into the English language. His translation work formed the bedrock of what became the King James Version of the Bible, first published in 1611.
After being banished from England, Tyndale and his associates carried out their work of translation from continental Europe (mostly Germany). As more and more of the New Testament was translated into English, they would smuggle it back into England. These pages of Scripture were easy to hide and and rather than waiting till the work was fully completed, Tyndale was able to get God’s Word into the hands of thousands of ordinary citizens quite quickly, but only in small sections.
There is a famous story about Tyndale that is worth sharing. He was engaged in a conversation with a fellow priest concerning the need for the Scriptures to be in the English language. Tyndale’s companion was not convinced of the need for the Scriptures in English. He is reported to have said that as long as people had the Bishop of Rome’s laws, the Scriptures were not needed.
To this Tyndale replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws, if God spare my life, I will make a boy that driveth the plough know more of the Scripture than thou dost.” That tells us a lot about Tyndale’s passion and conviction.
The sad footnote to Tyndale’s life is that he was eventually caught, imprisoned, and finally executed. His last words were also memorable: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” The happy footnote to Tyndale’s life is that God answered his prayer. King Henry VIII, just three years after his martyrdom licensed English Bibles to be placed in the parish churches of England. Praise God!
You would agree that we often take God’s word for granted. Rather than treasuring God’s word, we neglect it and fail to avail ourselves of this most amazing gift. Of course, the written Word, leads us to the living Word, Jesus Christ. Apart from Scripture, we would have no knowledge of the gospel, no knowledge of the Savior, no knowledge of the very Son of God.
Listen to the words of Psalm 19:7-11
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
May we not neglect to read and study and meditate on God’s Word. It is a wonderful, precious gift!