by Stan Cox
In II Timothy 3, the apostle Paul penned a wonderful sentence that establishes both the precious nature of the words contained in our Bibles, and their efficacy in ordering our lives as His servants.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17).
The Greek word used in verse 16, translated “inspiration of God” is found nowhere else in scripture. It is the term theopneustos. Vine gives the etymology of the word: (Theos, God, pne?, to breathe) and says that it, “is used in II Timothy 3:16, of the Scriptures as distinct from non-inspired writings” (Vines, Volume II, page 263).
In my view, this term is poetic. God Breathed. The document that we call the Bible is not the product of men, but of the Almighty. As such it should be recognized as unique in the world, and worthy of our undying respect and careful scrutiny.
It may be that familiarity breeds contempt. The Bible is ubiquitous. You can find a copy in every motel room. It is found on coffee tables or in bookshelves of most households in the United States. It is believed that up to 6 billion copies of the Bible have been printed, making it the most widely distributed book of all time. The Bible is available to 98% of the world’s population in a language with which they are fluent. It was the first major work printed by Johannes Gutenberg on his newly invented mechanical printing press, in 1455.
Yet, most are ignorant of its contents. They either have only a superficial knowledge of God’s word, or they lack the ability to “rightly divide” it (cf. II Timothy 2:15). Occasionally I have watched the game show Jeopardy! when the Bible was used as one of its categories. It is always interesting to note that these contestants, who are chosen because they have shown an aptitude for answering questions on a wide variety of subjects, consistently are thwarted by the simplest of Bible queries.
While an abject ignorance of God’s word is the norm in our society today, it certainly ought not to be so among God’s people. It seems inconceivable that those who claim to be disciples (learners) of Christ have little awareness of or interest in His philosophies, desires, objectives or will for them.
The nation of Israel was likewise, in its history, cursed by an ignorance of God’s word. The people of Hosea’s time were guilty of disregarding His instructions. God described their abject state and gave them a severe admonition, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6). The prophet Isaiah records a similar description, “Therefore my people have gone into captivity, Because they have no knowledge; Their honorable men are famished, And their multitude dried up with thirst” (Isaiah 5:13).
Though infrequent, there were times of great zeal in Israel’s history. It is interesting that one characteristic of this zeal was their respect for and interest in the word of God. For example, when Joshua read the law of Moses to the people at Mt. Ebal, (Joshua 8:30-35), and when Ezra read the Law to the remnant who had returned from Babylonian captivity (Nehemiah 8:1-8).
During the reign of Josiah in Judah, the young king led such a renewal. Apparently, the law of God had been lost completely. The people were ignorant of God’s word, and had been led into ungodliness by Josiah’s father, Amon, and his grandfather, Manasseh. But Josiah “…did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (II Kings 22:2).
When Josiah was 26 years old, while the Temple was being repaired at his command, the high priest Hilkiah reported that the Law had been found. Josiah was immediately aware of the significance of the find, and grieved that the Law had once been lost. He said, “…great is the wrath of the LORD that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (II Kings 22:13).
Consider what the young king did next:
“The king went up to the house of the LORD with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem-the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant” (II Kings 23:2-3).
Because of the influence of this good young king, the people “took a stand.” During the rule of Josiah, it is recorded that “…All his days they did not depart from following the LORD God of their fathers” (II Chronicles 34:33).
From his example we can learn two important things:
God’s law must be respected.
The veneration shown for the book of the law by King Josiah is wonderful. These were not the words of men, but the words of God. The people listened intently to His commands, and were moved to obedience. May we have the same attitude toward God’s word as that expressed by the Psalmist, “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
God’s law must be studied.
It is not enough to venerate His word. In order for us to please God we must obey His word. In order to obey His word, we must be familiar with it. The Hebrew writer criticized his readers for being slack in their study of God’s word. He described them as having become “dull of hearing”, and admonished them, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
The Bible contains the words and will of the Almighty God of heaven. It is the product of inspiration, being literally, “God breathed.” We are so blessed that God has expressed Himself to us. It is through this we know what He expects of us, and also of the reward He has promised to those who “obey Him.” (Hebrews 5:9).
What about you? What is your attitude toward the Bible? Have you looked at it as a dusty old book filled with ancient stories written in antiquated English? Has it served more as a repository of family memories (cards, letters and pressed flowers) than as a daily guide for you in your life? Or, do you count it as precious, and study and meditate on it daily. Consider the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
“O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
We must know God’s will to prosper in this life, and in the one to come. How privileged we are to have access to the mind of God, revealed in His holy Scriptures!