When I have a question on the history of the Bible, the formation of the Bible, or about events in the Old Testament, I turn to Sandra. She loves anything to do with the Bible and its history. Those of you who have had the privilege of being in Sandra’s SS class on biblical inerrancy know what I mean. She knows what she’s talking about, and is able to communicate it memorably. You leave challenged, amazed, and more confident about the authenticity and power of the Word of God. Read on and be strengthened! You’re in for a treat! – Arthur
“Joy, don’t jump!” “Joy, drop!” “Joy, get off!” We talk to our golden retriever, Joy, constantly, but what does she really hear? “Joy, blah blah!” “Joy, blah!” “Joy, blah blah!” Dogs may bark and make noises but they are not able to use words. The gift of words is the priceless gift that was given to us human beings. With words, we are able to talk about our feelings, talk about the things of the past and hopes for the future. Words go deep into the inner thoughts of our hearts. The old adage that says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is so untrue. How many times have we rehearsed hurtful words said to us, over and over and over again? With words, we can express complex ideas and relay them orally or in written form to almost anyone. But overall, the most important thing about language/words is that God chose to use this vehicle to reveal to us who He is!
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) God spoke the world into existence with His Word, ““Let there be light”, and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) Words are little carts carrying meaning and when strung together form a train; these trains or sentences can transport what is in one’s heart or mind into another’s heart or mind. In the Bible, we find God revealing to us His heart, will, and intention from the beginning until the end.
God Acts/God Speaks
In his article, “How is the Bible the Word of God”, George Eldon Ladd says, “Here is the biblical mode of revelation: the revealing acts of God in history, accompanied by the interpreting prophetic word which explains the divine source and character of the divine acts. Deeds – words; God acts – God speaks; and the words explain the deeds.” Both the acts and words are divine events, forming an inseparable unity.
When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, there was a great outpouring of His Word written down by Moses in the first five books of the Bible. When God established the nation Israel and interacted with them, there was another great outpouring of His Word through the prophets. Then after 400 years of silence, we have the greatest theophany in human history, the incarnation of Christ; and again, there was another great outpouring of His Word, i.e. the New Testament. In II Peter 1:20, 21, God says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” This is God’s M.O. He used godly men to write down the words to describe the acts that He performed on this earth.
History is His Story
As we read the Bible, we see how God is working out His will and plan in human history. God’s intervening acts in human history are the anchors that keep the rest of human history from flowing into a sea of meaninglessness. The events as recorded in the Bible don’t fit nice and neatly into history, but rather history fits nice and neatly into these events. God enabled the Egyptians to prosper in order to serve as a nursery to nurture the Israelites from a 70 people clan that entered Egypt (Genesis 46:27) to the estimated 2,000,000 that came out (Numbers 1:46). The Assyrians and Babylonians just didn’t happen to grow to be powerful empires. They were made to be powerful so that they might capture the Northern Kingdom, Israel, in 722 BC and the Southern Kingdom, Judah, in 586 BC respectively. God raised them up for this very purpose.
When God was ready for the Israelites to go back home to Jerusalem, he raised up the Persians to overthrow the Babylonians. 150 years before Cyrus was even born, God had Isaiah pen these words, “’It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ Thus says the Lord to Cyrus, His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut.’” (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1) As ordained by God, Cyrus was the benevolent ruler who allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. How could a small Middle Eastern state arise to usurp and overthrow a monstrous giant like Babylon? Daniel 5:30 records these 9 simple words, “That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain;” and thus was the beginning of the end of the Babylonians.
From historians, Xenophon and Herodotus, we know a fuller picture of what happened in 539 BC. Babylon, the great walled city, had the Euphrates River running through the city. The city wall is brought down on both sides to the edge of the stream. Babylon was impenetrable when the gates of the city were closed. Yet, as prophesied by Isaiah, “the gates will not be shut,” as Cyrus had daringly diverted the whole river into a great trench constructed outside the walls. Outside in the darkness that night, if one of Belshazzar’s guests had walked down to the waterside to cool his head, he would have seen that the great waters of the Euphrates had shrunk to a trickling stream.
As Belshazzar ate, drank, and was merry, God’s finger of judgment was writing on the wall, “Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin”. Frantically, Belshazzar searched for someone to interpret this phantom, other worldly writing. The Bible says, “his face grew pale, his thoughts alarmed him, his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking”. (Daniel 5:6) Upon the Queen’s recommendation, Daniel was brought in and successfully translated the writing to mean, “You have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.” (Daniel 5:25-27)
Amid an awed silence, Belshazzar ordered Daniel to be clothed in purple, and a gold chain to be placed around his neck for translating the writing on the wall. But in that silence the sound the king heard was not only the beating of his own nervous heart, but rather it was the march of Cyrus’ army. Cyrus and his men had advanced along the river bed into the very heart of the city. Before half the reveling populace realized anything more than a festival was afoot, Belshazzar was dead.
History is not driven by the most powerful nations that rise up, but rather by God who ordains these empires to exist for His purpose and His glory. God is in control and He will accomplish what He desires. “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
Passing the Test of Time
God’s holy Word survives the test of time. The lives and testimonies of the holy men that are recorded in this Book also pass the test of time. No one names their sons Nebuchadnezzar, but many, including myself, proudly name their son, Daniel. Herod the Great, the powerful ruler of Palestine, was sitting high in his grand palace, the Herodium, while an obscure baby was born in an animal’s stall a few miles away. Two millennia later, Jesus is known worldwide and Herod fades into the backdrop as a paranoid ruler who is primarily known for killing little babies born in Bethlehem. Not many people remember that Herod was given the title, “King of the Jews,” by the Senate when he was 33 years old. This small fact is hardly recalled except to give an eerie premonition to the plaque placed on top of the cross of another 33-year-old man who truly was “The King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37).
We are not the ones that are upholding His Word. His Word is upholding us. As well-known science fiction author, H. G. Wells states in A Short History of the World, “It is not so much the Jews who made the Bible as the Bible which made the Jews.” He says that, “Their importance in the world is due to the fact that they produced a written literature, a world history, a collection of laws, chronicles, psalms, books of wisdom, poetry and fiction and political utterances which became at last what Christians know as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible. And they were all held together by the Bible and by the reading of the Bible. Jerusalem was from the first only their nominal capital; their real city was this book, of books. This is a new sort of thing in history.”
Short Strings vs. the Long String
God’s Word keeps us in the greater metanarrative of life, the life that God created in the Garden of Eden. There is such a gravitational force that makes us want to revolve everything around ourselves. I don’t think that there has been another time in the history of mankind where “our story” and “our lives” are so celebrated. We are able to share with everyone who we are with, what we are eating, what we just bought. We share our opinions and thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs for everyone to read. We are so easily satisfied with these frayed “short strings” that connect us to each other and to the physical world, but are utterly impotent to connect us to the Father.
If we want to connect to God, we need a “long string,” an “enduring string,” an “eternal string” that reaches into the depths of our sinful souls and is able to bring us to the heights of heaven … where God abides. This “Long String” is the Word of God that testifies of the Word that became flesh. God has dropped down the Rope from heaven and has enabled His own to grab hold of it. Just as a person can’t push someone else up a rope, we can’t depend on someone else to do what each one of us has the responsibility to do ourselves with this amazing Gift. Each of us needs to care enough about the Eternal Word of God to do whatever it takes TO GET IT RIGHT! Instead of using our smart phones, ipads, iphones or computers to constantly connect with the world, let us harness their power to deepen our relationship with God. Use your phones or computers to read/listen to the Bible or a sermon. Go onto monergism.com or blueletterbible.org and do a word or topic study. Knowing God and His will for us is truly the highest calling for the use of any words or language. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Matthew 13:31
“This book contains: the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrine is holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be saved, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here heaven is open, and the gates of hell are disclosed. Christ is the grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, health to the soul, and a river of pleasure. It is given to you here in this life, will be opened in judgment, and is established forever. It involves the higheset responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and condemn all who trifle with its contents.” (Written in the forward of the John MacArthur Bible)
– Sandra Hsieh
(originally written for the MBCLA Chronicles, May 2013)