Why Read the Bible?
by Tom Marcum
Recently, the simple task of reading the mail has become much more interesting than it used to be. It started a couple of weeks ago when I received an item that appeared from the return address to have been sent to me by my wife. I asked her why she would send me something in the mail and she swore she had done no such thing. I opened the package with a heightened sense of interest and found a “Sight Saver,” which you slide over a book or magazine to magnify the words on the page making them easier to read. It was accompanied by a note that said, “You’re still the life of the party even though you go to bed at 8 o’clock.”
After a few moments of bewilderment, I got the joke. I went over to the calendar and did some counting. Sure enough, it was exactly 50 days until my 50th birthday. I realized the countdown to my birthday had begun.
Since then, every day or two another item of special interest to the aging has arrived in the mail. Clearly, someone is having fun with my impending birthday.
Recently, I have received:
An invitation to visit “The Life Extension Institute” in Palm Beach, Florida, and their current magazine featuring an article entitled: “Enlargement of the Aging Brain,”
An invitation to attend “Senior Summer Camp,”
A pack of “Low Vision Playing Cards,” distinguished by their extra large numbers,
A package of “Elasticized Perma-Tie Shoelaces.” Tie them once and you never have to bend over to tie them again,
And a pill organizer to help me keep my medications in order.
With my birthday coming, I have a special reason for reading my mail these days, but the truth is reading the mail is something all of us do on a daily basis. While much of it is junk, some of it is actually quite important, certainly much too important to ignore. In fact, anyone who decides they just aren’t going to read their mail any more is foolish because sooner or later they will miss an important piece of mail.
This brings me to the many “letters” we find in the Bible–all of which are God’s Word. Do you suppose they are as important as the mail arriving to our homes each day? Would you go so far as to say they are too important to ignore? What makes them so important? My question is, “Why read the Bible?” Why should we put such an emphasis on reading this particular book? We’re usually not even a reading culture anymore. If it’s not on TV or the Internet, we’re not interested. So, why in the world should we invest all the time and energy necessary to read this massive book written so long ago? We know why we read our mail but why would anyone want to read the Bible?
Perhaps we should look at the Bible to answer this question. I suggest Psalm 19:7-11 as a pretty good place to start.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
The ordinances of the Lord are sure
and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
The first thing that jumps out at me as I read this passage written by Israel’s King David is that David clearly wants us to understand what we have in our Bible is the Word “of the Lord.” He repeats the phrase “of the Lord” six times. David uses six different words to describe various aspects of the nature of God’s Word. He writes “the law,” “the statutes,” “the precepts,” “the commands,” “the fear,” and “the ordinances.” But in every instance, each of those six descriptive words is followed by the phrase, “of the Lord.” The point David is driving home to us is that: regardless of the word you find most useful in describing God’s Word, make no mistake...it is God’s Word. These words did not originate with man. This is the word “of the Lord.” So, again, why should we read the Bible? We should read it because it is the Word “of the Lord.” That alone makes it worth reading.
This essential insight into the nature of the Scriptures we read in the Old Testament is repeated several times in the New Testament of the Bible.
2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Was the Bible written down by human hands? Absolutely it was. But these human hands were being guided by the Holy Spirit. The result of that guidance is what we have in the Bible. It is not simply a collection of insights representing the best human wisdom can offer. What we have in the Bible is nothing less than the Word “of the Lord.”
2 Timothy 3:16 speaks directly to this point when it says, “All Scripture is God-breathed...” Other translations render this verse as, “All Scripture is inspired by God...” and that certainly conveys the intent of the verse accurately. But the most literal translation of the Greek words used in that verse is “God-breathed.” That unusual phrase, “God-breathed,” means the Scriptures originated with God. God breathed His character into the Scriptures; that’s what gives them their distinctiveness. That’s why this book stands out as wholly unique and distinct from every other book ever written. Why should we read the Bible? Because of the One who wrote it. That alone makes it worth reading.
Who could possibly know more about how the world functions best than the One who brought the world into existence? Who could possibly know more about how you and I function best than the One who created us? Who could possibly know more about what really matters in life, what the purpose of life is and where all of this is ultimately heading, than the One who spoke life into existence and holds the future in His hands?
The author of this book is wiser than any counselor you’ll ever meet, more powerful than any world leader who’s ever walked across the stage of human history, and posses more knowledge than the combined intellect of every professor who has ever taught in any university in the world.
Why read the Bible? How utterly foolish would we be to have access to the Word of the Lord and then choose to ignore it? How utterly foolish would we be to do anything other than to fill our minds with every word in this book? These words are perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, enduring, sure, and altogether righteous. These are the very words of the Lord. Surely, in keeping them, we will live the life God desires us to live.
(Rev. Tom Marcum is the pastor of Petaluma Valley Baptist Church in Petaluma, CA. )