Summary: The Bible is God's love story to us. Like the psalmist, we should hunger for God's word. As we choose to obey him and read his word, our desire to obey him over our temptations will grow.
Growing in God’s Word
What book is the best-selling and most widely distributed book of all time? What was the first book that Johannes Gutenberg chose to mass produce with his movable type printing press in the year 1450? What book has had parts translated into more than 2,000 different languages? The Jeopardy answer is, of course, “What is the Bible?” The most popular, the most purchased, and sad to say, the least read book in history!
We call the Bible “God’s word” because the Bible itself claims to be inspired from God, which literally means “God-breathed.” Even so, God chose to use human authors as his mouthpiece, some forty different writers from all walks of life—shepherds, farmers, tent-makers, physicians, fishermen, priests, philosophers, and kings—who wrote over the course of about 1,600 years.
Despite the variety of authors and the length of time it took to write, the Bible is an extremely cohesive and unified book. The reason? Scripture says these people wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). They wrote not in words of human wisdom, but in words divinely taught (1 Corinthians 2:13). The great preacher and scholar, A.T. Robertson, once quipped, “The greatest proof that the Bible is inspired is that it has [with]stood so much bad preaching.”
The Bible consists of 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament or Old Covenant and (using a memory trick, you can multiply the 3 times the 9 to get) 27 books in the New Testament or New Covenant. The Old Testament was first written in Hebrew along with some Aramaic. As the Jewish scripture, it was Jesus’ Bible when Jesus walked the earth. It consists of the Torah—the first five books of the Bible—considered most authoritative by the Jews; followed by the historical books, wisdom literature, and major and minor prophets.
The New Testament was first written in Greek along with a little Aramaic. Its books include the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ activities on earth, followed by the Acts of the Apostles, various letters written by some of Jesus’ disciples to churches or individuals, and finally, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Taken as a whole, the Bible is a record of God’s loving pursuit of a people to love him in return. The storyline, in broad strokes, is: God’s creation, humanity’s fall into sin, God’s redemption, and then ultimately God’s restoration. The Bible is a love letter from heaven to us. The great church father, Augustine of Hippo, once wrote, “The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”
We read a passage earlier, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, that tells what scripture can do for us. It helps us teach and help people, it corrects us when we get off track, and it shows us how to live. The scriptures train us for all kinds of good works. The great reformer, Martin Luther, once said, “You may as well quit reading and hearing the Word of God, and give it to the devil, if you do not desire to live according to it.” So the Bible is more than just a textbook about God; it is a guide in our relationship with God and each other. Sometimes it challenges us to the core. Mark Twain quipped, “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.”
Today’s text, Psalm 119, also speaks to the value of scripture in our lives. This psalm has the honor of being the longest chapter in the longest book of the Bible. (By the way, I discovered this week that its nearby neighbor, Psalm 117, is the shortest chapter as well as the middle chapter of the Bible!)
Psalm 119 is like that Lamentations passage we looked at recently in that it is a poem written in acrostic. It has 22 sections, and each section of eight verses all begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So the first eight verses all begin with “aleph,” or “A.” The section we’re looking at today is Section 13 of 22, so in Hebrew each verse begins with the letter “M” or “mem,” the 13th letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Obviously the psalmist put a lot of work into this, and his theme is clear: how special is the word of God. The psalmist uses several synonyms for scripture, such as “law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, word, and promise.” You’ll find one of these words in almost every verse of the psalm.
As you read the psalm, you realize its writer loved the Bible so much. In fact, some accuse him of worshiping the book, a kind of “Bible-olatry.” Yet, if you look carefully, the psalmist loves the Bible because it always points him back to the author, God himself. Oh, if we were all accused of such love for the Bible!