Summary: The only parts of the Bible we believe are the parts we DO. As we read God's word with humility and awe (and a willingness to obey) we are transformed.
Kathleen Norris tells the story of a South Dakota rancher and his bride who received a leather-bound Bible as a wedding gift from the groom’s grandfather. They wrote a thank-you note and stowed the Bible away on a closet shelf, out of the way. As time passed, the grandfather repeatedly asked the couple how they liked the Bible. The rancher was confused as to how to respond. Hadn’t he already expressed his appreciation? But the grandfather persisted. Eventually the young man dug out the gift; as he leafed through it, $20 bills fluttered out, 66 in all--one at the beginning of Genesis, and in each succeeding book. But that wasn’t the only treasure, or the best; the spiritual riches of Scripture transform our lives when we read and heed God’s word (Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith).
This is the first of seven blessings in the Book of Revelation, not counting the blessings to the seven churches in chapters 2-3. This list appears apart from those, and unlike most groups of seven, they do not appear together, they’re scattered throughout this book…but make no mistake, it is not coincidental that there are seven, because seven is a key number in Revelation. There are sevens on nearly every page--seven seals, trumpets, lampstands, churches, kings, mountains, and so on. Seven reflects the order and perfection of Creation, and is regarded as the number of completion.
Scholars may debate the timing of the tribulations, the identity of the antichrist, whether or not there’s a Rapture, but there’s no controversy over the Blessings of Revelation. A “blessing” is a pronouncement of God’s favor. The word can mean “happy” or even “congratulations!” We are praised for living God’s way. The world urges us to seek happiness in self-destructive ways, with selfish priorities and often unhealthy practices. When we stop believing lies, stop living for self, we discover the path of delight, which is spelled out in Scripture.
The Bible is God’s love letter to us. In college, we had a system of sending notes to and from the guys and girls’ dorms each evening (obviously long before email). One evening I hid my roommate’s letter from his girlfriend and it’s the nearest I ever came to being murdered!
The Bible is a loving invitation to know God. This blessing for the reading, hearing, and keeping of God’s word is the only time such a promise is made in Scripture. And while it refers to this particular book, it applies to all of Scripture. The average church-going family has plenty of Bibles, but they do little good unless they’re used and taken seriously.
This blessing stresses the importance of the public reading of Scripture. Some churches have an office of lector. It is one thing to read words, entirely another to read with meaning. I recall hearing Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe read a lengthy passage of Scripture; when he finished, I understood the passage better, even before he began to teach. He read with meaning. For those of you who enjoy recorded books, you know the difference a gifted reader can make.
Nowhere does God command us to read His word…yet the desire to read it is a sign of true spiritual life. Peter writes that believers should be drawn to the Bible the way babies are drawn to their mothers’ milk (I Pet 2:2). A healthy Christian will want to read the Bible. We cannot have the joy of knowing Jesus without having His words abide in us.
Are we convinced that there is no book more important than the Bible? According to a Gallop poll, most Americans revere the Bible but don’t read it. There is no excuse for biblical illiteracy; each follower of Christ should have a working-knowledge of the Scriptures. This means when a preacher asks you to turn to a book of the Bible, you don’t need to check the Table of Contents! You generally know what the Bible contains…and it makes a difference in your life.
Some people reject the Bible because to them it is an inconvenient book of rules. Yet how would you like to live without any rules? Try playing baseball with no rules, and you’ll quickly see it can’t be done. Do we really want to be totally on our own, with no guidance from Above? We might not like every rule in Scripture, but we can be grateful that God tells us right from wrong. But the Bible’s much more than rules. We also find in its pages comfort for every distress and hope that casts away our fear. “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”
John writes, “the time is near.” The appointed times will arrive without delay. The author of Hebrews writes, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets at many times and in various ways, in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (1:1-2). John was writing to his generation, and much of this apocalyptic book is about events about to occur, namely the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Rome. Some of this final book is about the “end times” and the Second Coming, but some of it is about events the readers would live to see…and so John writes with a sense of urgency.