Summary: What a tremendous gift we have in God’s Holy Word - a gift that gives us life and causes us to tremble.
Trembling at the Word of Life
April 18, 2010
It all began with a coded message. The coded message read: Expecting so many people that we have arranged 21 teacups and cooked 18 bowls of rice.
This was a message to Christians in China in 1981. The 21 teacups meant 2100 hours, or 9 p.m. The 18 bowls of rice meant that delivery would be on the 18th of November. The cargo to be delivered was 1 million Chinese language Bibles, weighing 232 tons.
Thatâ€™s not something thatâ€™s easy to sneak into a country that, especially at that time, rather frowned on such things. This was called Project Pearl. A group teamed up with Brother Andrew of Open Doors, whoâ€™s preached from this pulpit a couple of times.
In getting the Bibles ashore in the dark, some of them got wet and eventually dried out. They became known as the Wet Bibles. The Chinese authorities intercepted some of the other Bibles, and threw them into latrines. Yet, they were eventually retrieved by Chinese believers, washed, sprayed with perfume, and later became known as Perfume Bibles.
Today, you can purchase Bibles in China at registered churches. But that wasnâ€™t the case back then. Followers of Christ in China were willing to go to extraordinary means, and risk their freedom, to obtain copies of the Word of God.
Malcolm Muggeridge once said, â€œThe truth is that the light which shines in this incredible book simply cannot be put out.â€
When Open Doors engineered Project Pearl, putting a Bible into the hands of a Chinese Christian was like giving him a block of gold the same size.
(Story from How you can have confidence in the Bible, by Harold Sala)
What kind of power must a book have to cause people to risk their lives to get it? Itâ€™s the kind of power that should cause us to tremble.
Isaiah 66:2 (NIV) Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.
Why should we tremble? Last week, Bishop Onguko talked about this idea. We see this phrase in a few places in the Old Testament â€“ the idea that believers tremble at Godâ€™s word. Itâ€™s similar to what we see in
Psalms 119:161 (NASB95) Princes persecute me without cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your words.
Essentially, this is not unlike the idea of the fear of the Lord which we see often in scripture. When we fear the Lord, or when we tremble at His word, weâ€™re acknowledging and recognizing His power and His authority.
In Isaiah, we see the Lord speaking â€“ â€œhas not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?â€ This is the Creator of all things. What power! What authority! When we tremble at His word, weâ€™re acknowledging His holiness. Weâ€™re recognizing His omnipotence. Think about this. We call this book â€œThe Word of God.â€ Doesnâ€™t that very idea alone make you tremble even a little bit? That this book contains the very words of the One who made us all! The One who literally spoke the universe into existence.
Itâ€™s not just His wrath, which is written of in this book, that makes us tremble, or should. Itâ€™s not just the reality that scripture presents that Heâ€™s a holy God, and that He will judge sin. No â€“ it makes me tremble to consider that the Maker of the Universe knows me. It makes me tremble that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the almighty One, has such grace and mercy, such love for you and me, that He sent His one and only Son to pay the awful price for my sin. Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble, as the old hymn says.
So when we tremble at His word, one of the realities is that weâ€™re trembling at what His word reveals about Him. It reveals enough about Him, teaches us enough about Him, that God uses His word literally to change lives, and cause some to sacrifice much, just to gain access to His Word, as in the story we just heard. And we could multiply that story by thousands of times across the globe and across the centuries.
Contrast that almost desperate hunger for the Word which causes people to go to extraordinary means to make it available, or to get it for themselves, with the abundance of Bibles we have here.
How many Bibles do you own? I counted 21 in my house, and that doesnâ€™t include at least a half-dozen I have in my office here at church.
Now, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with having several Bibles in your home. Different translations can help in understanding. Some Bibles have study helps that others donâ€™t have.