Why Follow the Bible?

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Scripture testifies to its own benefits. I labeled such a statement as fallacious when teaching logic to my  composition students, but this post concerns the Bible: God-breathed, the book of books by the King of kings. After more than 50 years of seeing how the Bible changes me and others, I’m a Rock-solid believer in its perfect reliability.

Among the Bible’s vast storehouses of verses, let’s start with Psalm 119’s treasury. The first verse alone contains several names for God’s word, which I use interchangeably in this post. Let’s begin by looking at a few individually.

Psalm 119:1 says, “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord.” The word for “law,” from tora, often refers to the Pentateuch (Decalogue), or first five books of the Bible, dictated by God to Moses. These books contain the precepts and statutes known collectively as God’s Law, which was the only escape from sin before Christ. “Law” could also be translated “direction” or “instruction.”

Verse 2 says, “How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart.” God’s word is His testimony: the truth He speaks about or witnesses to, which we’re to “observe” (or “keep” as translated in the King James Version of the Bible). An old saying declares, “The Bible will keep us from sin, or sin will keep us from the Bible.”

Verse 3 says that those who observe God’s testimonies and seek Him with all their heart will “do no unrighteousness” (“iniquity” in the KJV from the Hebrew evel, where we get our English “evil”) and will “walk in His ways.” “Way” (also seen in verse 1) comes from the Hebrew derek and means “a road,” as in “trodden,” according to Strong’s definition. It’s also translated “journey” or “manner” in the KJV. The idea in both verses 1 and 3 is that God’s way is the way we should walk: an active verb.

God has “ordained” (“commanded” KJV) His “precepts, That we should keep them diligently” (verse 4).  “Precepts” is also translated “statues” once and “commandents” twice. Of the 24 times it appears in the Bible, 21 are in Psalm 119. “Precepts” means “properly, appointed, a mandate (of God; plural only, collectively, for the Law).”

When we keep God’s statutes, we won’t be ashamed when we look at all His commandments (verse 6). “Statute” is from the Hebrew hoq, used more than 100 times in the Bible. It means “ordinance, limit, something prescribed, due, prescribed task, prescribed portion, action prescribed (for oneself), resolve, prescribed due, prescribed limit, boundary, enactment, decree.” Commandments” is from mitsvah. “Bar mitsvah” literally means, “son of commandments,” which is also the name of a ritual in which 13-year-old-Jewish males attain all the rights and responsibilities of adulthood, including keeping the entire Law of God as given in the Bible’s first five book. I am so thankful that because of Jesus’ perfect lawfulness, He satisfied the Law for me by His atoning death.

I used to have trouble sleeping until I discovered the peace that comes from God’s word. When I shared this, a woman protested that a lot of things in the Bible were troubling. The more familiar I become with the Bible, the more I disagree. The overwhelming majority of God’s verses encourage and comfort me, so if I’m having a restless night, I review my current memory verses or the chapters ahead with a little battery/solar charged light clipped next to my Bible. My husband’s done this for years, minus the light. Memorizing used to wake me up, so I would read instead. Now God’s word relaxes me so much that even hearing it can make me sleepy night or day, if I’m tired.

Verse 7 says, “I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments.” While my father was dying of cancer and I was dealing with postpartum depression and my first newborn who had a hole in her heart needing nursing every two hours day and night, I learned the value of thankfulness. A friend advised me, “Keep a thankfulness journal and write in it every day.” At first my entries often read, “I’m thankful this day is over.” Gradually my joy (and sleep) returned. I was so excited the first month to have a surviving child that I couldn’t sleep anyway, while my husband, the new father, seemed to do nothing but sleep. I think being aware of God’s blessings and thanking Him increases our joy and delights Him, which may cause Him to lavish more blessings upon us. God, along with most humans, apparently likes to be thanked: learning God’s word makes us thank Him.

Verse 9 says that a young man keeps his way pure by keeping it according to God’s word. Verse 10 is a prayer that the writer won’t wander from God’s commandments. Many verses in this personal psalm are prayers to God. Verse 11 is another implication that treasuring His word in our heart prevents us from sinning against Him. My children and I can often tell which mornings any of us skip our Bible reading and memorizing, and we call each other on it. On the days I go without Bible, I often feel like a drifting boat overloaded with on-contact explosives. God’s word keeps me safely moored, no matter what tempest rages around me.

After losing his wealth, children, health, and support of his remaining family and friends, Job testifies in Job 23:10-12, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” A pastor whose teaching helped me love God and His word issued the challenge of treasuring the Bible more than our daily bread. He asked something like, “Do you love God’s word more than food? If you haven’t spent time with the Bible, should you eat? Which is more important, now and forever?”

I’m an early bird, so morning Bible time is probably easier for me than my night-owl mother-in-law, who cherishes the quiet of evening. Like her, I can also attest that Bible study sometimes makes a lonely night pleasanter. Many times I don’t feel like reading the Bible or praying early since my mornings are my most productive times, but like the legendary monk who was asked, “How do you accomplish so much when you spend 4 hours in prayer every day?,” I would never accomplish most of what I do without prayer (and Bible time).

A lot of Psalm 119 praises God and His word, asking for His help in understanding and keeping it. We’re also to speak it (verse 13): “With my lips I have told of All the ordinances of Your mouth.”

The beginning of Psalm 119 sounds a little like someone talking himself into something by trotting out its benefits, kind of like looking forward to the spoonful of sugar after the medicine, but by verse 14, the writer’s affections are engaged: “I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.” Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Psalm 119:15 says, “I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.” Meditation sometimes gets a bad rap, but Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” We’re not only to read, memorize, speak and obey God’s word, but think about it. Dwell on it. Philippians 4 goes on to promise in verse 9, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” God’s peace is a prize this world and even God’s people urgently need these days.

Verse 16 promises, “I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.” but by verse 17 the writer sounds a bit desperate and in verse 18 realizes he can’t even to grasp how great the Bible is by himself: “Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.” Sometimes we read and memorize with blind eyes and cold, dead hearts that need God to enlighten and enliven them. Verses 19-23 show the writer’s struggle. Verse 21 says that God rebukes those who don’t keep His word, and the writer asks God to remove reproach and contempt from him because he observes God’s testimonies. Many verses ask for God’s help, favor, honor and comfort based on His word or the time we spend in it or keeping it.

Verse 24 says, “Your testimonies also are my delight; They are my counselors.” Sometimes the most well-meaning advice of friends and others can lead us astray, but the Bible never will.

When we understand God’s word, we better value His ways and works. Verse 27 says, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders.” Following God’s faithful way is a choice: verse 30 says, “I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.” Eagerly choosing God’s way doesn’t always come easily. Verse 31 says, “I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart.” Our naturally small hearts must supernaturally be enlarged in order to run God’s way.

God wants us to keep His word wholeheartedly as long as we live (verses 33-34): “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law And keep it with all my heart.”

The Bible helps us better relate to God Himself. Verse 38 says, “Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You.” Our dearly beloved Abba incredibly loves us, which we cannot take lightly. We’re to respect our earthly elders, parents, and especially our fathers, but we’re to respect our heavenly Father far more.

Verses 41-42 say, “May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord, Your salvation according to Your word; So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word.” Trusting in God’s word can make us stronger witnesses and increase our firmness in our own salvation, even we meet opposition from others or ourselves.

God’s word brings freedom. Verses 44-45 say, “So I will keep Your law continually, Forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts.”

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