God's Word Is Precious

by: Ronald L. Dart


In first Samuel three and verse one, the beginning of Samuel's ministry for at that time his ministry to the LORD was pretty simple, he was a child. His job was to fetch and carry for Eli and the others who were around there. It says The word of Jehovah was precious in those days, there was no open vision."

The word of God was precious. Now you have to understand, that at this point in time, there was no Bible as you and I know it. There were the five books of Moses, but they were not readily available to the people. They were in the tabernacle. In fact the originals of all that were in the ark, although I'm sure documents or scrolls other than those were available, but apart from that, the existence of the five books of Moses and perhaps a little written history here and there of man's encounters with God, there was nothing there that you could call holy writ or the Scriptures or a Bible, such as you are familiar with having a Bible. The fact is that the word of God is truly rare. It is unusual for God Almighty to talk to man. The occasions when He does so, are few and far between, and the number of words He uses in the process of communicating with man are few and very carefully chosen.

Do We Take Godís Word For Granted?

If the word of God is water, the history of man is like a vast desert with a spring here and there and you would think that being the case, that we would all find ourselves clustered around that spring all the time, that we would live next to that spring, that we would be desperate to be close to it. In fact, man, for some strange reason, wants to scatter himself across the sand and not really be close to it. The truth is, the word of God is precious, and yet to us, it is almost common, ordinary, and certainly I can feel safe in saying, that you and I take it for granted.

God Has Spoken In Time Past

Hebrews 1 verse 1 says this, "God who at various times and in various manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, {2} Has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, and by whom also He made the worlds."

At various times, under unusual circumstances, a man here, a man there, a time here and a time there, God spoke in time past to the prophets. Sometimes it was in a vision. Sometimes it was a voice in the night. Sometimes it was an encounter with God alongside the road. Sometimes it was when God came to him (Abraham) and he sat down and prepared a meal for God, sat and ate with Him and then as he walked along the way, God decided to reveal something to one of his servants that he wanted him on that occasion to know.

God Has Spoken Through His Son

So from time to time, God has spoken, and then in the last days He has spoken to us by His Son and in your New Testament you have a large collection of words of God. It's kind of convenient in a way, the red letter Bibles, they are not really necessary at all, but they're kind of convenient as you page through to find the words of Jesus out of the narrative that follows. For indeed the narratives that surround the words of Jesus are what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had to say. And that part that is in red is what Jesus Himself had to say.

The writer of Hebrews in the second chapter, after having made the point of the scarcity of the words of God and how God in time past spoke to the fathers by the prophets in various and difficult ways, but in these last days has spoken by His Son.

He then says in chapter 2 verse 1, "Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, less at any time we should let them slip."

Now that seems to suggest that there is a danger in taking these words for granted, "to give the more earnest heed to the things that you have heard."

Give Earnest Heed

What do you mean "give the more earnest heed?" Well, there you sit with your Bibles open in front of you, and in this Bible are the words of God and He is suggesting that you ought to give, not merely heed, but earnest heed. How you do that? Well it seems that you would do it by spending as much time as you could manage, immersed in the pages of your Bible. Working your way from verse to verse, pausing to think about what you read, pausing to find ways to apply them in your life and how they might work in your life.

"We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." {2} "For if the word spoken by Angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward. {3} How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by them that heard it."

Now when you consider that the word of God is rare, that it is precious, that we should give earnest heed to it and that if at all times, the transgressions of it were punished. Then He says, "Give the more earnest heed to these things, lest we should let them get away and how we can expect to escape if we neglect this tremendous salvation that was given to us."

Neglect of Godís Word

I would conclude that one of the great dangers we have is neglect and the great danger is the neglect of the word of God, not so much the active disregard, not so much the opposition of the word of God, for which of us is going to ever fall into that frame of mine, but neglect, Oh yeah, that is one of the easiest and most dangerous things for us.

Did you notice that in spite of that, at the feast several years ago I was stunned by this, I don't get to hear very many sermons or sermonettes for that matter. Most of the time I'm up here at the podium speaking and when there is a sermonette going on, I'm there getting ready for the sermon and so a lot of times I don't listen to the sermonettes. But for some reason I did this time, and I noticed on two separate sermonettes and one sermon, statements made that were diametrically the opposite of what the Bible said.

Now the individual was not engaged in an actual heresy. He was not charging off down the wrong road on purpose. He just didn't know. He did not realize that what he was saying was exactly the opposite. On one occasion I was sitting there listening to his statement and I heard it and I just flipped my Bible open real quickly because I knew where he was going to and I put my finger on it and I looked at Allie, my wife, and she looked at me, and her mouth dropped open. She was aware already herself that it wasn't right because she does know the Bible pretty well and the realization of this really was disturbing to me. It was not intentional heresy. They just didn't know.

But in all fairness, there is a lot to know, if you think about it. Here's this book, the Bible, and there's a lot of stuff in here, it goes on and on and on and on for a while. So the fact that someone should not have something not quite right in it, that's not going to be to surprising. The Bible is a heavy work and knowing it is a work of a lifetime. But the thing is, that in this book, we find the testimony of God. The testimony of Yehovah, the words of God by which we are to live. The question for you is, is it precious to you? Or is it common?

Testimony of the Word of God

Now Psalm 119 is one of my favorites. It's a very, very powerful testimony to the word of God in a man's life. In the correspondence course lesson, the lessons on the law, I spent quite a lot of time in the hundred and nineteenth Psalm. We had the people who studied that correspondence course lesson read the entire Psalm and answer questions on it, because it is so important. I want to go through parts of it with you today to underline for you, the fact of what a precious resource this is and what it means to you and why it is so important to you.

The Psalmist starts off by saying, "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. {2} Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek Him with their whole heart."

Now there is a set of words here that are called the testimony of God. By the way, the ark, which we generally refer to as the 'ark of the covenant' is generally and I think more often called the 'ark of the testament,' and that the Ten Commandments are the 'Testimony of God.' It is what God comes to testify to us, so that the 10 Commandments, the 10 words are given as the testimony of God. So when you hear someone speaking of God's testimonies, the chances are what they are referring to are the Ten Commandments.

Verse 2 again, "Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek him with their whole heart."

There is a fundamental, basic way of living, that is encompassed in the Ten Commandments, that we are expected to live by. Now, one of the most important things you will ever understand in your life is, that the 10 Commandments are not given to you arbitrarily by God, who could just as easily have said, thou shalt commit adultery as, thou shalt not commit adultery. The fact of the matter is, God said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" because committing adultery is going to hurt you and hurt your family, hurt your loved ones, hurt other people that you don't even know about and have a profound effect on society and even ultimately upon civilization.

So that 'thou shalt not commit adultery' is given for your sake not God's. It doesn't require God to lift a finger to call something bad to happen to you as a result of your doing it. He cares enough for us to testify to us, that if you commit adultery, you are going to destroy your life. If you lie, you're going to wreck your reputation. If you set up an idol you're going to lose track of who God is and that's really going to mess up your life. If you covet things that don't belong to you, you are going to wind up making bad decisions and pursuing things you have no business pursuing and hurt yourself, hurt your neighbor, hurt your wife and hurt your children.

I testify to you this day. If you do these things you are going to perish. That is a testimony isn't it? And so, it isn't because God wants to hurt you, if you break his law, what He is telling you is, you're going to hurt yourself, if you do break His law. God may chastise you like a loving parent will chastise a child for running into the street, because the ultimate penalty of running into the street is to severe to allow the child to learn by experience as to why the child should not run in the street.

The Psalmist goes on to say in Psalms 119 verse 2, "Blessed are they who keep his testimonies, and seek Him with their whole heart. {3} They do no iniquity, they walk in His ways. {4} You have commanded us to keep your precepts diligently. {5} O that my ways were directed to keep your statutes!"

I wish that somehow it was just the way I automatically am that I really would be directed to keep your statutes. I fear I don't always.

Verse 6, "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all your commandments. {7} I will praise you with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned your righteous judgments. {8} I will keep your statutes. Just don't forsake me, God, please don't forsake me."

Verse 9 of Psalms 119, "Wherewithal, shall a young man cleanse his way?"

You know, I've come to the place where I would like to clean up my life. Where do I start? God's answer is simple, "By taking heed, living, according to His word." The word of God is precious, it is the way whereby a man, a young man, a young woman, anyone can begin to straighten up and fly right and can put their life back on the right track again.

Put Godís Word Into Your Mind

How can I, if I don't like the way my life is, my life is a mess and If I want to get it right and If I want to clean up my act what can I do? You can pay attention to what you are doing according to the word of God. Now, the word of God is precious. It's rare and it requires study. It requires pursuit. You have to apply yourself to it because if you don't know the word of God, how can you live by the word of God and how can you straighten out your life?

It's the work of a lifetime. It is not simple. It is not easy. It isn't going to sit there on your shelf and work its way into you. It is not going to be right there on your elbow when you're praying and work its way into your mind. It is not going to work that way. You have to work to put God's word into your mind and into your heart.

Continuing in verse 10 of Psalms 119, "With my whole heart have I sought (seek) you, O don't let me wander from your commandments. {11} Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you."

Now I don't know about you, I can't speak for anyone except myself, but I can tell you this, that over the years the growing awareness of the Bible, the memorization, if you will, of certain scriptures, committing them to memory so that I could quote where they came from, but again, the repetitious use of the Scriptures in sermons or in study or in song because, in fact, sometimes I have a hard time finding a given Scripture in my concordance because it is memorized in my mind in song, I remember it from something that I sang in a hymn, something I sang in a corral and so I go looking for the words. The words are there but they are in the King James version, in different words, and I can't find it, but I know it.

I have actually been able to memorize large portions of Scripture simply because I have sung the song so many times. It is true of many of you too, you have sung these words and they are in your head, even though you might have trouble knowing where they are, you know they're in there, because you have sung them.

I think it is so important that as children are growing up, that a part of our education of children is the memorization of Scriptures, not just any and all scriptures, but of certain segments of Scriptures and not just a verse here and a verse there, but sometimes whole chapters. For one thing, it's a very good exercise for the mind, but apart from that, "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against you," means a deliberate act to place God's word into the consciousness in such a way that you can call it up from memory. You don't have to go get the Bible off the shelf. You don't have turn on your computer and wait for it to boot up and click on the online Bible and do your searches to go find the Scripture. You know it's there! And the words of it come to mind because you have memorized them and you can sit and recite them for someone.

It's amazing how often the Bible will intrude into your consciousness when you are contemplating doing something wrong, but it will never happen, if you have not put it in there in the first place.

"Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).

Continuing in verse 12 of Psalms 119, " Blessed are you, O LORD, teach me your statutes. {13} With my lips I have declared all the judgments of your mouth. {14} I rejoiced in the way of your testimonies, as much as in all riches {15} I will meditate in your precepts."

I'll think about Godís Law, I'll put my feet up and stare into space and work this idea through my mind so that I can understand it.

Verse 15, "I will have respect to your ways."

Now that is an interesting thought. It's one thing to fear God and to obey him or not do something wrong because you're afraid that God will get you. It's another thing to respect God in the realization that He said, "Don't do that!" And because I respect Him, I know that there's a reason why He said, "Don't do that!" And to do something because you respect God is, I think as every bit as important as not doing something because you fear God.

Verse 16, "I will delight myself in your statutes, I will not forget your word. {17} Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. {18} Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. {19} I am a stranger in the earth, don't hide your commandments from me."

They are precious and I want them!

Later in verse 24, the Psalmist says, "Your testimonies are my delight and my counselors."

It's where I go for advice. I really have been dismayed frankly at times to see the extent to which people are able to mess up their lives, because they either do not know or they know and do not apply some of the simplest statements of Scripture that you will ever find. Human weakness comes upon all of us and all of us face challenges, and all of us make mistakes, all of us commit sin.

"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "If a man says he has no sin, he is a liar and the truth is not in him" (1 John 1:8 -10).

What Should You Do When You Sin?

When you know you have sinned, what does the Bible say to you about what you should do? And which way you should go? And how do you cleanse your life and how do you clean up your way? Of course you go to Christ. You repent of your sins and ask for forgiveness and read Psalms 51.You also seek Christís shed blood, but is there nothing more to do? Where do you go from there? How do you live your life? How do you make decisions relative to God's Law? I would like to recommend that Psalm 119 to you that you would study it yourself and spend a lot of time with it because it is so valuable.

Later in verse 97 the Psalmist says, "Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day."

I love your law. Now there was a time in my life when I don't know that I could've said I love God's law because really for me it was more of a burden. It was something I was a bit afraid of, but not for very long. I was in that frame of mind because somewhere along the line I began to realize that the law was a form of revelation higher than I had not really previously understood.

The law was a revelatory device. It wasn't chains and shackles and a burden that a yoke to put on my shoulders. It was something that opened up my life and it was liberating because it began to tell me the right things to do and I came to the place where I can honestly sing that song we had in our old hymnal, "Oh How Love I Thy Law It Is Ever With Me," because I did come to love thy Law. I love it to this day. I love to study it although certain aspects of it make me afraid, but it is not the law that I fear, it's what I have done that I fear.

The law is what shows me how to get away from some of the things that I've done and not make the same mistakes over again and the grace of God through Jesus Christ tells me that that grace of God is there that I may be forgiven. I don't have to go out and pay the penalty for my own sin, it has been paid for me by Jesus Christ.

Continuing in verse 98 of Psalms 119, "You through your commandments have made me wiser than my enemies, because my enemies are ever with me OR because the commandments are ever with me." It doesn't exactly say. "Your commandments have made me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me." I think it's the commandments, they are with me all the time and they make me wiser than my enemies.

Verse 99, "I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation."

What does that mean? It means because I spend time thinking about your commandments and how they affect my life. Some time must be spent in working your way through these things.

Verse 100, "I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts. {101} I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep your word. {102} I have not departed from your judgments for you have taught me. {103} How sweet are your words to my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (104) Through your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way."

Sweeter than honey. The word of the Lord is precious like a spring in the desert. {105} "Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

It is not a yoke of bondage. It is not shackles and chains. It is not somebody standing there with a whip to hit me if I do something wrong. I am in a dark and dangerous world, there are more ways to go wrong than there are to go right. There are more ways to get hurt than there are ways to get help. We are wandering around in the dark and there are things to bang your head on, things to stumble on, things to run into and things to get hurt by.

The Law is a light in a dark place. It's a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I don't have to run into things because I have the law of God. It is that precious word that God has given us that helps us to know the difference between right and wrong. It helps us to know how we can proceed in this dark and dangerous world that we work in.

Down to the 169th verse of this Psalm in this long long long psalm, the Psalmist says, "Let my cry come near before you, O LORD, give me understanding according to your word. {170} Let my supplication come before you, deliver me according to your word. {171} My lips shall utter praise when you have taught me your statutes."

That is the result, it is thanksgiving. Do realize that I've been praising God from the time we started this sermon, and I have not said, "Praise the Lord one time," but I have been praising Him for his Law because I keep saying, it's a light in the dark place. It's a wonderful thing, it is sweet to the taste.

Continuing in verse 172 of Psalms 119, "My tongue shall speak of your word for all your commandments are righteousness."

Do you want to know what's righteous and what is righteousness? It is God's commandments, simply.

Verse 173, "Let your hand help me, for I have chosen your precepts. {174} I have longed for your salvation O LORD, and Your law is my delight. {175} Let my soul live, and it shall praise you, let your judgments help me. {176} I have gone astray like a lost sheep."

Boy, isn't it the truth. I have gone astray like a lost sheep.

"Seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments."

The word of God is precious, and I fear lest among us it should become common, that it should be taken for granted, that you should take your Bible and toss it up on the shelf when you get home and not pick it up again until next week and take it down when you come to church. That's the kind of an attitude, I think we will show, if the word of God is common, ordinary and nothing special to us.

Who Does God Look To?

Through Isaiah, the 66th. chapter, God says something I think is very important. Do you want to know who God looks to? Do you want to know who the person is that God will pay attention to, upon whom His attention is focused?

Isaiah 66 verse one, "Thus saith the LORD, "The heaven is my throne, the earth is my footstool. Where is the house that you will build for me and where is the place of my rest?""

Do you think you are going to build me a house? Do you think you will build me a place where I can lie down and rest?

Verse 2, ""For all these things has my hand made, and all these things have been," saith the Lord, "but to this man will I look.""

I'm not going to look to the man that builds a house, or builds me a temple or does any of those things, "I will look to this person even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and who trembles at my word.""

There is more than one way of trembling. You can tremble out of fear. You can tremble with excitement. But the realization of a person who, when he takes God's word in his hand or when he hears the word of God falling upon his ears being read, realizes what a priceless precious thing this is and who trembles before God's word, realizing it is life. It's light, it's knowledge, it's wisdom, it can keep me out of trouble. It can help to be healthy, wealthy and wise. It is that thing that we hope for, so very much. I have gone astray and I need God to pull me back.

The truth is, you will never really come to know the Bible, unless it is precious to you. I've got three Bibles, actually two of them just like this and I have a third one before I had my Oxford wide margins and this is probably the cleaner of the ones I have, but in the early days of involvement with the church and through subsequent periods of time, and I do not tell you this as a self-aggrandizing thing but as a man who stands before you, a teacher and minister, I have an obligation to set an example and so I want you to know something that there are many of us who in the years gone by, the Bible has been a very, very precious thing to us and we have spent many many hours in this book, and if you begin to page through some of the menís Bibles who have been in the ministry a long time, you will find pages that are marked quite a lot. You'll find marginal notes all over the place.

In the Psalms, I used to, many years ago, as a part of my prayer life, I would go to a place, get on my knees and pray for a while until I ran out of words, and sometimes it did not take very long at all, because I had set a discipline for myself and keeping certain amount of time, I would then stop and start reading through the Psalms making this all my prayer and I would put a mark at each Psalm as I passed it.

I have at this point in the Psalms five marks on all the chapters, which suggests that I've gone through the entire book of Psalms, five times in this Bible alone. I recommend that to you, that you find time to open your Bible on your knees before God and that you read your Bible before God, and you talk to God about the things that are in it. I have marks, I underline things, I put cross-references in it. I had a lot of fun, funny word for it isn't it? I had a lot of joy in working my way through these three Bibles at one time or another, and sometimes copying notes out of one into the other, because the system of marking was all a part of the applying of myself to the word of God and applying myself to it in such a way that hopefully, in the process of time, I could find my way back to this place, I'd see my note and I would remember what it was that I had to say.

My Education In The Bible

Now the old Bibles have become so familiar to me that I can pick up one of the other, and even though they're not marked the same. I'm still at home in this book. Now this didn't happen in the first six months of my involvement with the Bible. I've been at this now for over 35 years and longer. In fact, my education in the Bible goes back to when I was a boy. I was a boy in the Baptist Church. I would go to church on Sunday evening and we had this little questionnaire that we had to fill out. We always tried to get 100 points every time. You got 10 points for each of the things that you did and one of the points was that you went to Sunday school that morning and check that in and so forth. One of them was that you had done your daily Bible reading. Now the Baptist Church at that time published a quarterly and there was a daily Bible reading and the idea was, you would go look that up and you would read that daily Bible reading every day and then you came to church on Sunday evening you could tick that off and so consequently you had read your daily Bible reading for the day and that's where an enormous amount of the groundwork that I had in the Bible was laid. It was laid when I was 6, 7, 8, 9 years old. It started early. When I was able to read the Bible that's when my education in the Bible started.

Now when are your kids going to start? Knowing this book, knowing what this book says, is life. It's salvation, it is salvation here and now and its salvation in the world to come. I don't have much doubt frankly, that the groundwork that was laid for me in the Bible before I had ever heard about the Sabbath, Godís holy days or any of these things, was an important part of my growing knowledge about God. I've said before and I will stand on it, that the Jesus Christ that I knew when I was a Baptist is not a different person from the Jesus Christ that I know now. It was the same person. I worshiped Him in vain, and after all somebody has to. Otherwise, you know, Jesus' words, "You worship me in vain." I worshiped Him in vain, but it was Him and not somebody else and I had some things I had to learn.

But the Bible and the learning of the Bible was an important part of my growing up experience. I think that the earliest, children should be read to from the Bible, is before they can read and when they can read they should be taught to read the Bible, because it is the heart and core, and the basis of our foundation of our faith.

If the Bible is common to you, you will not have the heart to pursue it. You just won't have the heart and you will not do it. It is really a shame to take the Bible for granted, when such a high price has been paid to put it in your hands.

King Henry VIII

Do you know the name of the English king who first ordered that the English Bible be made available in every church for the common man? Do you know which King that was? If you think it was King James, you are wrong, it was of all people, Henry VIII. Old Henry who wanted another wife, not just one other wife, but he would have several other wives before he got through with it. In 1538, now this was a mere 21 years after Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the Cathedral. He ordered that "One book of the whole Bible of the largest volume in English be placed in every Church in England." This Bible was to be "in some convenient place, whereas your parishioners may most commodious resort to the same and read it" and he also said in that decree, "that you shall discourage no man from reading or hearing of said Bible, but you shall expressly stir, provoke and exhort every person to read the same."

Now the 1611 King James Bible was nearly 100 years away in the future when King Henry the eighth made this proclamation.

Now before you start patting King Henry on the head or back about having done this particular thing, you have to realize that he was in the process of making a major break with Rome. It was all part of breaking the authority of the Pope, that the Bible was the authority, not the Pope and a lot of it was because he was lusting after Anne Boleyn and wanted a divorce and so forth. All of that story has been told many times.

Also, with Henry, it was a political thing on his part. There was still on his part and that of church leaders, even of the new Church of England of which he was nominally the head, a lot of concern about the old average layperson, ordinary people, like you and I who were the dumb Brutish class. Once they got beyond the initial stage of making a break with Rome, at that point, all those people like you reading the Bible became rather uncomfortable for them. Now this was a moment upon which history turned because the Bible replaced the Pope as the final religious authority and for the next three centuries, the English Bible was the most powerful single influence on the English culture. You think about that. That Bible that you hold in your lap was the most powerful cultural influence on England for about the next 300 years.

The English Bible

Have you ever wondered at the source of the greatness of the British Empire, you're actually holding it in your lap which is your Bible because of what was taught, what was believed and in the foundations that took place. For generations the Bible was the only book in many English households. They had no other. Guess what the consequence of that was? It was the most read book of all, it was read and it was reread and it was read again and the words, Barbara Tuchman put it this way, she said, "The words, the images and the characters were as familiar as bread in the English household. No other book, so it was read over and over and over again."

This Bible, according to Henry, he had it placed in every church, and so what they did, they would put it in the pulpit and they would chain it there. They chained it there because somebody would steal it because the Bible was a very valuable piece of work. They were expensive. There were few. Movable type had not been developed enough to really make the Bible to become a factor in the mass production of the English Bible. In fact, even the early translations of the Bible, some of the earliest ones were not even done from Hebrew and Greek but were done from the Latin Vulgate. There were bits and pieces of the English Bible done many many years before that. But at this point in time what is called the 'Great Bible' was actually placed in English Churches all over the place. St. Paul's Cathedral had a Bible chained to each of six pillars in the church. Six of them so that people could walk up to them and read.

A lot of people though, couldn't read and a lot of people couldn't even get next to the Bibles and so it was very popular for people who had a good voice and that could read well to step up to the Bible and they would read from the Scriptures and people would gather around and listen to them. Some of the readers were more popular than others, but the problem was that as the scenes of people gathering around and hearing the Bible read and getting very excited about the whole thing, church leaders and the political leaders began to get very worried about all this, they really didn't want rabbles to read those Bibles.

So one of the more popular readers at this time, just as an example was arrested because he would gather up a 100 people who were standing around open mouthed listening to him read, and I gather that as he read he preached a little bit. They arrested this fellow, remember you were not supposed to discourage any man from reading the Bible. They arrested this fellow, stuck in chains, slapped him down in some slimy dungeon somewhere and forgot about him for 10 days and when they went back he was dead.

That's what happened to people who really were involved in reading the Bible to other people at that time.

The word of God though was precious. They could not snuff it out. People were smuggling the English language copies of the Bible in bales of hay, bits and pieces and scraps of it were being sold for a few pennies here and there wherever people could find it, they were doing everything in their power to try to get this Bible out to the people because they realized that as the people got the Bible in their hand, they would be liberated from the religious authority that they had become used to basically regulating their lives.

In the Catholic resurgence under Queen Mary, a few years after this, in one year alone, 67 Protestants were burned in one year in an attempt to suppress the reading of the Bible and the distribution of the Bible. And yet, in spite of that, people wanted it so bad, it was so precious that they would risk life, limb and torture and everything else to hear, to read, to possess the Bible.

I think you have probably heard of many of the persecutions against people who tried to preserve the Bible, but what you may not have realized is that most of those were against the distribution of the English Bible, an earlier version of the one that you have and it happened in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Sobering to realize how close that was. Tyndale had to do his translation while in Cologne, Germany, because he was exiled from England. And finally, once the Protestant Reformation really took hold in England, he was arrested and burned in Germany for having been part of the Protestant Reformation in England and actually, the translator of the pestilent ĎEnglish Bibleí which was so much a problem.

What you take for granted is precious beyond your comprehension and men have thought it so and have paid a terrible price for it down through history.

Seek the LORD While He May Be Found

In Isaiah 55 and verse 6, is a strong word from the prophet about God's word, Isaiah said, "Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. {7} Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on them and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. {8} "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," saith the LORD, {9} "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.""

All right. If I'm going to understand God's thoughts then I am surely going to have to apply myself to understand them, else they will go right by me.

Verse 10, "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and doesn't go back up, it just comes down and waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give for seed to the sower and bread to the eater so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing, whereunto I sent it."

You know, I believe there is a tendency on our part to place way too much emphasis on the person who reads the Scripture to you and preaches to you from the Scripture. It is the word of God that is precious and not the words that come from me or some other preacher that might come along, because when the preacher is seen to have feet of clay, the word that he has spoken becomes suspect.

I think back to a man that is familiar, to a lot of you, named Herbert W. Armstrong, who was a powerful influence on my life. In the years subsequent, years after my departure from the Worldwide Church of God and some time after his death even, there was an effort on many to undermine his authority, to minimize the man, to emphasize his shortcomings, his problems and sins, and so forth. All of which, to me are almost irrelevant. The most important contribution that he made to my life was to make me hear the word of God and in a way, to make me hear it anew, because he read it very well. The style in which you read the word of God is very important.

Even a False Prophet Can Cause People to Hear Godís Word

Listen to this prophecy in Jeremiah 23 in verse 21.

God says of a certain category of prophet, "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, but they prophesied."

Well they should have kept their mouth shut. Perhaps.

God says, "But if they, prophets I have not sent, prophets I have not spoken to." {22} "If they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then even they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings." God says, "My word will not return to me void."

If I have got one thing to offer as a preacher, teacher, it is the word of God, the Bible. Beyond that I don't have much really. I can read it fairly well. I have a fairly good voice. I can interpret the Scriptures pretty well and I can put emphasis in the right places for you but if there's anything that is going to touch your life, anything that is going to change your life, it is not me, it's the word of God that's going to do it.

Donít Believe Me, Believe Your Bible

For many of those of us in those days, the word of Jehovah became precious. You know back when we were listening to Herbert Armstrong for the first time, he often say, "Donít believe me, believe your Bible."

One of the things about that, was the style in which we worked. You know the little booklets that came out were very concise and would make a statement. It would have a scriptural reference and the assumption was that you would not believe what he said, you believe the Bible. You would put the booklet down, get your Bible out, open to that particular Scripture and you would read it. You would read before and you would read after it. You would make notes in the margin of your Bible, you would underline it, or mark it in some way and so I worked my way through nearly everything Herbert Armstrong had written just like that, looking up every Scripture, not taking his word for anything, proving things from the Bible and all he did was make me hear God's word. And when I heard it, it changed my life.

Call that my testimony if you will.

Lutheran Church Liquidated In Russia

Now there's an interesting little passage here in a book by Charles Colson, entitled a 'Dance with Deception'. I want to read this little section out of it. If you happen to have a copy, it's on page 274. He's talking about how the church, that is in particular the Lutheran Church in Russia survived Stalinism.

"He said, "Fifty years ago, Joseph Stalin decided to destroy the Lutheran Church in Russia. The Lutherans were to be a case study in how all the Christian denominations might eventually be liquidated. First, Stalin had all the pastors killed or imprisoned." (For what?) "because they were a Lutheran pastor, they were arrested. They were either killed or they were shipped off to prison, then the church buildings were confiscated, Bibles, hymn books, religious writings were all destroyed. It became a crime to own a Bible, a hymnal or any type of Lutheran liturgy. Lutheran families were broken up. Men were forced into the Army, women and children were loaded into boxcars like cattle and scattered throughout the remote regions of the Soviet Union. Some to the deserts of the Islamic Republic's. Some to the Arctic wastelands of Siberia."

You think you have trouble holding your family or church together? Stalin loaded them up in boxcars and scattered them deliberately so they wouldn't be near one another so they couldn't have one another to lean on.

"In a shockingly brief period of time, the Lutheran Church of the Soviet Union was wiped off the face of the earth. Apparently you can go to St. Petersburg, and you can view the only remaining physical evidence of that old Lutheran Church, it's a Lutheran Church building that has been turned into an indoor swimming pool. That is all that is left of the old Lutheran Church in Russia.

But that's not the end of the story. The Lutheran women worked stubbornly and painfully to keep their church alive. They had no pastors, no church buildings, no Bibles, no hymn books, nothing, but that didn't stop them. They sought each other out across miles of desolate countryside. They met in one another's homes to pray and minister to one another. They wrote down all the religious instruction they had learned by heart, whatever they had memorized they wrote it down. Bible verses, Luther's catechism, hymns, liturgies. They held religious services and at the risk of imprisonment, they passed on the faith to their children. They actually put the faith in the one repository where they were sure it could survive, in their children. They were hiding Bibles, hiding the evidence of their faith. They hid it in the form of their own children.

Some people have a church. Some people have faith and faith can survive the destruction of the church. If faith can survive the scattering of people over the landscape, they can survive not having a pastor, not having a deacon, not having a liturgy, a hymnal, a system. Faith can survive anything. Some of the Lutheran husbands managed to rejoin their wives. Some of the surrounding people were converted, a community of believers was formed, and as it was formed they appointed elders and deacons and the Lutheran Church in Russia was reborn and now meet in more than 500 house churches. Western Christians sent them Bibles. They established a seminary and trained pastors again. Trained pastors are really a luxury.

I think what needs to be understood from that is that the time when you have the pastor, the time when you have the leadership, is your grace period, when you need to be getting ready for the time when you don't.

A Famine of the Word is Coming

In Amos eight verse 11, it says, "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. {12} They will wander from sea to sea, and from the north to the east, they'll run to and fro and seek the word of the LORD and they shall not find it."

Where are the Bibles? Where are the Christians? Of course, what it is talking about is the word of the LORD, it is God talking to us. Does God have anything to say? The word of the LORD will become so rare, scarce, precious and you will not be able to find it anywhere. Where are we going to be? It won't help to have a Bible hidden in the attic or a box of cassette tapes in the garage. They'll be taken away. They'll be destroyed or you'll be picked up and taken away from where they are. They won't be there for you. What will be there for you?

Remember Psalm 119 verse 11, "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you". That's the one place you can hide God's word, that it can never be taken away from you.

There are two kinds of time that you and I have. We have a time of the famine of the word, and a time to get ready for it. That's all. A famine of the word is coming. We have been given a period of grace.

I think in a lot of ways that is what is happening to the church right now and this is a warning. Not that we are heading straight into the famine of the word, but that we are given a proximate warning that it is out there, that it is coming and you now have a period of grace.

We would do well to make the most of this period of grace that we have.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This article was transcribed with minor editing from a Sermon

given by: Ronald L. Dart titled:

The Word Was Precious #9604

Transcribed by: bb 1/1/20

You can contact

Christian Educational Ministries

P.O. Box 560 Whitehouse, Texas

75791 - Phone: (888) BIBLE44

 

Ronald L. Dart was an evangelist and is heard daily and weekly on his Born to Win radio program. 
The program can be heard on over one hundred radio stations across the nation.

In the Portsmouth, Ohio area you can listen to the Born to Win radio program on Sundays at 7:30 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m. on WNXT 1260.

You can contact Christian Educational Ministries, P.O. Box 560 Whitehouse, Texas 75791 - Phone: (903) 509-2999 - 1-888-BIBLE-44

Web page: borntowin.net


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