John 5:36b-end Isaiah 55:1-11
I think I am not wrong in saying that we all appreciate rules for healthy living. In most recent times, we have learned even more what that means: washing hands, wiping surfaces, and making sure that we don’t pass on germs that can harm others. Other regulations, like for instance the highway-code, make excellent sense and help us all to be as safe as possible in our day-to-day lives. Many have seen the Bible as a book of rules and have not bothered to read what it is about or what it has to offer. They think it’s all about what we’re not supposed to do, rather than about a story of life and love. The Bible is a fascinating book, or actually a collection of books, of literary value even. History, poetry, prophesy, praise, wisdom and the story of salvation: it’s all there. Yes, there is the law as well, in the Ten Commandments and their application. But those rules for healthy living, as they really are, are also telling a story, which came to its climax in Jesus and his redeeming work for humankind. It is all about God’s work in, for and through his creation, with the final act of saving it through sacrifice. Some may say that they’re not academics, and therefore have no time to read the Bible. But the Bible is not written in academic language; especially in its more recent translations, it is very accessible. And for those who don’t like to read or struggle with reading, there are audio versions available. In other words, what I’m probably saying is that there’s no excuse for not engaging with the message of the Bible!
And the message of the Bible is of course what it’s all about; it’s not meant for academic study alone, although I’m sure there are some who like it for that reason.
No, the message, that’s what we need to hear.
What then is the message that is so important that for two thousand years the Bible has been read, explored and passed on? In fact, so important even that people have risked their lives for it? The message is that God took it upon himself to deliver the people from the power of sin and death, and sent his only Son, Jesus, to wipe our slate clean and give us eternal life. Reading or hearing this message and believing it, owning it, as it were, makes a difference to the way we live our lives. When God forgives us our sins through faith in Jesus, we are truly set free. Free to live not just for ourselves but with regard for others. No longer in egotistical ways, but in kindness and generosity.
The Bible has been proven to be historic. We often refer to it as His Story. Jesus came in the name of God the Father but not everybody believed him at the time. Jesus has something to say about this: ‘And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.’ (vv 37-38). The Scriptures, the word of God and his prophets through time in the Bible, already spoke about Jesus a long time before he came. And yet, many dismissed him, even though his teaching and his miracles were life-giving.
I wonder: do you still hesitate to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour? Are you waiting for his return as promised and reading about him to help you pray and live your life to the full? (John 10:10) Or are you weary, and heavy-laden with the burdens of life, or the failures you regret, or even the pains of disappointment and grief? Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28). God’s word has the power to change, not always our circumstances in the way we would wish, but our attitudes, and to give peace in our hearts. That’s what we mean when we say that God’s word is abiding in us. Read it. Take hold of it. ‘Inwardly digest it’, and see how it carries you in God’s loving arms. Amen.