A year or so ago, a ministry leader posted on his Facebook page that he didn’t like people who “back up everything they believe with Bible verses.” He disdainfully called them “Bible worshippers.”
A couple weeks ago someone wrote on an on-line forum that she was driving home one day when she “suddenly I received the call from God to build up a prophetic group in our church…Our church is deeply pietistic and sometimes it seems the bible has much more authority than Jesus Himself….Building up a prophetic group means 1. snubbing everyone who´s main authority is the bible (hallelujah to that) and 2. snubbing everyone who´s beliefs exclude any charismas, and this means MANY people.”
I’ve heard others express similar sentiments, but these two incidents stick out. This attitude toward the Bible disturbs me. I have been mulling it over for quite some time, and decided I’d write my thoughts about it today. The only thing that has stopped me from writing about this long before this is that I have struggled to formulate my thoughts. I know what I think about this, but not how to write it. I figured that it will never get written if I don’t get started on it, so here goes and please forgive my disjointed thoughts.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14)
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
The Israelites were carried into exile by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Ezra and Nehemiah led a group of people back to the land, and began rebuilding the Temple of God. Nehemiah 9 says that all the people STOOD while the Word of God was being read:
On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God. Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the LORD their God. And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”
This morning I searched “Words” in the Bible using Biblegateway.org. There were hundreds of verses in which “words” is used. Many verses use the term “The Word of the Lord” or describe the word of the Lord. Here are a just a few in Psalms and a couple from Proverbs:
And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times. (Ps. 12:6)
As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. (Ps. 18:30)
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. (Ps. 33:4)
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. (Ps. 33:6)
But to the wicked person, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. Ps. 50:16-17)
Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. (Ps. 103:20)
…till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the LORD proved him true. (Ps. 105:19)
He sent darkness and made the land dark— for had they not rebelled against his words? (Ps. 105:28)
ב Beth How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. (Ps. 119:9)
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Ps. 119:11)
I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Ps. 119:16)
ג Gimel Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. (Ps 119:17)
Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws. (Ps. 119:43)
ל Lamedh Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. (Ps. 119:89)
I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. (Ps. 119:101)
נ Nun Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Ps. 119:105)
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. (Ps. 119:160)
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. (Prov. 4:5)
My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. (Prov. 4:20)
Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? (Mark 12:24)
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21)
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)
Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:24)
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matt 4:4)
His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. (Rev. 19:12-13)
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. (Rev. 22:18-19)
Finally, I’d like to describe something interesting. In synogogues, the Torah Scroll (Word of God) is kept in a special cabinet in front of the congregation. Usually above the cabinet are the words, “Know Before Who You Stand.”
The Torah is dressed and decorated because it is holy and is considered the core of God’s communication with Israel. The manner in which it is dressed and decorated, however, is symbolic of the garb worn by the High Priest of old when he served God in the sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Artwork by Andrew Ross
Chapter 28 of the Book of Exodus contains a description of the garb of the High Priest. His special clothing included a tunic (the Torah mantle, or covering), a belt (the sash around the Torah scroll), a miter (the crown of the Torah), and a breastplate. Each of these has been reproduced in some fashion for dressing and decorating the Sefer Torah (Book of Torah).
The mantle, symbolic of the High Priest’s tunic, resembles a cylinder with one closed end that contains two small, round holes, through which the wooden rolls protrude. The mantle may be decorated as the congregation chooses, and often verses about the importance of Torah are embroidered on the front of the mantle.
The sash of the High Priest is symbolized by the sash which ties the scroll together before the mantle is placed over the scroll. This sash, or belt, holds the scroll tightly rolled and protects it when it is being held or standing in the ark. The belt is fastened by a hook or sometimes by velcro. Sometimes, a child’s swaddling cloth is embroidered and decorated and sewn into a sash and given as a gift to the congregation.
The High Priest wore a special breastplate and vestments, encrusted with 12 precious- and semi-precious stones symbolizing the 12 Tribes of Israel when he was engaged in his sacred duties. In this manner, it was clear that the High Priest served God on behalf of the entire people Israel. Torah scrolls are often similarly dressed, with a breastplate which is hung over the top of the eitzei chayim (wooden rollers), though it can have a wide variety of designs and inscriptions. This symbolizes that the Torah is the inheritance of the entire Jewish people.
One does not touch the parchment scroll, both because of its sanctity and because the oils of our hands can damage the delicate writing, rendering the scroll pasul (unacceptable for use for a public reading). Therefore, a pointer called a yad is used. It may be made of wood or metal, and is shaped like a right hand with a finger pointing. The reader keeps his/her place in the scroll using the yad.
Finally, just as the High Priest wore a miter on his head, the Torah wears either a crown, which covers the two wooden rollers, or two rimonim (meaning “pomegranates”), one on each eitz chayim. The crown and rimonim are often decorated with small bells that emit a jingling sound when the Torah is carried through the congregation. So, too, the robe of the High Priest had small bells sewn around its hem so that people could hear the High Priest as he moved about the sanctuary in performance of his duties in the Tabernacle.
I want you to understand the significance of this: The Torah Scroll is dressed in cloth called “swaddling cloths’ just as Jesus was dressed in swaddling cloth as a baby. The Torah is dressed like a high priest with a crown. Jesus is our high priest and king. The Torah Scroll hangs on the wooden rollers, called eitz chyim. This means “Tree of Life.” Therefore, the Word of God hangs on the tree of life, just as Jesus hung on the tree that brings us life. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. We MUST understand the importance of God’s Word. It MUST be the authority on which we base our faith. If we do not love God’s Word, we do not love Him.