Yes, it's still the best seller, it still sits on millions of bookshelves and cumulatively the gathered dust must weigh many tonnes. But why? Is it fashionable to have one somewhere in the home? Is it some form of mass superstition? is it an attempt to align ourselves with mainstream religion? What is it about this remarkable book that no home should be without?
Well, firstly the words within it are claimed to have their origins with God, acting together with the person holding the quill and parchment of course. Paul describes it like this 'All Scripture is God-breathed', and I think that's a beautiful way of putting it but what does it mean?
By 'God-breathed' I think Paul meant that the writers were inspired by God to write the words that we find in the Bible. Not like robots trotting out sentences parrot-fashion, but using their own words, their own language and style.
The Bible is in many ways a history book, simply because there's so much history in there, and it begins with one enormous enterprise - creation - works its way through mankind deciding to do it 'My Way', to God's plan to bring mankind back into the family (so to speak), and completes it's story with the promise of a Second Coming and a New Heaven and a New Earth.
Some history book, eh?
Of course there's a lot more to it than just that. We see within the pages how God worked out his plans through the ups and downs of his people Israel and the Church, and through some remarkable characters.
In the Old testament we see God acting on behalf of his people (see Genesis 6-8)
We see God punishing sin and rebellion ( see Numbers 20:1-13)
We see God as lord of the whole earth ( see Genesis 1: 1-2,3)
We see God present with his people (see Joshua 1:1-9)
We see God's promise of a Messiah (see Isaiah 53:7-12 Genesis 22: 1-14)
We see God's word given to his people (see Genesis 17: 1-8, 2Kings 7: 1-2, 20)
We see God's desire for real quality worship (Exodus 35: 30 - 36:5)
In the New Testament we find the four Gospels
'Gospel' is derived from 2 Anglo-Saxon words 'god' (good) and 'spel' (words, tidings)
So it means quite simply 'Good tidings' or 'Good News'
Good News about what?
About Jesus (see Mark 1:14)
Matthew was keen to point out that Jesus appeared as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy, as indeed Jesus himself claimed likewise.
The time was right for God to establish his Kingdom, which would become a reality through Jesus' death and resurrection. But that wasn't the end of the matter, because the Kingdom had still to come in all of its fullness.
The message of the Gospels is one of Sin, Love and Repentance. Sin being the gulf that separates mankind from God, Love being the bridge that enables that gulf to be safely crossed, and Repentance being the key that allows us entry to that bridge - it's a genuine regret for a life that's less than perfect, and an earnest desire to make a fresh start.
(see Acts 2)
The New Testament is also about the Church and its growth. Read Acts and see the Church grow from its infancy almost to maturity. A growth which continues, despite what the critics might say, year by year in new areas and in exiting new ways.
In so many ways it's a story that doesn't end with those last few pages of Revelation, for life itself is a continual story of God interacting with his chosen people - that is You and Me
(see John 3: 14ff)
The Israelites, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died there, and was buried there.
2: Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron.
3: The people quarreled with Moses and said, `Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord!
4: Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here?
5: Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.'
6: Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them.
7: The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
8: Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock.
9: So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he had commanded him.
10: Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, `Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?'
11: Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank.
12: But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, `Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.'
13: These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and by which he showed his holiness
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
2: the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
3: Then God said, `Let there be light'; and there was light.
4: And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
5: God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6: And God said, `Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.'
7: So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so.
8: God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9: And God said, `Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.' And it was so.
10 :God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 :Then God said, `Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.' And it was so.
12 :The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.
13 :And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14 :And God said, `Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,
15 :and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.' And it was so.
16 :God made the two great lights - the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night - and the stars.
17 :God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,
18 :to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying,
2: `My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites.
3: Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses.
4: From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory.
5: No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.
6: Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7: Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go.
8: This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.
9:I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.'
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8: By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.
9: They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10: Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11: Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
12: Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, `I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.
2: And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.'
3: Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,
4:` As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
5: No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
6:I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.
7:I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
8: And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.'
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
15: and saying, `The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'
16: As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake - for they were fishermen.
17: And Jesus said to them, `Follow me and I will make you fish for people.'
18: And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
19: As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
20: Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
21: They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.
22: They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
ACTS 2,1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2: And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
3: Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
4: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5: Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
6: And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
7: Amazed and astonished, they asked, `Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
8: And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
9: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 :Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
11: Cretans and Arabs - in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power.'
12: All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, `What does this mean?'
13: But others sneered and said, `They are filled with new wine.'
14: But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: `Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
15: Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning.
16: No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17: "In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
18: Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
19: And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20: The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.
21: Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
37: Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, `Brothers, what should we do?'
38: Peter said to them, `Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39: For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.'
40: And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, `Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.'
41: So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
42: They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
43: Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.
44: All who believed were together and had all things in common;
45: they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
46: Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,
47: praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
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14: And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15: that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16: `For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17: `Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
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