Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It occurs in the longest book in the Bible (at least as far as number of chapters is concerned) and is located in the center of the Bible. When I teach children how to find books in the Bible I tell them if you want to find Psalms you open right in the middle of the book, right in the center or heart of the word of God. Verse 33 says “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.” And verse 89 reads, “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” There are many other references throughout Psalm 119.
Without further adieu, I would like to talk about the Word of God and its qualities. I suppose I could have labeled it its characteristics but I like the word quality because it conjures value. In the case of God we speak of them as His virtues. The first quality then is the fact that it is a book. That may seem to be a truism but we don’t often regard it as a book. We think of it more as a fetish, an amulet or a charm, to be used in presidential inaugurations when they lay their hand on the Bible. We talk about swearing on a stack of Bibles and that is the use we often make of it. We should remember that having a lot of them around the house is valueless. We need to use it properly and regard it as a book, to be used. We must be wary of getting hung up on versions. One might be more comfortable with a certain version but there is much to be gained by studying or reading from the different versions. A couple of other quick points, which may be superficial, is that this book was written by many different authors, at least 40 of them. It was written over 1600 years. The authors didn’t know each other necessarily, there was no collaborations, they had no intention of writing a sacred book. I mention all this because that is unlike the sacred writings such as the Koran, or the Book of Mormon or the Vedas of the Hindus. This is a versatile, cosmopolitan book. And that is what gives it relevance and applicability to all times and to all cultures and ages. It isn’t that one man at one point in time sat down and wrote this book but that over a millennium and a half, all these different men, rich and poor, young and old wrote it. It has got something for all of us.
Another quality is that it is errorless. Now we have not always understood that matter of its infallibility as we should. We have made the Bible to say things that it doesn’t, such as that the world is only 4000 years old which you don’t find that in the Bible at all. So it has inaccuracies of our fabrication but for the rest, unlike other human books, it is completely free of error. It means that God kept these men free from error so that we can depend upon the book, go to it for life and death help. Which brings me to the most important quality of all and that is its inspiration. This is something different from its infallibility or freedom from error. They are related; if a book had error then it wouldn’t be inspired, it couldn’t be depended upon. But all that being said, there are human books, I’m told, that are free from error. They try to make the telephone book, for obvious reasons, free from mistakes and history books should be as well as mathematical or scientific books need to be. They proof read them over and over so that they are free of error, but that doesn’t make them inspired, like the Bible. We say Shakespeare was inspired, and he was. Handel said he saw heaven open when he was writing The Messiah. I think Uncle Tom’s Cabin was inspired. But this is all kind of in quotation marks. Inspired means simply that God is in it. In-spirited. That is what the word means. His spirit is in it. It is a lively book. That is why Ken Taylor called his version, The Living Bible, which he took from Peter who spoke of it as a vibrant, organic sort of a thing. (I Peter 1:23-25) James says the same thing in his first chapter. (James 1:18) So it has the life of God in it, it is like electricity that can vitalize any wire with which it is connected. “Is not my word like a fire?” says Jeremiah. That is how God breaths into us by means of His Word and we become partakers of the divine image. Just think of it. Sons of God. Peter speaks of this in his 2nd epistle. That’s what it means to be inspired, alive, has God in it. Jesus was called “The Word of God.” People refer to it as “The Holy Bible.” What else do you speak of as being holy besides the body of Christ other than God? Now you begin to see what Jesus meant when he said, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my word shall not pass away.” Obviously these Bibles will go up in smoke, so I’m not talking about the physical format when I say the Bible will last forever but the Word of God shall, even in heaven.
This book, because of what it contains and what it is, because it is God in paper, stereotyped divinity, determines the duration of the world itself. It dominates world history. Every human being is concerned about the end of the world, whether it will happen in our lifetime or the lifetime of our children, and there are many things that make it seem like it is immanent like natural disasters such as earthquakes and other less natural disasters that are man made or famine. The reason we think about these things in this context is that they threaten our individual lives. Jesus says that these things happen in every generation to make them think about their personal finiteness and the end of the world, but he goes on to say “don’t be all shook up” in Matthew 24. Jesus says there is one thing that will mark the end of the world and that is the global dissemination of the Word of God. That is one measuring device that we can calculate and calibrate, like we do when we measure the distance of a trip…we’ve gone so far and we’ve got so far to go. Sometimes we are looking for the anti-Christ, and John says even in his day that there were many anti-Christs, “we’ve got them already!” So it isn’t this matter of a final anti-Christ but it is the translation and the distribution of the Bible. The simple purpose in prolonging and continuing and extending history is the propagation of the gospel. This is why it is called the Latter Days. After Jesus had done everything to save this world, then all that remained – which made it the Latter days, long or short – was to tell it all to all. Now it doesn’t say that everybody is going to be converted, but that every culture will be confronted. I thought at one time this meant that every dominant culture will be Christianized, like Russia once was. But the Bible doesn’t say we can look for that in the case of every last nation. It simply says that the Bible will be what it was intended to be, a confrontation, a savior of life unto life or death unto death. So the purpose of disseminating the gospel is to give every nation a chance. And it is in light of this book that everyone will be judged. So the obvious implication is that if we want to bring back The King we need to get out the word.
With regards to our personal usage, we need to soak it up. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart.” We talk a good game, we have our Bible societies and our Bible schools, Christian schools that are based on the Bible. But it is all just a waste of time if that is all it is. We say, “Oh, of course it’s inspired,” but just let it gather dust and don’t learn it and love it, memorize it. We can theologize and say “we just plumbed the deeps.” But if we don’t learn the Word with our children and study it, then all the reading that we do of it and paraphrasing of it doesn’t matter if we neglect the Word itself; then it is of no great concern whether it is inspired or not.
Well the hardest part of all is that we have to live it. Peter says, “[Since you have been born again by means of the word of God] rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” Put it all away, be perfect! He doesn’t say, “Do the best you can. The Lord will tolerate a little bit, 1%, a guy has to have a little fun.” No, he says “all…be like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” “Then you will become a living stone in the great family in the household of God.” “Let the Word of God dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and Hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in your hearts unto the Lord and whatsoever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord.”