As 2015 ends, and as 2016 begins, I want to ask you earnestly to consider developing one of life’s greatest habits, that of daily Bible reading. There is probably no single habit anyone can develop of greater importance than this. Its influence, blessing and encouragement upon a life can be truly incalculable.
And especially is this true in times which are full of uncertainty, perplexity, fear and even darkness. For example, at this time we find most South Africans exceedingly concerned about our country because we seem to have lost our way morally and ethically, and have no moral compass or ethical consensus. Everyone, especially in leadership, just seems to do whatever they decide is acceptable on the basis of some sort of subjective moral thumb-suck. In fact our country, amongst other things, needs a serious rediscovery of the Bible and a conscientious embracing of its moral and spiritual principles.
This would put light into our national path. And into our personal lives.
How wonderful that the Psalmist could say and generations of believers confirm, that “They Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Imagine driving at night without headlights or wandering in a dark forest at midnight without a torch. How fearful! Yet many people try to do just that in the dark forests of our uncertain and troubled times. So why not start reading the Bible daily as from now. You would be blessed. Likewise your family. And likewise our nation.
Living and Active
One thing the regular Bible reader will discover is the power of the Bible. The writer to the Hebrews says: “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:11-12).
This passage says some interesting things about what the Jews called “the Word of God.” To them words had a very special power. Once a word was spoken, it had an independent existence and influence. It changed things and people. Even the universe could not be quite the same once a new word had been uttered. A word was a dynamic, not a static reality. It lived and acted on the world for good or evil. Small wonder then that the early church believed, and rightly so, that the Word of God, living in Christ and written in Scripture, had a unique power to change and alter both people and nations for good.
So the writer here says first that the Word of God is living. It imparts life. Not only that, but it presents eternal truths and ultimate demands which all must know and face.
Secondly the Word of God is active – or effective. When its demands are faced, effective action and transformation follow. It is not something simply to be read or studied, but to be obeyed. A Chinese student once said, “I am reading the Bible and behaving it.” No one can be a daily student of Scripture and not be changed in their inward being.
Thirdly, the Word of God is penetrating. Dividing between the soul (our life principle) and the spirit (that spiritual faculty which is unique to human beings), the Word of God scrutinises both the desires (emotions) and the intentions (will) of man. In other words, its capacity to challenge and guide at the deepest level is unique. What a lamp for the path of individuals or nations which have lost the way!
In all this a system is helpful. A chapter a day would be a good start beginning at the beginning of the New Testament with Matthew’s Gospel and just working through. Or else visit the Scripture Union website for more information on ordering their Bible reading notes (su.org.za/bible-reading-notes/). Alternatively, why not try Light on the Way by Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a daily system I have used for 54 years. You can order a hard copy version for R20 from the African Enterprise offices (contact Dave Rees at firstname.lastname@example.org or 033 3477037) or view an online version at michaelcassidy.africamediaonline.com/search/preview_manuscript/1165_1228.
This system starts one on January 1st at the four great beginnings of scripture: Genesis One (the beginning of everything), Ezra One (the beginning of restoration after the Exile), Matthew One (the beginning of the Gospel), and Acts One (the beginning of the church). This scheme takes one through the Old Testament once a year, and the New Testament and Psalms twice a year. It’s a great system.
So, I encourage you for 2016 to secure a modern translation of the Bible (NIV – or The Message), and make a start. It’s one of those things about which you will always say: “Glad I did.” After all, who doesn’t want Light on the Path?
And you may, while you’re about it, get to bless South Africa.