- Posted by Edith Ohaja
- On September 30, 2018
- 8 Comments
The Bible is very special because it is God’s word recorded for our benefit. I am therefore not surprised that an article in the Business Insider titled “The 10 Most Read Books In The World” had this to say in December 2012:
The most read book in the world is the Bible.
Writer James Chapman created a list of the most read books in the world based on the number of copies each book sold over the last 50 years.
He found that the Bible far outsold any other book, with a whopping 3.9 billion copies sold over the last 50 years. “Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-tung” came in second with 820 million copies sold .… (Mao’s book was made compulsory reading in China)[words in brackets, mine]
More recent statistics from the constantly updated Guinness World Records website estimate the number of Bible copies sold at 5 billion. In the article, “Best-selling book of non-fiction”, the authoritative ranking organisation states that, “Although it is impossible to obtain exact figures, there is little doubt that the Bible is the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed book.”
What is it about the Bible that has enthralled people since the component books were first assembled in A.D. 400 through the first printing of 180 copies by Gutenberg (somewhere between 1454 and 1456) to today’s era of seamless mass publication in textual and audio formats?
In an earlier post, I discussed the benefits of reading the Bible such as getting to know God better, building one’s faith and knowing how to share that faith with others. (You can read that post by clicking on the title below.)
Related: 7 Reasons To Read The Bible Through (and do it yearly)
In this post, I’ll be looking at some wonderful qualities of the Bible I discovered through my experience of reading and studying it for several decades.
5 AMAZING QUALITIES OF THE BIBLE
1. The Bible is candid: It does not sugarcoat things or paint a glossy picture of God, ourselves and the world in which we live. Some people like to see God as this happy, cheerful Being up in the skies who is only eager to rain blessings on us, sort of like Father Christmas. Yes, God is joyful and kind but that is not all He is. He is also a holy God, who hates sin and punishes it. So if anyone describes God like s/he would a drinking buddy, “He’s such a jolly good fellow. Let’s drink to that!”, tell them that’s not really the God of the Bible. God does get very angry sometimes and it’s a very frightful thing to behold. We see this over and over in Bible passages like this one from Second Kings:
“12. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. 13. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. 14. And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; 15. Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day” – 2 Kings 21:12-15.
God loves us, yes, and I can’t emphasise that enough. He wants to care for us and protect us, but He also wants us to live right: to honour Him and care for one another. Furthermore, He wants us to look after the world He has given us, its other creatures and resources. We are to use what we need to sustain ourselves but we are not to, through greed, destroy the earth and the living things therein. But humanity has not listened. Just like in the days before the flood recorded in Genesis, evil is increasing everyday and it’s unbelievable the depths to which people are sinking in this. But God already foresaw this and threatened judgment in the Bible.
“1. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4. Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” – 2 Timothy 3:1-4.
“… the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” – Revelation 21:8.
The Bible also tells us exactly what we are like. Contrary to the teachings of secular humanism that portray man as intrinsically good and self-sufficient, without redemption through the blood of Jesus and regeneration by the Holy Spirit and God’s word, man is selfish, wicked and often unable to do what is right for others and even for himself.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
“18. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19. But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: … 23. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” – 1 Peter 1:18-19, 23.
The world too is not as good as it was when God created it. Sin tainted everything and the result has been calamity upon calamity, until the redemption of all things comes.
“19. For [even the whole] creation [all nature] waits eagerly for the children of God to be revealed. 20. For the creation was subjected to frustration and futility, not willingly [because of some intentional fault on its part], but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope 21. that the creation itself will also be freed from its bondage to decay [and gain entrance] into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22. For we know that the whole creation has been moaning together as in the pains of childbirth until now. 23. And not only this, but we too, who have the first fruits of the Spirit [a joyful indication of the blessings to come], even we groan inwardly, as we wait eagerly for [the sign of] our adoption as sons—the redemption and transformation of our body [at the resurrection]” – Romans 8:19-23 (AMP).
2. The Bible is coherent: It is true that some people point out what they see as contradictions in it, but for a book with 66 different sub-books written over a span of 1,500 years by 40 different authors, the Bible is pretty amazing in its coherence. This lends credence to the assertion in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”. In other words, God’s word was revealed to people across the centuries who recorded it for the purpose of uniting man to God. This uniformity of source and purpose is what gives rise to the consistency of the message and the connectedness of the various parts.
As a result, certain parts in different sub-books and by different authors complement each other. For instance, prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament (e.g. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53) see uncanny fulfilment in the life, ministry and crucifixion of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament Gospels.
3. The Bible is always fresh: As old as the Bible is, it still speaks to us today. The oldest books in the Bible (Genesis and Job) are said to be over 3,400 years old, yet they are still as relevant today as when they were written. For instance, in the account of Eve’s temptation by the serpent in Genesis 3, we see the devil’s timeless trick of making us feel we don’t need to be subordinate to God, that we can be just as smart and powerful as He is. We know how well that works for those who heed the devil’s “advice”. In Job, we see man grappling with the mystery of unjust suffering as many still do today.
One of the most awe-inspiring parts of Job’s experience for me has always been his response when God showed up. He forgot all his questions and complaints and went into worship. It tells me that God’s presence makes everything alright, it makes the worst situations bearable. You see, contrary to what some people preach today, God doesn’t always remove the pain or provide all the answers. Sometimes, He chooses to give grace, be with us and strengthen us through the difficulty. This is how Apostle Paul learnt that lesson:
“7. … there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
The perpetual freshness of the Bible makes it possible to glean new insight from passages we’ve read so many times before. Depending on our needs and our ministry over time, God continues to open our eyes to new wisdom in His word. I find this very exciting because every time I read, I have no idea what riches I’m about to discover and the treasures are just inexhaustible. And as many as make time to delve into God’s word devotionally are similarly rewarded.
4. The Bible is deep: The discovery I referred to above is unlikely except we read the Bible with the help of God’s Spirit. He inspired the word and so, He can interpret it best. When a poet writes a piece with complicated imagery, many may read it without comprehension until the symbols used are explained to them. I once read the following passage in Isaiah:
“2. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law” – Isaiah 42:2-4.
From these verses, I received a rhema about Jesus that strengthened me during a very trying period in my life. Last year, I shared that rhema as part of a post about the attributes of Jesus.
Without making Jesus our Lord and Saviour and having the indwelling Holy Spirit, we’ll be reading the Bible intellectually and skimming the surface or writing it off as confusing. This is how Apostle Paul explains it:
“11. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” – 1 Corinthians 2:11-14.
5. The Bible is entertaining: I know this doesn’t sound spiritual but it’s a very good reason to read the Bible. It is the word of the Almighty God, so it is very powerful. I have touched on that fact in the post on benefits of reading the Bible cited earlier. We read it devotionally but that does not preclude our enjoyment of its contents. The Bible is not boring at all. It is full of gripping accounts of dramatic events, unvarnished biographies, beautiful poetry and for me, fascinating conversations. Some of the passages I find most captivating in the Bible are the conversations that God, through His prophets, had with the children of Israel. There is love, betrayal, rejection, heartbreak, anger, all kinds of powerful emotions displayed; on other occasions, there is forgiveness, conciliation and assurances of restoration. I just can’t get enough of those accounts and neither can myriads of others! Take a look at this!
“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the LORD. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats” – Isaiah 1:11 (NLT).
“When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” – Isaiah 1:12 (NIV)
Then there are the wars and deliverances, the miracles and Passion of Christ, the travails of the apostles in the early church- the Bible is just full of accounts that blow one away. As a writer, I appreciate the craftsmanship of the contents. To make the beauty of the work manifest and improve my understanding of it, I read different translations as I find some passages more graphic and evocative in the King James Version and others more so in contemporary English versions.
(Related: 5 Reasons I Use Creative Writing To Blog About Faith)
The fact that the Bible is entertaining amplifies, rather than prevents, learning from it. Cultivation analysis in mass communication teaches us that entertainment is the most educational fare in any culture. Bible stories have morals which are hard to miss and as I said with respect to its freshness above, I always read the Bible with anticipation because I never know what new lessons I may learn with each reading.
We are truly one of the blessed generations. Not only do we have God’s recorded word in the Bible, we also have His Spirit living in us to teach us the word, remind us of relevant portions of it as the need arises and imbue that word with life and power to do miracles in and through us. I cannot thank God enough for such a precious gift and I hope this post has ignited, reawakened or reinforced your love for the Scriptures. Let it be so in Jesus’ name.
The scriptures used in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise stated.
Share with me, if you will, something you love about the Bible or one of your favourite passages in it.
Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
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