I am staggered at my ongoing discovery of the Bible as a profound and amazing gift from eternity. So let me extol to you just some of the wonders of this amazing Book of Books.
As a lad I heard people say that the Bible is the “Book of Books”. I knew that they held it dear, but I could not understand why. It seemed to me that maybe they were the ‘sentimental’ type, or had less personal resource to draw from and so needed something else to assist them.
I was given my first Bible for my tenth birthday, by my Sunday School teacher. She told me she had a wonderful gift to give me for my birthday. When it turned out to be just a Bible I was visibly disappointed. She tried to enthuse me with the wonder of this profound book, but I just couldn’t get excited. I am not sure I was even thankful.
Book of Books
When I heard the term ‘Book of Books’ I realised it was ambiguous. The Bible was both a collection of 66 books written by diverse authors over several millennia, and also a book that stood supreme over all other books. It was “the book” among all books.
I gradually learned to appreciate the Bible. My journey in that direction was painfully slow, despite my regular church attendance and attempts to establish daily Bible reading using the Scripture Union notes. I most often ended up cramming several days’ worth in a dash to catch up on forgotten reading. My main motivation was fear and guilt, not a love for the Bible. I thought that reading the Bible would make a good impression on God and save me from any nasty things I might rather avoid.
Just recently, however, I was excited to discover the true meaning of the term ‘Book of Books’! I am surprised I never saw this before and the discovery quite intrigues and motivates me.
What I came to see is that the Bible is so rich in and of itself that it is able to speak into people’s lives and circumstances as if it was a set of diverse texts, not just what it appears to be. That’s a long way to say it, but I’ll try to explain. I want you to catch the same sense of discovery, assuming you haven’t already caught this insight. Maybe you’re wondering why I’m so excited about something you knew all along. If that’s the case please bear with me.
The Obvious Book
The Bible is obviously a religious text. It is full of things religious people quote and study all the time. So it is most readily relegated to the religious section of any library. It is a book for the religious boffins and devotees who care for such literature. It contains prophecies, regulations, prescriptions for rituals, esoteric spiritual stuff that doesn’t have immediate practical application, a religious vocabulary and much more that attests to its place as a Religious Text.
Now it has been used for much more than religion, but the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking the Bible should be put alongside the Koran, Hindu texts and texts about Confucius, Buddha, etc.
But the Bible is much, much more than a religious book. It is a religious text. That is its persona as one of the books it can serve as. But it is able to be pulled off the shelf as other books as well.
A Library in Itself
Imagine having one book on your shelf. When you want a cooking book you grab that one book and open it up. There you find recipes. Then, when you want a handyman book you grab the same text and open it, to find that it is full of drawings and instructions about home maintenance. Suppose then you need a book on managing your home finances. You reach for the same book, open it up and find that it has instructions on budgeting, managing bank accounts, and so on.
That book would be a library in itself. And, in a similar but different way the Bible is just that kind of library in one book. What has impressed me is a sense for just how profound the Bible can be to a diverse range of applications.
The Familiar Diversity
Stories: We are all familiar with the stories recorded in the Bible. Many children, including me, were enthralled by the amazing and wonderful historical accounts given in the Bible. David and Goliath is a perennial favourite, along with Daniel in the lion’s den, the crossing of the Red Sea and the miracles of Jesus. This is a story book par excellence.
History: We are also familiar with the historicity of the Bible. The events described in the Bible are mostly of historical account. They inform us of events and practices which we have next to no other record of. Historians rely on the Bible as a source book for cultural and historical insights.
Poetry: We are all familiar with the Bible as a source of poetry. There are various books in the Bible which are categorised as Hebrew poetry. Other portions are so beautiful and sweet in their content that they are often used as readings in such ceremonies as weddings, funerals and religious observances. So the Bible can be pulled off the shelf when someone wants some deeply beautiful and meaningful poetry.
Wisdom: We are also familiar with the Bible as a source of wisdom. Some books in the Bible are referred to as Wisdom literature. These books, incidentally, are also in the poetic category. Wisdom about relationships, problem solving, avoiding trouble, maintaining the peace, and so on, can be found in the pages of the Bible. So many people who need wisdom for their lives turn to the Bible as a valued resource.
Guidance: We are also familiar with the idea of the Bible being used for guidance. A girl I knew in primary school told me that her mother would open the Bible and point at the page, expecting whatever she chanced upon to be a word from God for her. This is not a recommended practice, as it tends to turn the Bible into a fortune-telling tool, contrary to God’s curse upon such activity. Many Christians, however, do prayerfully put their questions before God and then read their daily Bible reading with expectation that something will speak into their situation.
Moral Mentoring: We have all heard people refer to the moral standards given us in the Bible. Many people have acknowledged Jesus Christ the most exemplary person to have ever lived. He is spoken of as the “greatest man that ever lived” and His life has been studied by many, even when they did not believe Him to be the Son of God. The Bible could be used by every youth, not as a religious text, but as a text to guide them toward exemplary moral character.
From these examples you can see that the one book functions as multiple books, on hand for different applications.
What about ….
The Bible speaks into many other subjects as well, so have you ever considered the Bible as a text book on those things?
What about health and medicine? The Bible promotes sanitation and various health regulations. Certain foods are promoted over others. Is the Bible not a worthy resource text for such things?
And what about government? The Bible has much to say about leadership, forms of government, responsibilities within social order, and so on. So maybe the Bible could be taken off the shelf and studied just as a text for governmental order.
Then, what about business administration? There are many instructions to do with payment of employees, delegation of authority, enterprise and the like. These are business matters which are so valuable in themselves as to recommend the Bible as a business text book too. The Character First organisation applies the character qualities given in the Bible as a means of improving business efficiency and productivity. There may be many applications
The Bible has much to say about legal matters, so the Bible is a worthy Law textbook.
If you were to embrace the Bible for any one of these and other applications you may find that it comes alive in your hands as a much more valuable and richer text than you have ever counted it to be.
If that were the case it would become to you a Book of Books!