The unfolding of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
I hope Christmas brought you joy and that over the last week you’ve found some time to relax. Happy New Year to each of you, and may God bless and keep you in the coming year.
This beautiful image gives you a visual overview of the Bible: the number of books in the Bible, the length of each book, the number and length of each book’s chapters, and the thousands of cross reference connections between the books. I want to encourage you to read through the Bible this coming year. I know that’s an unusual request for a blog with any claim to be political, but I was reminded why this is so important when I reread something by Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish minister of the early 1800s, who organized what is today considered a classic reading plan. After he designed this plan, he wrote:
MY DEAR FLOCK,—The approach of another year stirs up with me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth of you who are saved….What the coming year is to bring forth, who can tell? There is plainly a weight lying on the spirits of all good men, and a looking for some strange work of judgment coming upon this land. There is need now to ask that solemn question: “If in the land of peace, where thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”
Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence on self or upon creatures, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day. Then we shall be able to say, like David, “The proud have had me greatly in derision, yet have I not declined from Thy law.” “Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in awe of Thy word.”
In 1981 Geoffrey Thomas wrote a pamphlet, Reading the Bible. In it he wrote:
Life is exceedingly complex: the prevailing climate in present-day Society is hostile to the Christian faith. Marx, Darwin and Freud have all contributed to the dominant philosophy of unbelief that prevails in the Western World. The mass media repeatedly attack the faith of the Bible. The breakdown of the family, promiscuity, divorce, abortion— . . . Answers to our complex contemporary questions are found in the Bible and our task is to equip ourselves with the knowledge of the Word so that all needed insight and strength will be ours. Laziness is our great temptation. Reliance on knowledge gained in the past is a great danger. We must be growing Christians. Our convictions, our conduct and our devotion must be rooted in the Word of God. ‘For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.’ [Romans 15.4].
Both men were prescient in their observations and wise in their recommended remedy.
If you’ve read many of my previous posts here, you’ll realize this request has a solid historic rationale.
The Continental-Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men. The amount of energy that Congress invested in encouraging the practice of religion in the new nation exceeded that expended by any subsequent American national government. Although the Articles of Confederation did not officially authorize Congress to concern itself with religion, the citizenry did not object to such activities. This lack of objection suggests that both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity.
Congress appointed chaplains for itself and the armed forces, sponsored the publication of a Bible, imposed Christian morality on the armed forces, and granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians. National days of thanksgiving and of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” were proclaimed by Congress at least twice a year throughout the war. Congress was guided by “covenant theology,” a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people. This agreement stipulated that they “should be prosperous or afflicted, according as their general Obedience or Disobedience thereto appears.” Wars and revolutions were, accordingly, considered afflictions, as divine punishments for sin, from which a nation could rescue itself by repentance and reformation.
The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the “public prosperity” of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a “spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,” Congress declared to the American people, would “make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.”
So in the best interests of the welfare of our nation, and out of a genuine desire that we would be “holy, that so we may be a happy people,” and that 2016 would indeed be a happy new year, I encourage you to open your Bible, read, and pray. This is especially important in a crucial election year. In Reading the Bible in 2016 you’ll find links to and information on various Bible reading plans.
May the Lord be with you and bless you in 2016—In His mercy may He bless America.
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
Visualizing the Bible® Chris Harrison. Used by permission. Click the image to enlarge.
This image was named one of the best science images of 2008 in National Geographic News.
“The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.” Here is a 2000 x 1200 pixels view.
The quote from M’Cheyne is via http://mcheyne.wordpress.com/ and can be read in its context beginning on p. 618 of Andrew Bonar’s Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Edinburgh/London : Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1892) available on Archive.org.