The leather binding was wrinkled and torn, and the pages were tattered and faded, all signs of a Bible lovingly and well read for many years. A friend brought this with her to our small group recently, a family treasure she’d inherited from her grandmother. Reminding me of the “show and tell” presentations we did in elementary school years ago, she used the old Bible as a visual aid in telling her spiritual journey.
This copy of the Scriptures, practically an antique, was a visible testament to the departed matriarch’s steadfast faith.
It served as tangible evidence of how her devotion to the Lord continues to shine many years after her passing.
Have you ever seen someone carrying a tattered, extremely worn Bible? If so, what was your reaction? Did you think, “That guy (or gal) needs a new Bible”? Perhaps. But on the rare occasions I see this, the adage comes to mind that says, “When you see someone with a Bible that’s falling apart, it’s usually being carried by someone who isn’t.” Because in most cases, that’s the truth.
Since I like to highlight key passages and make notes in margins, I prefer to start fresh with new Bibles once they’ve reached a certain stage of use. Fortunately, during the 17 years I served as a magazine editor for a parachurch ministry, I occasionally received review copies of Bibles. So, I’ve had the luxury of being able to study an assortment of translations and editions of the Bible.
However, I still have my very first King James Version Bible, which I received as a confirmation gift at the church I attended during my youth. I literally read it cover to cover during my senior year of high school as a personal goal, even though I must admit to not understanding much of it at the time. I also have the first modern translation Bible I ever purchased, a New American Standard edition.
I’ve since learned that the front-to-back approach isn’t necessarily the best. Genesis and Exodus, with their rich narratives about God’s chosen but very flawed people, offer engaging reading. But for me, trying to wade through Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy often felt like I was wandering in the wilderness with the Israelites. It helped when I discovered the practice of reading from both the Old and the New Testaments concurrently. When the going seemed to bog down in an Old Testament passage, shifting to the New Testament for a while felt like coming up for air.
Getting back to the idea of someone not falling apart that possesses a Bible that is, I’ve encountered a number of such folks through the years. Maybe they weren’t so dedicated to making notations while they were reading, or just regarded their well-used Bibles as old friends – and how can you discard old friends who have spent so much time with you?
In any case, the common denominator for them all was they had a solid grasp on the Word of God – and more importantly, God had a solid grasp on them.
This isn’t to suggest that possessing a worn-out Bible is a guarantee that a person is godly, a devout follower of Christ. But if someone’s only copy of the Scriptures is still in mint condition, with its pages still stuck together, it sure wouldn’t hurt for them to crack it open from time to time. God might just have something interesting to tell them.
When we encounter the people in the Bible God had chosen to lead His people, they were always people who spent a lot of time with Him and His Word. Three times in the first nine verses of the book of Joshua, God tells the book’s namesake, “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6,7,9). How was he to do that? Nestled in the midst of those verses is this admonition: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).
To meditate on God’s Word requires becoming very familiar with it, thinking about it and reflecting on it often. Even though King David was known as “a man after God’s heart,” that didn’t mean he was perfect by any means. But he wisely observed, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).
I think of one other passage that serves as a reminder that if our Bible is the worse for wear, we’re all the better for it. Challenging his protégé Timothy as a young man in ministry, the apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
A car with the tread worn down on its tires might not be a good thing, but a Bible showing signs it’s traveled many miles along someone’s spiritual journey is almost always a good thing.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.