Why Study the Bible?
By Don Ruhl
The Bible has influenced, and still influences, our world in more ways than even we who know the Bible may realize. We are so used to biblical language, ideas, stories, and characters, that when we see them in the world, it just seems natural to us and so we do not think much about it, that is, that the world has made use of, and continues to use, the Bible! I want to show you some of those ways while simultaneously teaching you the Bible.
You will see the Bible in our world in the books we read, the paintings and other artwork we admire, the music we hear, the underpinnings of our society, and the political processes and controversies in the news. The English translations of our Bible helped to shape how we speak today!
He who knows the Bible will succeed in life, truly in all that he does in life. Whether at work, or trying to understand our world, or knowing what people are saying when they allude to biblical references, or dealing with people in all situations, knowing the testimony of Scripture gives you an edge in life.
Passages in Joshua 1, Psalm 1, and Proverbs 1 show that this is not my opinion, but this is God’s promise to us. If He created all things, He knows how we operate best, and He knows how our world operates. He gave us the Bible to show how we can operate at our maximum capacity in His world. This explains why the Bible permeates every segment of our world, so much so that we probably do not even notice it. We are so used to biblical imagery and terminology, that it often skips our attention. Many people have seen the powerful words of Scripture, and use them literally all over the place!
God told Joshua that if he meditated upon and obeyed the Law, “then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Jos. 1:7-8). David declared that the man is blessed who delights in the Law of the Lord, meditating in it day and night, for “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Ps. 1:1–3). Solomon revealed, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pr. 1:7, Cf. 9:10).
What do you think of those statements of fact and promises? Do you make use of them? The fulfillment of the promises of these verses happen in two ways:
- God blesses those who listen to Him and obey Him.
- We do the right and best things, leading to success.
John 6 shows what countless people in our world have discovered about the words of the Bible. Because of what Jesus stated here, Americans, and people of all nations in the world, use the Bible for various purposes, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jn. 6:63).
This explains the presence of God’s word in our world. It gives life and people know it. That is why they have made laws based on it, established colleges because of it, written music, books, and movies that expresse it, created artwork that shows it, and have built their lives on it. Even if we want to ignore the Bible, we can’t, because it surrounds us.
Why We Should Know the Bible
Here is the main question I want us to answer in these series of articles: How do we convince people that they need to know the Bible?
In these articles, I want us to see some of the reasons someone living in our world should pick up the Bible and make a lifelong habit of reading it daily. People in the world probably do not realize how the Bible has shaped, and continues to shape, our world in ways for which they are thankful. The things we enjoy in our law, politics, history, and culture the Bible formed in a positive way. Even the common names throughout American history have their sources in the Bible. How many people have Bible names and may not know it? Books and movies often have biblical themes. Reading the daily newspaper reveals the use of biblical terminology to picture great news events. Moreover, the news often covers matters of Christianity. Literally, the Bible’s affect we can see in every part of our society.
In America, we just have to look at a map of our nation and see that our forefathers used Bible names for many places. Salem (Oregon), Lebanon (Oregon), Memphis (Tennessee), Corpus Christi (Texas), and many others. For a long time, public schools used the Bible. Some public schools use the Bible today.
The Nature of the Bible
What do you say first about the Bible to someone not familiar with it? Although it appears to be one book, it is actually a collection of books. Are the books of the Bible of the same kind? What are the different forms of literature within the Bible? Practically every form of literature that exists the Bible also contains. You will read stories of love and war, triumph and tragedy, prayers and preaching, poetry and prose, narratives and histories, dreams and visions, law and parables.
The Bible uses many forms of literature to captivate everyone’s imagination.
The Life of America and the Presence of the Bible
From our beginning, the Bible has been there making us into the United States of America. Granted our forefathers read other material, even as we do today, but many of them read those other writings through the lens of the Bible. People came to America in the beginning not to flee religion and the Bible, but to find the freedom to practice it according to their own understanding. President George Washington declared at his first inaugural address in 1789,
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States…Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.
Therefore, from the very beginning, our forefathers never intended to exclude religion in general and the Bible in particular from daily public life.
Knowing the Bible Is Essential for Good Citizenship
This is true for any nation, but it is especially true for American citizens. Our culture is saturated with biblical imagery, yet, many do not realize it. Can you identify the biblical imagery in this excerpt from a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” Deuteronomy 34:1–5 shows how the life of Moses ended. Martin Luther King, Junior used the imagery of this text. He was making a spiritual application from the lives of Moses and Israel.
What Martin Luther King, Junior did, many others have done in speeches and literature. Abraham Lincoln did it often. On June 16, 1858, speaking against dividing the United States into free states and slave states, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech, now called his, “House Divided Speech,” which was based on a biblical passage. Do you know what passage or what a Bible character said that Lincoln used? Luke 11:17 is the text, “But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls’” (Lk. 11:17). Why did Jesus say that? He was answering the charge that He cast demons out by the power of Satan.
Can you identify biblical quotes and allusions in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865)?
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
He alluded to Genesis 3:19. He strongly alluded to Matthew 7:1. He quoted Matthew 18:7. He quoted Psalm 19:9b.
An interesting oxymoron exists in the world and perhaps in the church. People are illiterate in the Bible, yet, they know of Bible things. Biblical literacy is a working knowledge of the Bible as literature. People use words in English today that they probably do not know came from the early English translations of the Bible. The book Coined by God, lists 131 words and phrases that first appeared in an English translation of the Bible. For example, shibboleth. Do you know the meaning of that? Read Judges 12:1–6.