Friday, February 4, 2011

It Is Written

Despite the seniority of the spoken word (God, after all, used it to create the world), and its universality (as opposed to the limited reach of literacy), the written word has greater authority on its side. Once you put something in writing, especially above your signature, it's no longer easy to pretend you never said it. Which is why, long before e-mail, people were advised not to send an emotionally charged letter without first cooling down enough to reread it objectively. And why movie producer Samuel Goldwyn is said to have quipped, "A verbal contract is not worth the paper it's written on."

In the Bible (NIV 2011), the phrase "it is written" occurs 72 times, 63 in the New Testament and most often to explain how the work of Christ fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures. The best-known use of the phrase, however, is when Jesus uses it to refute Satan's temptations: "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" (Mt. 4:4, 7, 10.) Christ's followers are well-advised to follow His example when tempted; the devil is a match for any human argument, but recoils from the Word of God.

It's worth noting, though, that not every Biblical reference to "writing" means literal writing with pen and ink. In Jer. 31:33, God declares that when His people's sin in ignoring the original Law is fully punished, when it comes time for the New Covenant under which His people will truly know Him, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts." Hebrews 8:10 later quotes the verse, noting shortly after (v. 13) that the materially written covenant was made "obsolete" by the death of Christ. Not that the written Scriptures are any less valuable, just that by themselves they no more benefit the reader spiritually than reading a carpentry manual will drive one nail into a house's framework. And in truth, many "Bible-believing Christians" have the Bible in their heads but not in their hearts, using it as a club to batter "godlessness" without feeling a drop of God's compassion for those trapped in sin. Some even look down on fellow believers who, for whatever reason, read and memorize Scripture less often.

Thank God that we don't have to know the whole Bible by heart before He accepts us. He can write His real law on any heart regardless of literacy, intelligence, or memory skills.

It is written in the heavens,
In each star that decks the night;
It is written in the flowers,
Hued in endless colors bright;
It is written through Creation,
In each wonder we behold:
"God Almighty is eternal,
And His works are manifold."

It is written in the Scriptures,
Penned by saints who knew God's voice;
It is written by the Prophets,
Those who see Him and rejoice;
It is written in the Gospels,
Words from those who saw God's power:
"God Almighty is our Father,
And He keeps us every hour."

It is written on the spirits
Of the ones who know the Lord;
It is written in the actions
Of the ones who hear His Word;
It is written in our worship--
Let us now our voices raise--
"God Eternal rules among us:
All Creation, sing His praise!"

Like the poetry on this blog? Inquire at about purchasing the book ($10/copy) Where Light Dawns: Christian Poems of Hope for Hurting Hearts.

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