Word of God
To pay bills one summer during college, I drove truck for a fireworks company in Portland. In those B.I. days (Before iPhone), I carried a pocket New Testament wherever I went, to help me memorize. One day I tossed a pile of invoices on top of that little blue Book on the desk, and my boss went ballistic. “How dare you put anything over the Word of God?!” The man had never read the Book, mind you, but he was scandalized. I’m not normally quick on the draw (always a sub-par trash-talker, actually, now envious of my sons’ knack for rapid repartee); but that morning I didn’t hesitate to deadpan: “Paper and ink.”
It may sound crass – even blasphemous, from a Bible guy. It did to my boss. But I’m still proud of that moment, because when Isaiah the prophet said,
The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40.8)
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose... (Isaiah 55.10-11)
– when Isaiah said these brilliant things about God’s word, he wasn’t talking about a tome or a scroll. Nothing like our Bible existed in his day. When he pictured the word of God, it was something that happened, not a book.
Isaiah’d been hearing family stories for as long as he could remember. He knew God spoke to Abraham and Sarah to start a people and through Moses on Sinai to shape that people. God told Samuel to anoint David as King of Israel, and God spoke through Nathan the prophet to bring him back down to size when he overreached. Isaiah may have heard that God started everything with words – “Let there be light!” The word of God for Isaiah meant nothing less than the speech of a God whose words work.
Near the end of the first century, a Christian man sat down to the impossible task of writing Jesus’ story. No book could contain Him, and so the author’s disclaimer: “If I were to write everything Jesus did, all the libraries in the world couldn’t hold it!” (John 21.25) But how to start – where to begin? He prayed…and thought…and then wrote these sentences:
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the Beginning with God. All things were created through Him… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we beheld his glory... (John 1.1-3, 14)
Christians believe that God loved us enough to show us God’s self in this One. Many of us wonder where to start with the Bible. It’s never a bad choice to start with the gospels – the words about the Word. After Jesus, everything else falls into place.