September 9, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 36:26-32 (ESV)

And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son and Seraiah the son of Azriel and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to seize Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet, but the Lord hid them. 27 Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 28 “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. 29 And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the Lord, You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” 30 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’ ” 32 Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.

How many of us would be willing to endure persecution and suffering in order to proclaim and preserve God’s truth? If there was a law that was passed in our country that called for everyone to turn in their copy of the Bible, and it became punishable by death to possess the Scriptures, who among us would be willing to pay such a price? The answer to that question is something that I wrestled with as I read through a book entitled Wide as the Waters. The book chronicles the history of the English Bible and details the lives of the men who made it possible for every English speaker in the world to have copy of the Bible in their own vernacular.

Unknown to many Christians is the fact that the Book we possess in our hands didn’t come merely from the hard work of translators and editors; what we now enjoy freely has been bought by the blood of the martyrs. The story of the English Bible, and subsequently the Reformation, began with a man by the name of John Wycliffe. Born in 1328, he has been called “the forerunner” and “the morning star” of the Reformation.   Christian history teaches that the precursor to the start of the Reformation was the debate over who has true authority—the pope or the Scriptures. The Roman Catholic Church operated, and still operates, under the principle of papal monarchy. Their view on authority can be summed up by the decree of Pope Gregory VII: “The pope can be judged by no one; the Roman church as never erred and never will err till the end of time; the Roman church was founded by Christ alone; the pope alone can depose and restore bishops; he alone can make new laws….” This was accepted without question until one corrupt pope after another ascended to the papacy; and tiring of this, people began to doubt the doctrine of papal authority. But if the pope doesn’t have the final say, then who does? Well, it dawned on a few men that the Scriptures should be the ultimate authority, since men are prone to error, while the Word of God is perfect. Instead of papal authority, they deduced that all matters of faith should be decided by the Scriptures alone.

But in order for this vision to become a reality, men like John Wycliffe decided that every believer ought to have a copy of the Bible in their own language. This was met with fierce resistance from the Catholic Church, and those who agreed with Wycliffe were labeled as heretics. Although Wycliffe died a natural death, many of his followers were burned at the stake. Eventually, Wycliffe was denounced as a heretic. His remains were dug out of consecrated church ground and thrown into the Avon river in England, and from there a prophesy arose among the people: “The Avon to the Severn runs, the Severn to the sea, and Wycliffe’s dust shall spread abroad, Wide as the Waters be.” His life became the inspiration for a group called “the Wycliffe translators,” many of whom have sacrificed their own well-being in order to translate the Word of God into every language.

As we think about the lives of these people who were willing to sacrifice so much for the spread of God’s word, we might ask ourselves, Why? What is their motivation?   For these men and women, they have put their absolute trust and their complete hope in the Word of God.   Trusting in God is identical to trusting in His Word—there is no division between the two. And so for us to really trust God, we need to start by trusting in His Word.

Prayer: Father, teach us to delight in Your Word and to trust in all Your promises. You alone have the words of life, and You have spoken them through the life of Your Son. Fill us with the same type of conviction that inspired the prophets and the saints of old to risk so much to share Your Word. Although the grass may wither and our lives pass before us, the Word of our God will endure forever! Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 22

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