Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, February 15.
Earlier this year Nancy offered listeners a challenge: to read the Bible every day in 2012. Many listeners have taken her up on this challenge and are reaping the benefits of spending time in the Bible.
It’s not too late to start. We’ll help you with a number of resources at ReviveOurHearts.com. The Bible that we are encouraging you to read daily, didn’t come to us cheaply. Nancy’s here to explain.
Nancy: We have been talking all this week about the wonder of the Word. I have been encouraging us to develop a new heart of reverence and appreciation and love for the Word of God. I have been encouraging, if you are not already in the habit, of starting a new habit of spending some time every day reading God’s Word. It is the only way you will ever get to know God. You can’t know Him apart from knowing His Word.
I want us to focus today as we continue to look at the wonder of the Word on the fact that we have a Bible that is precious—it is priceless; it is of infinite value. And therefore, it is something that we should treasure and cherish.
I don’t know if you realize what an incredible privilege it is for us to be able to have our own copies of the Bible. Have you ever thought about that? I mean, I have dozen copies of the Bible, every color, every size—this one is pretty beat up. I have some that are newer, different translations. I have Bibles everywhere.
But that is a privilege that most people have never had. Most people in the world today do not have that privilege, and most people in the history of the world have not had the privilege of having their own Bible. In fact, as you study the history of how we came to get the Bible in our language today, you realize that people have had to make some enormous sacrifices to preserve the Word of God to have the Word of God.
We owe a huge debt to a handful of men who paid a great price to get the Bible translated into the common languages of the people. As you go back, you realize that some of those people were tortured for their efforts; some were martyred. Those who were martyred were usually during the Middle Ages, burned alive publicly at the stake as heretics.
This happened, the church did this, the organized institutional church, not the true church. The organized church considered them heretics for translating the Bible into the language that the people could read. That’s what happened to William Tyndale in 1536. He was burned alive at the stake for translating the Bible into English.
Now those men paid the price. The translations were made; they were burned, but the copies of the Bible were let out into the lives, hearts, and minds of the people. It was a revolution.
It paved the way, as you know, for the Reformation, which is one of the reasons that we are able to have the Bible today. But once those copies of the Bible began to circulate in the common languages of the people, then it became unlawful and a criminal offense to possess one of those copies.
You can read many different stories. I can think of a story of a man in Europe who was burned alive for owning just a piece of a page of one of those Bibles. His children were forced to light the fire after he was fastened to the stake because he owned a part of a page . . . a fragment of a page of one of those Bibles. And that has continued to modern times.
I think of the Soviet Jew, Anatoli Shcharansky, who was detained and finally imprisoned in Russia in 1974. He spent years in Russian prison work camps, and during those years, he was stripped of all his personal belongings. The only possession he managed to keep was a miniature copy of the Psalms.
At one point during his imprisonment, because he refused to give that book up to the authorities, it cost him more than four months in solitary confinement because he wouldn’t let that little copy of the Psalms go. Finally, twelve years after he had been parted from his wife, he was offered his freedom.
You may remember February 1986 as the whole world was watching that Shcharansky was allowed to walk away from those Russian guards and to walk toward those who were going to take him to Jerusalem to be reunited with his wife. But right in the final moments before he was released, the guards tried one more time to confiscate that Psalms book from Shcharansky. Do you remember what he did? He threw himself face down in the snow, clinging to that Psalms book and refusing to give it up. He would not go into freedom without it.1
One of my favorite stories about those who have treasured the Word of God is a story that took place many years ago. It has been written up in a book called Mary Jones and Her Bible. Listen to that story about a little girl who treasured the Word of God.
“I must have a Bible of my own! I must have one, if I have to save up for it for ten years!”
The year was 1794. For as long as she could remember, little Mary Jones had yearned to hold a Bible in her hands so that she might read it for herself. For years, she had sat at night on her weaver father’s lap and listened to him tell stories of Abraham and Joseph and David and Daniel. But her family was far too poor to afford a Bible, even if one had been available, for Bibles could scarcely be found in all of Wales during those days.
Two years earlier, Mrs. Evans, the wife of a nearby farmer, having learned of Mary’s longing to read the Bible, had promised the child that when she learned to read, she could come to their house and read their Bible. As soon as the first school opened in a neighboring village, Mary had eagerly set about learning to read.
Now, the ten-year-old girl had just walked two miles from the North Wales village of Llanfihangel to the Evans’ farm. The distance was no object to the eager child: “I’d walk further than that for such a pleasure, ma’am!” she had said to Mrs. Evans.
When once Mary finally was left alone in the room with the Bible, she reverently lifted off the white napkin that covered and protected the cherished book. Then, with trembling hands, she opened the book to the fifth chapter of John where her eyes lit on the words, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39 KJV). Confident that God had spoken to her directly, she earnestly vowed to search His Word with all her heart.
Every Saturday from that point on she made the journey to the Evans’ farm, where she read, studied, and memorized entire chapters from the ‘borrowed’ Bible. All the time, however, her heart ached, so great was her yearning to have a Bible of her own. She purposed that she must have a Bible, at any cost.
For the next six years, in addition to her studies at school and the many chores to be tended to at home, Mary used every available moment to do odd jobs for friends and neighbors. Every penny she earned was carefully laid aside, until, at long last she had saved enough to buy a Bible of her own.
When she learned that the closest place a Bible could be purchased was the town of Bala, some twenty-five miles away, there was no question in her mind about what she must do. With hope in her heart, she started out early one morning, walking barefoot, so as not to ruin her one pair of shoes. Before she reached her destination, her feet were blistered and cut from the stones in the road.
Physically weary, but barely able to contain her excitement that her lifelong goal should be so nearly realized, Mary finally arrived in Bala, where she poured out her story to the minister, Mr. Charles. When she had finished, Mr. Charles reluctantly informed her that the last of the Bibles available for purchase had already been sold and that the handful of remaining Bibles had already been promised to others. Furthermore, the Society that had printed the small quantity of Welsh Bibles did not intend to print any more.
So great was Mary’s disappointment, that she began to sob uncontrollably. Touched by the intensity of her passion to have a Bible of her own, Mr. Charles decided that she must have one of the few Bibles left in his possession. Words cannot describe the ecstasy Mary felt as Mr. Charles placed into her hands that precious treasure for which she had prayed, wept, and hoarded all these years. Her heart sang as she walked the twenty-five miles back home, carrying her very own Bible, the Book that would remain her dearest friend and companion throughout her life.2
Do you realize the value of what you have in God’s Word? “The law of your mouth,” the psalmist said, “is better unto me than thousands of coins of gold and silver” (Ps. 119:72). “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps. 119:103). “I rejoice at Your Word as one who finds great treasure” (Ps. 119:162). What a treasure it is.
So the next time that you pick up that Bible, one of many perhaps in your possession, remember what a price many have paid before you so that you could have that Bible. Don’t take it lightly. Thank God for the privilege for owning your own copy; and as you read it, treasure it, for there is no greater treasure in life.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss in a series called, The Wonder of the Word. She will be right back.
At Revive Our Hearts, we’re focusing on Bible reading throughout 2012, bringing you several series on the topic. As part of this focus, we’re challenging you to read the Bible every day in 2012. Many women have already taken us up on this challenge and are treasuring their time in God’s Word. It’s not too late to start. We’ll encourage you in the process when you sign up at ReviveOurHearts.com.
I also hope you’ll check out the bonus material on our podcast this week. Nancy explores ways technology can assist in making your Bible study a richer experience. That’s on a special podcast-only series. For details on how to subscribe to the free Revive Our Hearts podcast, visitReviveOurHearts.com.
Nancy’s back with the second half of today’s program.
Nancy: Several years ago, I had the privilege of hearing a testimony that illustrated in a powerful way how precious and priceless the Word of God is. Margaret Nikol grew up in Bulgaria under one of the most repressive Communist regimes in history.
As you will hear from her testimony in just a few moments, her father was a pastor as was her brother. She grew up in a time in Bulgaria when Bibles were not accessible to believers. As she was growing up in Bulgaria, Margaret was trained to be a professional violinist. Then when she was in her mid-30s she was exiled to the United States. Since Margaret came to the United States, she has continued to give violin concerts, but most importantly to share her story of how she came to have her first copy of the Word of God. I know you are going to be moved as I have been as you listen now to this testimony from Margaret Nikol.
Margaret Nikol: When I came here [to the United States], I had two most prized possessions: I had my violin, and I had one page from God’s Bible—only one page. Probably you would ask me why didn’t I buy myself a Bible. In our country, we did not have it.
The Communists took power, and they confiscated God’s Word from churches, and hymnals. They went to houses and confiscated the Bibles available in our country. How did I get my page? A lady from our church, she was reading her Bible one night, and she overheard when the police came talking at the door to her husband that they wanted to confiscate her Bible. And she thought, “No, never my Bible,” and she sat on it.
And they looked for hours in her house, everywhere, but not under her skirt; and there was the Bible. Then she came to church and tearing it page, by page, by page, she shared with us her Bible with tears in her eyes. With all respect to God’s Word, Pastor Woodall, I was so happy I didn’t get one from the Numbers. I had a very good page—Genesis 16 and 17. The promise of God to give Abraham and Sarah a son.
And here I was in this country, and it was close to Christmas when I came. The second Sunday when I went to the same very small church, next to me sat an old couple. It turned out they were German immigrants after the first World War. So, we able to communicate in German, and I told them I am ten days in America.
I was so excited when they said, “We would like to give you a Christmas present. What would you like?” Probably they thought I would say, “Let’s go shopping till we drop.” I didn’t. Do you know why? Because I was twelve when I got my page [of the Bible] and for twenty-five years I prayed, “Lord, I so want to have your Word.”
And when they asked me, I said, “If possible, I would like to have a Bible.” They said, “Oh, honey, this is America; Bibles are available. You can have it.” So the next morning they came, and they brought me to the Bible bookstore. And can you picture me—the woman with one page for her entire life—getting into that Bible bookstore and seeing all the shelves—black, blue, green, brown, and red Bibles.
I stood there in the middle of that bookstore and wept and cried. I couldn’t believe that after so many years, prayers God will answer. I got a Bible and hugged it to my chest; and I wept, and I wept. My friends, it was joyful, and then it became sorrow. First I thought of my brother. He was a pastor in Bulgaria, having a fifteen hundred-people church and preached from couple of pages copied by his own hand, and so were the others. No Bibles.
And I said, “But Lord, what about them? What about them? If they could all come here, and You could send Bibles.” That is why I so respect all the missions, Brother Andrew and the others, who smuggled Bibles, but they couldn’t smuggle for all of us. I made the covenant with God that day. And I said, “Father, I am not the man; I am not the preacher; I am not the teacher; I am not the evangelist; I am a musician and a woman on top of that. What can You do with my life? But You have it.”
And I thank God that He never looks for able people. He looks for available people. I thank Him for that. The first three and a half years I was in a quandary. I didn’t know what to do. I was professor of music and gave concerts, and then the call came, and I gave up everything and started traveling to raise funds for Bibles.
In 1993 I was in Bulgaria, back with 10,000 Bibles printed in the country—this very same Bible. The pastors of that country had their first conference in freedom. In that hall when I entered with the Bibles, and with my hand started giving each pastor their first Bible. The joy and the tears and the gratefulness of their hearts, and the prayers which went for you, for the American Christians who send them the Bibles.
And on their behalf, I would like to thank you. I would like to thank you as Christians. At the same token I would like to challenge you. Any time you take your Bible for granted, I pray that the Holy Spirit will remind you of this page, because it represents not only Margaret Nikol. No, millions of your brothers and sisters around the world are still on their knees praying for God to send them His Word.
For me, the most sinful corners in every church I have been in and seen is lost and found. Do you know why? The most lost items are never looked for are the Bibles. That is how much we appreciate them. And I challenge you tonight to cherish your Bible, to thank God in our country we can go to bookstores, anywhere, and in such abundance to get God’s Word.
Nancy: We’ve been listening to Margaret Nikol, and what a stirring reminder of the precious gift that God has given to us in His Word. In this country where we have such ready access to the Word of God, it is easy to lose sight of the privilege that we have, in our day, in our age, in this country to have our own copies of the Scripture.
God’s Word says in Psalm 19 that the Word of God is “more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold, and that it is sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10). It is through reading and keeping the Word of God that we receive great reward in our lives. I want you to have the rewards that come from knowing God’s Word, not just from having copies of it, but from knowing it, and reading it, and studying it, and memorizing it, and personalizing it, and getting it internalized in your own life.
So maybe right now if you are in a place where you can do this, you’d like to just pick up a copy of the Bible. You probably have one real close to you. Just put it in your hands and look at it, and then lift up your eyes to the Lord and your heart to the Lord and say, “Lord, thank You for giving me this book. Thank You for making it available to us in the English language and for those who have paid such a price so that we could have it in our language.”
Thank the Lord we live in a country where we are free to purchase copies of the Bible, to have them, to own them, and to make them a part of our lives. Then ask the Lord to make this Book precious to you. Ask Him to help you not to take it for granted, but to make it one of your most cherished possessions and treasures. And not the just the book itself, because the Bible is not just the paper and ink, and a leather or hardback cover; but ask the Lord to make what is in that book to become the Word alive in you and to cause it to change your life as you treasure it from this day forward.
Used with Permission. Revive Our Hearts.