Half a loaf is better than no bread

The other day I caught the end of a radio programme in which it appeared there had been an earlier discussion about house clearances and in particular what people had found when clearing the houses of deceased relatives. The presenter read out a final email which recorded the discovery of a ‘pristine blue bible, still in its box, commemorating the coronation of George VI in 1936’. It had, apparently, been kept safely – treasured, even – through being bombed out in World War II and through a number of other house moves since that time.

But a strange way to treasure God’s word, I thought. I wondered how many bibles there are in the country, kept safely, but unopened, in presentation boxes or on bookshelves. Then I wondered, even where bibles are opened, how much of them is actually read. I recall Edmund Clowney, a Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in past years, referring to what he called ‘the gilt-edge test’. In the days when bibles usually had gilt-edged pages, those which were read most frequently tended to lose their shine; Professor Clowney suggested that many of our bibles had just two dull stripes, one near the back (the Gospels) and another near the middle (the Psalms). I don’t know whether he meant that literally, but it made his point! Alistair Begg makes the same point in a different way when he reminds us that the bible is ‘a book with the answers at the back’. If we only read the Old Testament we have the question but no answer; if we only read the New Testament we have the answer but we don’t understand the question. Thus, he says, we need to read the whole bible. After all, as used to be said, ‘the new is in the old contained; the old is in the new explained’.

Perhaps January 2021 is a good time to get more serious about our bible reading.

After all, if God has used a whole bible to reveal to us all we need to know about Himself, about ourselves, and about everything that really matters, surely we should do all we can to read it, study it, meditate on it, and memorise it while we have the opportunity – for who knows how long before the bible becomes a banned book under ‘Hate speech’ legislation? And how would we fare, without easy access to God’s word?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Then Jesus said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45)

How precious is the Book divine,

By inspiration given!

Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine,

To guide our souls to heaven.


Its light, descending from above,

Our gloomy world to cheer,

Displays a Saviour’s boundless love,

And brings His glories near.


It shows to man his wandering ways,

And where his feet have trod;

And brings to view the matchless grace

Of a forgiving God.


When once it penetrates the mind

It conquers every sin;

The enlightened soul begins to find

The path of peace divine.


It sweetly cheers our drooping hearts,

In this dark vale of tears;

Life, light, and joy it still imparts,

And quells our rising fears.


O’er all the strait and narrow way

Its radiant beams are cast;

A light whose ever-cheering ray

Grows brightest at the last.


This lamp through all the tedious night

Of life shall guide our way,

Till we behold the clearer light

Of an eternal day.


John Fawcett