I grew up in a home that was filled with printed words. I had a shared library of books for children with my siblings, a personal library of books and magazines I was given or bought with my own earnings, and a family library of books my father owned that filled a large wall in our dining room, floor to ceiling. He bought a few new hardback volumes every month, subscriptions to two newspapers, and several magazines.
Our library included atlases and encyclopedias, international cook books, classic novels, collections on science, nature, philosophy, culture, art, religion, history, and science fiction. During vacations I supplemented my reading with books I brought home from the public library. I had been assigned to the slow reading group in elementary school, but it made no difference because I was surrounded by books.
As a self-published author, I am all too aware of the impact electronic book publishing and internet media is having on our relationship with printed text. Few homes I visit display any kind of books, but most have impressive collections of movies and shows for their children to enjoy on the big screen, and maybe some they shouldn’t.
At church, I love the convenience of Bible apps that do not require me to carry a heavy print volume. Projectors show the Bible passages pastors read, so having it open in my lap seems unnecessary. If you’re a pastor, one of the best things you can do for Bible scholarship in your church is to ditch the projector, ask people to put away their phones, and don’t put out pew Bibles. Get your own copy and carry it. We actually need the permanence of print.
In the Old Testament Torah, the Lord required his people to write the words of the law onto scraps of parchment and put them on their doorposts, their foreheads, their gates, and their fingers (Deut. 6:9, 11:20, Is. 57:8, Prov. 7:3). He also told them to write them upon their hearts! Your heart is your spirit man, your memory, consciousness, and understanding.
God’s words stand forever. He knew we would struggle because we cannot see him with our eyes, so he breathed himself into words and had them written down so we could see, hear, touch, smell, and taste them with all our senses.
When that wasn’t enough, he breathed himself into flesh, Jesus Messiah, and called him the Word of God (John 1:1). Jesus never wrote a book! As far as we know, the only writing he made were the words he wrote with his finger in the sand as he saved a woman caught in adultery.
He said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” – John 6:63
How can words bestow life? Didn’t God speak the world into existence? He did. When we speak words, they carry meaning beyond the sounds they make. The meaning is invisible to the eye, but it’s open to the understanding, to hearts, to our spirit-man. Words are spirit, and spirit is power, the very breath of God, they are life – or death. Be careful of your words!
The flood of Noah was not the greatest judgement God sent upon the ancient world, for it only took the breath of life from their bodies. The greater judgement came after, when God confused our languages, so that we could no longer understand one another. Man had grown too strong in rebellion, so God did something to break our power. He turned the words of all the people groups into gibberish to one another. At the same time, the lifespan of men became a fraction of what it had been before. Words are spirit, and spirit is the power of life.
Only God has a higher power than a king, but in Israel, the king’s first responsibility was to make a copy of the words of the law with his own hand:
“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.
– Deut 17:18-20 NKJV
What would happen to our children if they were each to make their own copy of God’s word to read from? The kings copied the first five books of the Old Testament, not what came after. What if our children were to copy the first five books of the New Testament when they were old enough, and carry it with them? Would it increase their power of life?
Aren’t they kings and priests? “A royal priesthood,” “a kingdom of priests” (Rev. 1:6, 5:10, 20:6; 1 Pet. 2:9, 5)? English translators struggle with these sentences, but I don’t. If we reign with him as the verses plainly state, we are not just priests (who never reigned under the Law), but “royals” also, the king’s family of priests who reign with him. Remember the four and twenty elders at the throne of God (Rev. 4:4)? They were seated on twenty-four thrones, wearing crowns of gold.
Why twenty-four? Because the Holy City is built upon the foundations and gates of the words God gave to the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles. The foundations of the City of God, the power holding it suspended in the heavens above the earth – is words.