Donít be listless
(Genesis 1 & 5, Psalm 139)
The Greek word "Biblia" means "books" and is the root of the word "Bible". After all, the Bible is a most amazing library of 66 ancient and carefully preserved books that have been faithfully passed down, intact and unchanged, to us through the centuries. We who own copies of the Bible are in effect the librarians as well as the users of the library. How well are we carrying out our role as librarians - the guardians and preservers of the library? How often do we use the precious library entrusted to us?
With what reverence do we hold the Bible? For almost two millennia it was reverently called the "Holy Bible", and carefully handled with clean hands and clean hearts. It is, after all, the inspired Word of God for our guidance, education and comfort, among other things. However, in recent years we began dropping the word "Holy", and now many unthinkingly call it "the Bible". Has the Holy Bible now become the Humble Bible, or worse, just a humble book, like any other book?
Today, it is often called by the initials of the various translations, like the KJV, NKJV, NIV and so on. "Iím reading from the NIV", we blithely say from the pulpit or at our care group meetings, not realizing the gradual erosion of our respect for the most holy Scriptures we have. If the trend of using initials continues, will we one day say we are reading from the K, or the NK or the N? May this never happen!
The Holy Bible is reportedly the best-selling book in history, and continues to be the bestseller every year. And numerous books have been written about the Holy Bible and about what it says or means. There are so many of these books that it is now not possible to read every one of them, nor even those written in the past year. And thatís not counting the huge number of Christian articles in scholarly journals, magazines and other publications. No researcher can keep up with all these new Christian writings. This is not surprising, for there is so much in the Holy Bible that with each new reading we re-discover old treasures in it, and uncover new gems of truth and new treasures of knowledge, wisdom, guidance and comfort, prophesies of things to come, and much more.
One of the many things that amaze me about the Holy Bible is the large number of lists it contains. How many lists are there? We need go no further than the very first chapter in the Holy Bible, to find a list. The whole chapter is a list, a brief summary of how God created the heavens and the earth, and all the creatures on this planet Earth which is our temporary home. The planet Earth is in fact a round, spinning, spaceship on which we travel through space and time. We have no control over the rate of spin, nor the speed, nor the path our spaceship takes, and yet we humans often pride ourselves with being in control of our own lives and the masters of our own destiny!
Genesis 5 is another list, this time of Adamís descendants down to Noah and his three sons Shem, Ham and Jepheth. The list gives the age at which each person became the father of a son, and at what age he died. To some people, such lists are boring. But when I see such lists what strikes me is: What a fantastic memory the Bible writer had! Try memorizing the list at Genesis 5. It can be done, but, oh, what an effort and how much time it takes, right?
Think about your own family. Starting with your father, do you know at what age he had his first son? Then go back to your paternal grandfather: how old was he when he had his first son, and at what age did he pass away? How about your great grandfather? And your great great grandfather? It gets harder to fill in the details with each generation further back, doesnít it? It makes me wonder how Moses remembered so many details when he wrote the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, oops, I mean the Holy Bible.
In 1990, when I wrote a book called "The Singapore Armed Forces: Fighting Fit", I had a team of six research personnel feeding me with information and interview materials I needed. There was also a very experienced lieutenant-colonel at hand to consult on military and technical matters. If he could not answer any query, he knew which expert to contact for the answers. I used a computer, a pile of notepads and many ring files to store and manage the masses of information, press and magazine clippings, interview transcripts, official records, photographs, etc. Did Moses have any of these aids and aides when he wrote the Torah? Perhaps he had aides, though there is no mention of them in the Holy Bible. As for aids like those I used, he certainly had none of them. Perhaps he referred to original records? But had a written script already been developed in the time of Adam, or even Noah? Archaeology does not support the existence of writing in the early days of Mankind. So how were all the names of the people and their ages mentioned in Genesis 5 passed down through many generations, to Moses?
Moses is silent on this. However, Genesis 1 appears to be an eyewitness account; did God show Moses a vision of how the universe was created? Or did God tell Moses his prophet what happened? God is known to have worked in both these ways, as in the vision to John and the times He recounted to the people of Israel how he brought the Israelites out of Egypt. The third possibility is that Moses relied on oral history. Many primitive communities are known to have had, and some still have, oral historians, each of whom memorised a big chunk of tribal, clan or family history and passed it down to other oral historians in the next generation. The oral historians therefore become "walking history books". It is amazing that they could remember so many things, in sequence. But equally amazing is the ability of concert musicians to remember tens of thousands of musical notes and chords and how to produce them in the right sequence, at the right time and with the right degree of loudness and feeling, when they perform in a concert. Stop to think of it more deeply. Do we not see that the One who made the brains of the oral historians, the musicians, the mathematical geniuses, and you and me, is far, far more amazing than His amazing creations?
The Great Psalmist, King David, put it beautifully when he sang, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my motherís womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:13, 14). Davidís use of the word "wonderfully" is understood easily enough, but why "fearfully"? Well, just as "wonderfully" conveys the sense of wonder when we think of our wonderful God, "fearfully" conveys the feeling of reverent fear and awe when we consider the creativity, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, skill and power of the wonderful God who made us able to move, breathe, think, feel, speak, recall information, and use all of these to conceive ideas and plans and then carry them out in creative ways, to build, create works of art or beautiful poetry or prose, new inventions, and so much more. Whew, thatís quite a list, isnít it? Yet it is only a very small part of all the abilities God gave us. When we also consider the millions of complex biochemical, medicinal and other molecules our cells automatically produce every day on demand, the mind boggles.
So, really, do we realize how well God has made us, and hold Him in the wonder and reverent fear that David did?
Mr Gordon Tan 2/10