"If there were nothing else in my life to prove the existence of an Almighty and Merciful God, the events of the next 24 hours did it." – Dwight D. Eisenhower, regarding auspicious weather on D-Day ("God and the Oval Office," John McCollister, 2005)
AN INTELLIGENT AND TALKATIVE lady found herself at dinner beside a bishop. Having a social gift, she knew that most men are flattered to be met in conversation on their own grounds, and so she started to talk about the Bible. "I can't pretend that I read it as much as I should," she confessed, "and really you know parts of it seem to me hopelessly out of date.
"Yet," she added broadmindedly, "I'll admit there are some very beautiful passages."
"Yes?" said the bishop. "For instance?"
"Well," she said, "for example the line about God 'tempering the wind to the shorn lamb.' And now you must tell me your favorite verse."
"It would be hard for me to pick a single verse," he said. "But I can give you my favorite passage: It is the one about Eliza crossing the ice."
The bishop was pulling her leg, of course, but she couldn't tell any more than she knew the source of 'God tempers the wind, said Maria, for the shorn lamb' (Laurence Sterne, 1713-1768). The Bible is "the book that nobody knows," according to Bruce Barton's book by that name. As he said: "How many read it? How many know what it really contains?"
Bruce Barton (1886-1967) was one of this country's first P.R. advisors to Presidents (Coolidge and Hoover). He was also a congressman and an author ("The Man Nobody Knows," etc.). I recently had the chance to look over his "The Book That Nobody Knows" because it was one of only 2 or 3 books from a friend's library that survived a house fire. The opening paragraphs above are from Barton's introduction. He listed four reasons for reading the Bible:
- The history of a people (and the development of civilization in general).
- Some of the greatest literature of all time.
- The best textbook on human nature (the Creator's operator's manual), and-
- The story of Jesus (including prophecies from ancient times).
In the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (2nd Ed., 1959) the Bible was given 30 pages of selected quotes, plus the Book of Common Prayer, more Biblical quotes, covered 13 pages, a total of 43. Not too shabby, but I wonder how many pages the Bible got in the 7th edition (2009)? Shakespeare always gets more pages, but the Lord's Book gets more pages than Bacon, Blackstone, Blake, Burke, and Bradford (you could do a column of quotes from English writers whose names start with B alone).
My only criticism of Barton is that he didn't devote much of his book to the prophecies in the Bible – the number one evidence for its authenticity and authority! For instance, I could elaborate on a few prophecies:
- The 19th Century:
"All nations shall call you blessed for you shall be a delightsome land . . Yet you say 'It is vain to serve God; what's the profit?'
"Then those who stood in awe of God SPOKE often to one another, and He heard it and hearkened… "
- the prophet Malachi (400 BC)
Along came the telegraph and the telephone, 2,500 years later.
- The 20th Century:
"Shut the book, Daniel, and seal it 'til the time of the end; many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased."
The nations call us blessed because of the Yankee ingenuity produced by our Freedoms, and now for the Internet.
- The 21st Century:
The prophet Nahum (700 BC) may have been the first human to "see" the automobile and a car crash (at least so it seems).
"The chariots shall rage in the streets; they shall jostle one against another in the [broad] freeways. They shall seem like torches and they shall run like the lightning."
Sometimes they crash because drivers are texting "one to another," fulfilling Malachi's prediction 2,600 years after he wrote it.
P.S. Speaking of the "great literature" the Bible contains, here's one of my favorite passages, from Jeremiah (600 BC):
John the apostle predicted two kinds of believers, the warm Philadelphians and the lukewarm Laodecians. If you're wondering which one you are, here's a check list:
- Have you read the Bible?
- Do you pray morning, noon, and night?
- Do you praise God seven times a day like David?
- Do you do anything to help the hungry or the homeless?
- Do you give any money for the actual preaching of the Word?
PPS: The Western World is going to be in deep doo-doo when people begin video-taping their own abortions and "sharing if" on the Internet, eh? Oh that's right – at least one woman has already done that! Happy New Year? Will it be a Psalm 23 year or a Jeremiah 5 year?© Curtis Dahlgren
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