When someone says, “Read your Bible” of “The Bible says.” most of us have in mind a leather-bound volume containing the old and new testaments. For the younger crowd the term Bible may instead conjure up the app on their phone or tablet that allows them to read those words in hundreds of languages and choose from thousands of different translations. But in the days of Peter, James, Andrew and John that would not have been the case.
For starters, the apostles had only to the Old Testament. Secondly, they didn’t have copies just lying around the house as we do today. Their scriptures were As years went by they may have had a collection of some of the letters written either by rather a collection of various scrolls. One scroll would have contained the five books of Moses, another the prophets and yet another the Psalms. These were hand copied onto leather or papyrus and were so valuable that few people had personal access to them outside of the synagogues. Adding to the difficulty in learning the scriptures, imagine also that the apostles were common men, judged by the religious leaders of their day as “unlearned and ignorant men” Acts 4:13.
So with all of these difficulties how is it that Peter quoted from the prophet Joel and two of the Psalms of David? It doesn’t say, “He opened his scroll.” nor does Peter ask, “Would you please unroll your scroll to the place where David wrote…” No in fact the Apostles’ Bible was mostly recited from memory. Without Google, Bing or Youversion, Peter, Paul, Stephen and John each drew from the word of God which they had learned by heart. Have you ever considered that it could be one of the principle weaknesses of the 21st century church is a lack of the word of God? We have it in multiple copies in the foyers of our churches and lying around our living rooms. We may have several Bible studies started in the on-line Youversion app on our tablets and yet have we really treasured God’s word in our hearts?
Once when our children were small, they had the challenge at church to memorize the 23rd Psalm. So rather than sitting two energetic young boys down in the house I took them out into the back yard. There we played a game of catch with a baseball. “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,” I recited, then threw the ball to one of them. They had to say “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.” before they could throw it back. Wow it was astonishing to me how fast they picked up on the Psalm. The word of God had worked its way from the pages of a book into the natural rhythm of their life. Peter and Andrew probably learned most of their scriptures as they gathered with their families at dinner. Maybe they picked up a few more while standing on tip-toe on the Holy days watching the older men reading from the scrolls in the synagogue. Later on they listened carefully as John the Baptist preached and then sat at the feet of the Teacher of teachers Jesus Christ. Committing to memory the word of God, far from being a weird or legalistic practice can be a part of an amazing journey. Eternal words of life, verse by verse worked slowly into the fabric of our lives have the power to transform, heal, encourage and flow through us through thick and thin.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:103
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105
Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word. Psalm 119:114