What does your Bible look like? Is it dog-eared and tear-traced? Crisp with gold edges? Does it even matter?
I think yes … and no.
Charles Spurgeon said, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” But on the flip side, a tattered cover to our copy of Scripture could be a pharisaical “whitewashed tomb” if it hasn’t penetrated our souls.
And yet, there’s a legacy for well-used Bibles. My family and friends’ tangible Bibles have had a significant impact on my appetite for His Word over the years.
It began with Grandma.
“Mom, I think we should get Grandma a new Bible.”
Planted in a wooden pew next to my grandma each Sunday, I had plenty of time to examine the cream-crinkled Bible in her lap. Clearly she needed to be gifted an upgrade to replace this vintage copy.
The Bible on my lap, on the other hand, lived in a cloth, zip-up cover, as was popular when I was a kid. Plenty of pockets for your Chapstick, pencils, and all the Sunday School papers. Sometimes my Bible stayed in the car throughout the week, but I did like to study its pictures during the sermon and win sword drills.
“You think Grandma needs a new Bible?” my mom answered my statement. “Well…sometimes a Bible is very special to someone, and they don’t want a new one.”
Wait, what? It was desirable to have a wrinkled Bible? Of course it was! Why hadn’t I thought of that myself?
The next Sunday I settled into the family front pew and unzipped my Bible. I smoothed the pages. Then I ruffled them a bit. Bent the cover back a little. Hopefully no one was disturbed by the rustling pages.
Did my Bible look like Grandma’s yet? It never occurred to me that this shortcut was missing the blessing of being in God’s Word.
Have you ever wanted your Bible to look like someone else’s?
My next phase came a few years later, inspired by Love Comes Softly I suppose. On my Christmas list I wrote: BLACK Bible. What could be more holy and unmistakably the unsheathed Word of God than a black Bible, to take with me on our weekly nursing home visits?
But what shows up well on a dark cover is … DUST. Every time I used my sleeve to clear away the thin layer of dust I felt a little ashamed. I had accepted Christ as my Savior, but I hadn’t made His commandments mine yet.
On a Wednesday night in April my teacher talked about spiritual disciplines with me and other young ladies in my church. My notebook gave space for a commitment to read Scripture every day for a year. I decided to sign the line and never looked back.
Even if it was at the very end of the day, I manage to squeeze in a chapter a day that year. I highlighted verses that I understood and meant something to me, but there were numerous chapters I didn’t glean anything from. I noticed my friend Jana’s Bible had verses in Deuteronomy marked up. Deuteronomy of all places. This impressed me. My spirit hungered to know God’s Word as she did.
Jana encouraged me to keep reading, and I would understand more as I grew older. I believed her; it was the glimmer of hope I needed to keep trudging through irrelevant (or so I thought) words to Pharisees.
I’ve sown the seeds of time in the Word — deep, rich truths which my initial read through the New Testament stamped on my young heart. All the lime green highlighter marks brought me familiarity and joy because I had dug this gold for the first time, and His Spirit illuminated it, making me know the Author personally.
Now my black Bible was truly a treasure. I romanticized the idea of being like my fictional heroine:
“(Millie) had been in the habit of reading her Bible at least once a day since she had become a Christian two years before. Papa had knelt with her when she prayed to accept Jesus as her Lord, and then he had given her his own Bible… Millie had carried the book with her not only to church and to school but up trees and under hedges — all of her favorite reading places.” (Millie’s Unsettled Season)
“The pages had been stained with tears, shaken with laughter, and endured at least one cup of hot chocolate spilt in the book of Lamentations, but Millie’s fingers knew each and every book, and many verses, by feel.”Millie’s Remarkable Journey
I’m not sure about you, but I haven’t spilled hot chocolate on the book of Lamentations yet. But I do want my Bible to be something I bring with me throughout the day, returning to it for delight, comfort, and pruning.
Sand and Sentiment
The next Bible in my possession was a tan, leather, patterned NASB with my name loud and proud in gold letters on the front.
Here I fell deeper in love with my Savior and learned to inductively study Scripture. The pages held more memories, tear drops, and inky colors. My campers would stare at it in wonder. One little girl grabbed a pen and added a note to my Bible herself.
I decided I would use this specific Book until I got married when my maiden name wouldn’t apply anymore.
(Don’t be like me. It makes it really dramatic when sand gets in the binding, and it starts to come apart but you have to press on. It makes it more dramatic still when you spill a water bottle on it in your camping tent, and it gets moldy, and you’re still not married but you have to get a new Bible.)
Next I owned a lovely deep red Bible (with no name on it) for about a year before my special friend/future husband bought me a note-taking Bible for Christmas!
Though still starkly blank on many of the margins, this revives me daily, and I look forward to gaining traction in its pages. To know Him more deeply.
“I will never forget Your precepts,Psalm 119:93
For by them You have revived me.”
In Psalm 119 the writer recalls His love for God’s Word and the instances he’s been established by His commandments. It’s beautiful when your memories become all tangled up with God’s Word.
Appetites and Legacies
“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” I love this quote by Spurgeon because the heart behind it is true.
“Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.”Psalm 119:65
However, appearances aren’t the goal.
I heard this once: Don’t go through the Word — let the Word go through you.
We are all prone to be like the gullible women in 2 Timothy 3:7, “always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.”
The reminder and vision I hope to cast for us today:
1. LET’S GROW OUR APPETITES FOR GOD’S WORDS
As I learned, to grow an appetite for His Word you just have to study it daily and pray “open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.” (Psalm 119:18) Beg God to give you a hunger for it. Read Psalm 119 to gain understanding.
And if it helps you to use a color-coded highlighting system, three separate Bibles, an app, notes in a separate notebook or to carry a beloved pocket New Testament wherever you go or to not underline anything — then do that! But remember, you can always get a new Bible if you need one.
“Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine” (Psalm 119:98). Know that they are yours. May His Word dwell richly in our hearts.
2. WE WILL LEAVE A LEGACY
“May those who fear You see me and be glad, because I wait for Your word.”Psalm 119:74
Perhaps your Bible will raise questions in kids’ minds. Or someone might be intrigued that your Bible opens readily to Ezekiel. They may think twice about a colorfully marked page when they thought the Bible was dry and boring. Your co-workers might wonder why your Bible is on your dashboard.
But ultimately, people will notice your actions most and this will be the most telling to how you spend time with Him. Our lives are always teaching others how we interact with the greatest treasure of God’s Words.
We COULD manually ruffle the pages to make a prideful Instagram post. But wouldn’t it be better if we challenged a young person we know to commit to reading God’s Word for a year? Encourage them when the going gets tough to keep reading? Exemplify opening it consistently? Pattern that you can read it while drinking hot chocolate or by flashlight in a camping tent?
We have a mission to magnify His Words, and the baffled world is watching! May our appetites be enlarged for God’s Word and may legacies for Christ abound.