I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. Ps 119:32
“If God spare my life ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.” [William Tyndale, responding to a clergyman who claimed that the Bible was to be read and interpreted only by the Church clergy.]
The cost of freedom is high. I never will forget the first time I saw a documentary on the Battle of the Bulge. It was won at a great cost to our troops. Surrounded by German forces, in the middle of winter and without relief, our soldiers hunkered down against a devastating counter attack led by the famed 6th German Panther Division. To see pictures of our men in fox holes covered with snow, in the midst of freezing winds, still fighting and dying, refusing to give up, was a very moving experience for me. How easy it is for us to forget and take for granted the awesome blessings that are ours because of the tremendous sacrifice that was paid by heroes who have gone before us. Fathers, sons and husbands froze to death on foreign fields and refused to give up at the cost of their lives, so we could enjoy our freedoms.
I thought of that this past week as I was exposed to the work of William Tyndale. He and a host of his friends were martyred by burning and strangling at the stake by the Church. They did one sin: They used a version of the Bible that had been translated into the vernacular of the common people. Incredible! Today we applaud such efforts, but then the Bible was written in Latin where only the members of the clergy could understand it and explain it. A common Bible was seen by the Church’s leaders as threat to her authority and her traditions. So, to possess, read, or teach from a Bible that was not Latin was declared to be heretical and punishable by death.
William Tyndale was an Oxford and Cambridge trained scholar. He defied Church authority and produced an English Bible that was translated directly from Greek and Hebrew texts. Biographer David Daniell describes the revolution that came about because of his bravery:
The energy which affected every human life in Northern Europe…was not the result of political imposition. It came from the discovery of the Word of God as originally written, from Matthew-indeed from Genesis-to Revelation in the language of the people. Moreover, it could be read and understood, with out censorship by the Church or mediation through the Church, as it was written to be read, as a coherent, cross referenced whole…Two supports of the Church’s wealth and power collapsed. Instead, there was simply individual faith in Christ as Savior, found in Scripture. That and only that ‘justified’ the sinner, whose root failings were now in the face of God, not the bishops or the pope. [William Tyndale: A Biography, p. 58].
Whenever the Word of God gets into the hands of ordinary men and women it transforms lives. Thank God for God’s Written Word. Thank God for those men who were willing to study, write, teach, suffer and die so that we might have God’s Truth in our minds and hearts. Let us not take lightly the freedom that is ours at the cost of these martyred men. Their love for the beauty of Jesus Christ and their commitment to the sufficiency of his Word gave them so much pleasure that they were willing to die so that we might share in their joy. Let us pray for that same delight. May God give us the hunger to devour ever divine morsel that comes from the mouth of God. Cherish the Bible. Seek and listen for God’s Voice. Memorize and meditate upon its truth. Obey and do its commands. And you will find the same freedom that the psalmist found: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Ps 119:32
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