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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What does the Bible Really Teach?

CAN you recall a time when you received a fine gift from a dear friend? Likely, the experience was not only exciting but also heartwarming. After all, a gift tells you something about the giver—that he or she values your friendship. No doubt you expressed gratitude for your friend’s thoughtful gift.

2 The Bible is a gift from God, one for which we can be truly grateful. This unique book reveals things that we could never find out otherwise. For example, it tells us about the creation of the starry heavens, the earth, and the first man and woman. The Bible contains reliable principles to help us cope with life’s problems and anxieties. It explains how God will fulfill his purpose and bring about better conditions on the earth. What an exciting gift the Bible is!

3 The Bible is also a heartwarming gift, for it reveals something about the Giver, Jehovah God. The fact that he has provided such a book is proof that he wants us to get to know him well. Indeed, the Bible can help you to draw close to Jehovah.

4 If you have a copy of the Bible, you are far from alone. In whole or in part, the Bible has been published in more than 2,300 languages and thus is available to more than 90 percent of the world’s population. On the average, more than a million Bibles are distributed each week! Billions of copies of either the whole Bible or part of it have been produced. Surely, there is no other book like the Bible.

5 Furthermore, the Bible “is inspired of God.” (2 Timothy 3:16) In what way? The Bible itself answers: “Men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21) To illustrate: A businessman might have a secretary write a letter. That letter contains the businessman’s thoughts and instructions. Hence, it is really his letter, not the secretary’s. In a similar way, the Bible contains God’s message, not that of the men who wrote it down. Thus, the entire Bible truthfully is “the word of God.”—1 Thessalonians 2:13.

6 The Bible was written over a 1,600-year period. Its writers lived at different times and came from many walks of life. Some were farmers, fishermen, and shepherds. Others were prophets, judges, and kings. The Gospel writer Luke was a doctor. Despite the varied backgrounds of its writers, the Bible is harmonious from beginning to end.*

7 The first book of the Bible tells us how mankind’s problems began. The last book shows that the whole earth will become a paradise, or garden. All the material in the Bible covers thousands of years of history and relates in some way to the unfolding of God’s purpose. The harmony of the Bible is impressive, but that is what we would expect of a book from God.

8 The Bible is scientifically accurate. It even contains information that was far ahead of its time. For example, the book of Leviticus contained laws for ancient Israel on quarantine and hygiene when surrounding nations knew nothing about such matters. At a time when there were wrong ideas about the shape of the earth, the Bible referred to it as a circle, or sphere. (Isaiah 40:22) The Bible accurately said that the earth ‘hangs on nothing.’ (Job 26:7) Of course, the Bible is not a science textbook. But when it touches on scientific matters, it is accurate. Is this not what we would expect of a book from God?

9 The Bible is also historically accurate and reliable. Its accounts are specific. They include not only the names but also the ancestry of individuals.# In contrast to secular historians, who often do not mention the defeats of their own people, Bible writers were honest, even recording their own failings and those of their nation. In the Bible book of Numbers, for instance, the writer Moses admits his own serious error for which he was severely reproved. (Numbers 20:2-12) Such honesty is rare in other historical accounts but is found in the Bible because it is a book from God.

10 Because the Bible is inspired of God, it is “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Yes, the Bible is a practical book. It reflects a keen understanding of human nature. No wonder, for its Author, Jehovah God, is the Creator! He understands our thinking and emotions better than we do. Furthermore, Jehovah knows what we need in order to be happy. He also knows what pathways we should avoid.

11 Consider Jesus’ speech called the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew chapters 5 to 7. In this masterpiece of teaching, Jesus spoke on a number of topics, including the way to find true happiness, how to settle disputes, how to pray, and how to have the proper view of material things. Jesus’ words are just as powerful and practical today as they were when he spoke them.

12 Some Bible principles deal with family life, work habits, and relationships with others. The Bible’s principles apply to all people, and its counsel is always beneficial. The wisdom found in the Bible is summarized by God’s words through the prophet Isaiah: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself.”—Isaiah 48:17.

13 The Bible contains numerous prophecies, many of which have already been fulfilled. Consider an example. Through the prophet Isaiah, who lived in the eighth century B.C.E., Jehovah foretold that the city of Babylon would be destroyed. (Isaiah 13:19; 14:22, 23) Details were given to show just how this would happen. Invading armies would dry up Babylon’s river and march into the city without a battle. That is not all. Isaiah’s prophecy even named the king who would conquer Babylon—Cyrus.—Isaiah 44:27–45:2.

14 Some 200 years later—on the night of October 5/6, 539 B.C.E.—an army encamped near Babylon. Who was its commander? A Persian king named Cyrus. The stage was thus set for the fulfillment of an amazing prophecy. But would the army of Cyrus invade Babylon without a battle, as foretold?

15 The Babylonians were holding a festival that night and felt secure behind their massive city walls. Meanwhile, Cyrus cleverly diverted the water of the river that flowed through the city. Soon the water was shallow enough for his men to cross the riverbed and approach the walls of the city. But how would Cyrus’ army get past Babylon’s walls? For some reason, on that night the doors to the city were carelessly left open!

16 Regarding Babylon, it was foretold: “She will never be inhabited, nor will she reside for generation after generation. And there the Arab will not pitch his tent, and no shepherds will let their flocks lie down there.” (Isaiah 13:20) This prophecy did more than predict a city’s fall. It showed that Babylon would be desolated permanently. You can see evidence of the fulfillment of these words. The uninhabited site of ancient Babylon—about 50 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq—is proof that what Jehovah spoke through Isaiah has been fulfilled: “I will sweep her with the broom of annihilation.”—Isaiah 14:22, 23.%

17 Considering how the Bible is a book of reliable prophecy is faith strengthening, is it not? After all, if Jehovah God has fulfilled his past promises, we have every reason to be confident that he will also fulfill his promise of a paradise earth. (Numbers 23:19) Indeed, we have “hope of the everlasting life which God, who cannot lie, promised before times long lasting.”—Titus 1:2.^

18 From what we have considered in this chapter, it is clear that the Bible is truly a unique book. Yet, its value extends far beyond its internal harmony, scientific and historical accuracy, practical wisdom, and reliable prophecy. The Christian apostle Paul wrote: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12.

19 Reading God’s “word,” or message, in the Bible can change our life. It can help us to examine ourselves as never before. We may claim to love God, but how we react to what his inspired Word, the Bible, teaches will reveal our true thoughts, even the very intentions of the heart.

20 The Bible truly is a book from God. It is a book that is to be read, studied, and loved. Show your gratitude for this divine gift by continuing to peer into its contents. As you do so, you will gain a deep appreciation of God’s purpose for mankind. Just what that purpose is and how it will be realized will be discussed in the following chapter.

- Published by the WTB&TS,