Returning from Exile

Years after returning from exile in Babylon, the people of Israel, in 445 B. C., asked the prophet Ezra to bring out the Holy Scriptures and read them aloud. Ezra did this, reading to those who gathered in the public square, from daybreak to noon. They listened attentively. The Levites taught the people, expounding on what was being read. And the people wept as they heard God's Word. Then they were told to spread the Word through their towns and in Jerusalem. And their joy was great! Many would say that the American people have been in exile for the last forty years, dangerously out of contact with the Word of God. But it wasn't always this way. Reading the Bible at the dinner table or reciting Bible verses was once a regular activity at the evening meal. Sadly, that's no longer the case in most homes. Reading Bible stories to children at bedtime is also less common. Parents today say they're "too busy." Many churches have fallen away from teaching the Scripture. The outstanding Sunday School programs that were so common back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, were decimated in the 1960s. Denominational programs dried up, Christian education budgets were reduced by as much as 90 percent in some places, and Sunday school programs -- like everything else -- were watered down. But there is a way back from this forty-year exile, just as there was for the Israelites of old. We can reclaim our biblical heritage in our homes and our churches. We do it when we begin to read and learn from the Bible, just as they did in Ezra's time, rejoicing in its wisdom. Now I realize that most of you listening are regular Bible readers, but maybe your neighbors are not. And you're wondering how to get them involved. Well, here are some practical ways. The National Bible Association has prepared an excellent daily planner, with six different lesson plans for daily Bible reading. It has a plan for individuals and groups, and includes liturgical readings as well as daily readings from the Psalms and Proverbs. For those on the Internet, you can access the daily Bible e-mail, containing from four to twenty Bible verses in several different translations. And you can begin each day with an inspirational reading. To order the daily planner or the daily Bible e-mail, write to the National Bible Association at: 1865 Broadway, New York, New York 10023; or visit their website: . This is a great way to send a love note to your children and grandchildren, or other family members, every day of the year. And there's more that you can do. You can ask your pastor to talk about National Bible Week and to highlight Bible reading not just in his sermons but in classes throughout the church. And you can speak to the principal or teachers in your local school -- because reading the Bible is constitutional. As America observes National Bible Week during this week of Thanksgiving, let's remember to give thanks to God for all our blessings and, most particularly, for the special blessing of God's Word revealed to us in the Bible. Just think what could happen if the American people got into the habit of reading God's Word every day. It would transform lives, certainly; and, in turn, it could change this world.


Chuck Colson


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