One of the great joys of Bible translation work is the translators’ first-hand experience of being part of bringing God, through His Word, to their own people and seeing Him change lives. Time and time again, we hear how moved people are that God would actually come to them and bring them His word in their heart languages so they can see, experience and know God personally. When someone is called by God to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit creates a thirst and hunger within them to know Him more and to seek Him out in His Word. They start to want to feed deeply on the Bread of Life. Some may ask if it is enough to learn about God in the New Testament, and leave out the Old Testament. But if, for a moment, we take a step back (like when you want to take in a panoramic view of a canyon), and appreciate the Bible as a whole – we will see that the entire Word of God is vitally important for the sustenance of every believer.
The Bible is an unparalleled narrative of a great rescue with an exquisite introduction, a heartbreaking middle, and a perfect ending. One God, one human race who was lost, and then found, the details given by the very breath of God in one book. There is one overarching, life-changing story being told from Genesis 1:1, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ – to Revelation 22:21, ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.’
So, could we take just the second part of this great book and ignore the first part? Considering how many thousands of people groups desperately need the Bible in their heart languages, wouldn’t it be expedient to train and equip local nationals to only translate the New Testament? These questions cause us to take a closer look at what having the whole Bible means, not just for us but for all God’s children where we do translation work. It causes us to realize that this living Word of God is the most important treasure we will ever have.
If someone was to offer you a fully-grown fruit tree to plant in your garden, and they delivered the tree to you cut off from its roots with just the trunk, branches, leaves and fruit on it – would that make any sense to you? Of course not! Consider how annoying it would be if you bought a book and found it only contains the last chapter? Or if you went to a stand-up comedy evening and the comedian just delivered the punchlines. It makes perfect sense to us that this makes no perfect sense at all!
We understand that the deeper the roots the more firmly anchored the tree is able to withstand the storms, reach more water and extract more nutrients from the ground. In the Middle East in a country called Oman, on the top of a mountain called Jabal Akhdar is a breathtaking array of some of the world’s oldest trees. When you stand in the cool mountain air, you can smell the soft aroma of the 3000-year-old juniper and olive trees. As you walk across the sandy and rocky terrain you can see the roots of these trees stretching in and out of the ground for hundreds of meters like dolphins diving in the sea. What a wonder! A tree that can live for 3000 years – in a desert region! The roots are everything to the life of the tree. The trunk and the branches, the leaves and the fruit all grow because of the foundation of the root system.
And so it is with our Bible – our story as the people of God. He has given us these deep, far-reaching roots in our history – grown deeply in the Old Testament and matured into the fruit of the Spirit in the New Testament. The books contained in the Old Testament nourish us, stabilize us and anchor us in the knowledge of the unchanging nature of the great ‘I AM.’ These roots feed us with the food of heaven as we come to understand God’s holiness, His tender mercies, His heartbreak over His children, His extravagant love, His powerful and perfect justice, His unbreakable covenant with His people, His promises to redeem us. If we only feasted on the New Testament we would have no context to understand everything that led to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Without the Old Testament law which introduces us to a perfect and holy God, we could not grasp the depth and breadth of His great love for us in Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. The law drives us to the end of ourselves as it pronounces final judgement on us because we cannot keep it. And then, at the end of the law, when the law has given its final verdict – there stands CHRIST, to give us salvation that was not available through the law. The whole Bible is the Gospel. For all God’s children everywhere in all times – this is our story, these are our roots, and from them we grow in our love and understanding of our Father in heaven.
This passion is shared by all of us as we participate in bringing God’s whole Word to every language group who does not yet have it. The body of Christ working together in all our different parts – some giving financially, some training, some translating, some leading. What is your part in continuing to take God’s Word for the world to the world?