Recently two pronouns in Revelation 1:3 caught my attention. It says, “blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy…” In N.T. Greek verse 3 literally reads, “blessed the one reading and the ones hearing…”
Immediately a question popped into my mind. Why is there a singular pronoun for the one reading and a plural pronoun for the ones hearing? As I thought about it, I remembered that in the early church typically one person would read a portion of scripture while the rest would listen. Why was that? First of all, the literacy rate in the first century was pretty low. Very few people knew how to read. Secondly, people did not own a personal copy of the Bible to read. About the only exposure to the written Word of God was hearing it read in a local fellowship on Sunday.
The Gutenberg printing press was invented around 1455. Before the advent of the printing press, the only way to duplicate a document or book was to copy it by hand. In the Middle Ages, the work of copying the Scriptures began in earnest by monks living in monasteries. By the late Middle Ages, the production of both religious and secular literature was taken over by professional copyists. Booksellers placed shops near the universities and the book trade began to increase. However, most people in the Middle Ages were illiterate, and could not read the Bible for themselves. John Wycliffe believed that every Christian ought to study the Bible because “it is the whole truth!” Wycliffe inspired the first complete translation of the Scriptures into English.
For the first 1500 years of church history, the vast majority of Christians did not own a Bible. And even if they came across a copy of the Bible, most could not read it if they wanted to.
By comparison, we are privileged to live in a world where we take the ability to read and write for granted. For a Christian living today, owning a copy of the Bible is the norm rather than the exception. Not that long ago, it cost a year’s salary to actually own a complete copy of the Bible. We are certainly a privileged people.
I am reminded of a story about a pastor who had dinner at the home of a couple in his church. After he left, the wife said to the husband, “I think he stole our spoon!” This bothered her for a while. A year later the couple had the pastor for dinner again. Unable to resist, the wife asked, “Did you steal our spoon last year?” The pastor replied, “No, I put it inside your Bible.”
The vast majority of first century Christians could only receive the blessing of Revelation 1:3 by hearing someone else reading the words that John penned. Today we can read those words ourselves from a Bible that we actually own. That should be a challenge to us to make use of our privileges rather than take them for granted.
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Can You Sleep When the Wind Blows?
Years ago, a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals.
Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. “Are you a good farm hand?” the farmer asked him. “Well, I can sleep when the wind blows,” answered the little man.
Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man’s work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, “Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!” The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, “No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows.”
Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down.
Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.
Moral: When you’re prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm. We secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Word of God. We don’t need to understand, we just need to hold His hand to have peace in the middle of storms.