I’ve always loved reading Dad’s account of the day that God “started me on my new experience in Bible study and my teaching career.” Perhaps you’d like to know it as well. It’s the Introduction in Journey of the Bible, one of the 24 books contained in the Logos.com Irving L. Jensen Collection (digital format).
It was a mild spring day, and I had just arrived home from high school. Mom was in the kitchen when the doorbell rang. I was nearest the door, so I went to answer. I didn’t know that the next minutes were to begin a new period in my life centered around the book that had already become my favorite possession–the Bible.
Mom and Pop had always put the Bible first in our home. What precious memories we six children have had of them–Pa reading the Bible at family devotions, and dear Mom working her hardest to get the whole flock off to Sunday school on time.
It was Depression time in America after the Wall Street crash, so we didn’t have many material possessions. Each of us had his own copy of the Bible–but didn’t everyone in church own a Bible? In our home all of us believed that the Bible was God’s holy Word, teaching the gospel message of salvation by faith in Christ. But when I think about those days now, I don’t recall ever getting excited or enthused about what the printed pages of the Bible looked like. I saw only sameness, tameness, and lameness.
Some of our public school textbooks had very attractive pages. But most Bibles I had seen looked the same: each page had two columns of plain, printed text, with small numbers to indicate new chapters and verses. Some Bibles had headings at the top of each page or at the beginning of each chapter. But that was it. There were no blank spaces to encourage the recording of notes, and there were no outlines or other helps. Even attention words like “Behold” got lost in the sameness of the printed lines. I loved the Bible, and as a young teenager had memorized hundreds of verses, but the “blah” appearance of the printed text didn’t excite me or start me off on a Bible study safari.
That’s where I was when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and saw a man holding a large, thick book in his hand. He said he was selling a new edition of the Bible that would help people read and study God’s Book. I was all ears and eyes–after all, the Bible was my favorite book. As he turned the pages, I could not believe what I was seeing–printed pages that seemed to talk and invite me to spend a lot of time with them. Each page had four columns divided by three vertical lines. The outer columns surrounded the Bible text, and in those columns were study helps, such as lists of key words with numbers attached, references to related verses, clear outlines, and many blank spaces. The salesman also showed me the three-hundred-plus pages of helps at the end of the volume, but I was mainly attracted to the unusual format of the Bible text. This was what I wanted.
When he quoted the down-payment price, I didn’t hesitate emptying my “piggy bank.” I was so excited I didn’t even check with Mom about what I was doing. She knew I had a little coin bank on my dresser, but she didn’t know how much was in it. In fact, neither did I. Today I can’t recall how, as a teenager, I was able to save money during the Depression–even that was surely a part of God’s plan to start me on my new experience in Bible study and my teaching career.
The day the post office delivered my new Bible was a milestone in my life. The Bible had come a long way on its journey, and now a copy of a brand new study Bible was in my hands. From that day on, Bible study would always be exciting and fun, as well as instructive. Today, the soiled and torn pages of the rebound copy remind me of the many hours I spent as a teenager studying the text in my bedroom. I have often thought of the salesman whom God sent to our house to start me on my way to a ministry centered on His Word. I wish I could thank that man for walking the streets of Staten Island in the middle of the Depression, and ringing the doorbell of a small, plain house on Fiske Avenue.
The phrase that struck me the other day while reading this again was ‘start me off on a Bible study safari.’ What a great image! Even if you’ve never experienced a safari in person, no doubt you’ve seen photos and read about them. Imagine setting off on a journey of discovery in the wild areas of Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, or South Africa. You’re not sure what to expect, but you know you’ll make exciting discoveries that will live long in your memories.
That’s why we’re calling our 3-day weekend workshops and week-long workshop/vacations “Inductive Safaris.” They are designed to start you on an exciting journey into inductive Bible study full of great discoveries as you go deeper and deeper into the wild world of God’s Word. I can’t wait for our first one in 2017!