The Symbols of the Bible

The Symbols of the Bible

Leslie S. Rainey

This article is a chapter from a book recently published particularly for national Christians by the author who is a missionary in Lusaka, Zambia, Central Africa.

Its Individuality

The Bible is unique for its universality as well as its individuality. One of the wonders of time is the marvellous way in which it was formulated, compiled and completed.

Reaching over a period of 1600 years, written by various people and in a variety of places, it comprises 66 books, yet One Book.

“Whence but from Heaven, could men unskilled in arts,
In several ages born, in several parts,
Weave such agreeing truths? or how, or why,
Should all conspire to cheat us with a lie.”

There is no Book so personal for it is the message of God’s heart to the heart of man.

Its Indestructibility

For years it has been the anvil on which the hammers of the enemy have been worn out. Though the object of Satanic hatred in all ages it still stands in solitary majesty, “The Everlasting Word.” Eighteen centuries have passed since the Word of God was completed. During these years change after change has taken place, but the Bible is still the same, yesterday today and forever, “settled in Heaven.” Even today, after copyings almost innumerable and after being tossed about through ages of ignorance and tumult, the text of Holy Writ is found to be unaltered and unchanged as to every important doctrine. Well can we respond to the language of Isaiah, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the Word of our God shall stand forever.”

Its Incomparability

The Bible is not to be placed on the same plain as the great works of literature. The God-Breathed-Book is alone and aloof in the dignity of inspiration. (a) Its Scope. It reaches the frontiers a civilization and its voice is heard throughout the ends of the earth. It is read by the poet and the philosopher, the statesman and the servant, the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant and accessible to the hand and heart of man the world over. (b) Its Sale. It is the most popular book on the shelf, counter or library. The greatest seller of all and will be as long as time shall continue.

Its Symbols

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible speaks for itself and does not require the seal of man. There are many figures of the Word of God and below are listed a number for our profit and study:

    1. The Bible is an Adjuster (2 Timothy 3:16).

    2. The Bible is a Builder (Acts 20:32, Jude 20).

    3. The Bible is a Comforter (Romans 15:4).

    4. The Bible is a Fire (Jer. 23:29, c.f. Jer. 20:9).

    5. The Bible is a Hammer (Jer. 23:9, c.f. John 16:7-11).

    6. The Bible is a Lamp (Ps. 119:105, 2 Peter 1:19).

    7. The Bible is a Light (Ps. 119:105).

    8. The Bible is the Word of Life (Phil. 2:16, Heb. 4:12, 1 Peter 1:23-25).

    9. The Bible is Milk (Heb. 5:12; 1 Peter 2:2).

    10. The Bible is Meat (Heb. 5:12).

    11. The Bible is a Mirror (James 1:25, 2 Cor. 3:18).

    12. The Bible is Seed (Luke 8:11; 1 Peter 1:23).

    13. The Bible is a Sword (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12).

    14. The Bible is Water (Eph. 5:25; 1 John 15:3; John 17:17).

In these various symbols we have a fullness to meet our every need from Guilt to Glory or from the city of Destruction to the City of God.

    1. The Word of God as an Adjuster equips us for salvation, sanctification and service. “It is different from any other book in that it suits all times and circumstances, adapting itself to youth, to maturity, and to old age, being the comfort in affliction, the guide in darkness, the joy in adversity, and the companion in prosperity.”

    2. The Word of God as a Lamp for our feet and Light for our path reveals to us where to go, and where not to go. Many commentators have pointed out that the feeble lanterns which men carry throw a circle around their feet and illumine the distance of a single step; nevertheless, that is all that is needed for walking in darkness. A man who is walking on a mountain path need not see the bottom of every canyon or the summit of every peak. If he can see where he is to take his next step, he will find the way home. This is what the Bible does for God’s people.

    3. The Word of God as a Fire consumes, comforts and confirms. A fire keeps warm in this cold and complex world and at the same time burns out the dross so easily absorbed by the Lord’s own people.

    4. The Word of God is like a Hammer that breaks and builds. In Jeremiah God is speaking to false prophets who prophesy in the name of the Lord, but do not prophesy what the Lord wants His people to know. God says that He hates false preaching, and tells His people that His word like a fire and hammer will burn and break all who speak contrary to Him. His Word will be the standard of judgment. The Word of God first convicts us, then breaks us up, and finally builds us up in our most holy faith.

    5. The Word of God as a Sword is to be used by us to defend ourselves against the triple foe of the believer. It pierces, protects and is powerful in the conflict of the Christian. The Lord met the attack of the enemy with the flashing sword, “It is written …” The same weapon is ours to wield, and enables us to carry the battle into the camp of the Evil One (Eph. 6:4).

    6. The Word of God describes itself as a diet for digestion, development and discretion. As honey it speaks of sweetness and satisfaction. As water it cleanses and consecrates from all defilement. As milk and meat it develops and determines growth and godliness. When we come to Christ, we need simple teaching — the milk. But after we acquire assurance, we must study the great truths of the Scriptures in order to attain to the stature of the fulness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). As newborn babes we long for the pure, personal milk (1 Peter 2:2), but we must grow up to the solid food in order to be spiritually strong (Heb. 5:12).

    7. The Word of God as a Mirror shows us what we are, and what we ought to be. No doubt this is the reason why the Bible is the most hated Book in the world as well as the most loved. This reminds me of a cartoon of an overweight woman carrying the bathroom scales to the attic where they could be out of sight, as well as an African who, viewing himself for the first time in a mirror promptly smashed it into a hundred pieces. Removing the scales or breaking the mirror does not remove a single wrinkle, or improve the countenance. The mirror of the Word of God shows every man his inward being. Happy the man who can say: “I have seen myself in the Mirror of the Word of God. I recognize that the horrid image is myself as God sees me. I have accepted God’s invitation to turn from the mirror to the fountain of Calvary where Christ has provided full and free cleansing for me.” The wonderful thing about the mirror is that if we thus turn to Christ, when we turn back to the mirror, we discover that we have been made like Christ and that one day we shall awake to be in His likeness forever.

Adjuster, light, lamp, fire, hammer, sword, diet, milk, meat, scalpel, seed, fine gold, critic! What an amazing Book! Surely it is the Wonderful Word of the Living God! “It is written …” is our life and authority. Years ago William Kelly wrote, “As the end draws near, we do greatly need simplicity to rest upon God’s Word. It is only in the Bible we have the only divine revelation of the heart and mind of God to a rebel race.”

An appreciation of the Bible, by S. Chadwick: “I have worked at the Bible, prayed over the Bible, lived by the Bible for more than sixty years, and I tell you there is no book like the Bible. It is a miracle of literature, a perennial spring of wisdom, a wonder book of surprises, a revelation of mystery, an infallible guide of conduct, and an unspeakable source of comfort. Give no heed to people that discredit it, for they speak without knowledge. It is the Word of God in the inspired speech of humanity. Read it for yourself. Read it through. Study it according to its own directions. Live by its principles. Believe its message. Follow its precepts. “No man is uneducated who knows the Bible, and no man is wise who is ignorant of its teaching. Every day is begun at its open page. It lies close at hand in all my work. I never go anywhere without it and it is my chief joy.”

I am pleading, therefore, for a return to a painstaking study of the Bible, that is, to put into the study of the Bible the same concentration and work as we must put into our science text-book or our language primer. It means hard work. Bible study is study, as Archbishop Trench wrote: “Holy Scripture is not a book for the slothful. It is a field, rather, upon the surface of which, sometimes we gather manna easily and without labour, giving as it were, freely to our hands; yet of which many portions are to be cultivated with pains and toil, ere they yield food for the service of man.”