Jump Start # 2446
Psalms 119:105 “Your word is a lamb to my feet and a light to my path.”
Last week marked an anniversary that is little remembered outside of those who love religious history. October 6th, is the anniversary of the death of William Tyndale, the English translator of the Bible. His death was violent, cruel and offensive. He was strangled and then burned at the stake. His crime was putting God’s word into the English language and making it available to the common man. It wasn’t the pagan infidels that executed Tyndale, but the powerful arm of the Catholic church. Tyndale’s work in translating the Bible was but one of many doors opening up to the reformation movement that changed Europe and eventually led to puritans fleeing to America and the establishment within our constitution of freedom of religion.
It is hard for us today, when we have Bibles by the dozens in our homes, on our phones, on tablets and in the song book racks at the church house, to imagine a time when people did not have the word of God. Worse, the powerful and corrupt church banned the citizens from having a copy of the Bible. Among the books that were forbidden and outlawed, was the Bible. The church controlled the message and the mind of the people. The less they knew, the more the church could get away with things. Corruption and power became the core ingredients among the hierarchy of the church. No one could question what they did because no one had access to the word of God. These powerful leaders became more than the voice of God, they in many ways acted as if they were God.
Men like Tyndale, who knew what they were doing was against the law and who could very well lose their lives, understood that the Gospel was to be preached to every person. Every man and woman had the right to know God’s saving message. Tyndale, Luther, Zwingli, Hus and a host of others, spread throughout Europe risked everything, including their very lives, to open the eyes and hearts of a darkened world to the wonderful word of God. These men were courageous. When caught, their writings were burned, they were abused and executed. The church tried to stamp out, much like Saul of Tarsus tried to stamp out Christianity, what these men were doing. But somehow, likely through the providence of God, their writings trickled through the cracks of the hands of opposition. A movement stated. Like a prairie wildfire it spread over the world. And, today, although we do not realize it, having Bibles in our hands and in our language is traced back to the early work of these courageous believers.
It’s hard for us to imagine sitting through sermons or Bible classes without a Bible in hand. It’s hard for us to imagine not being able to read God’s word each day. The word of God changes our lives. It brings hope to those who are fearful and discouraged. It convicts us and drives us to the cross of Jesus. It shows us the way that God intended. When we step away from God’s word and we start making our own ideas law we soon find that we have left the path of the Lord. It is sad to see so many churches today, filled with people who have no clue what the Bible says. In many ways we are just the opposite of those dark days of Tyndale. In his time people didn’t know because they didn’t have the Bible. Today, people don’t know because they don’t care to read God’s word. They are satisfied to let a church tell them what is right and what is wrong.
One lesson we ought to see in the life of Tyndale is the courage to stand up, take risks and do what is right. He loved the Lord more than his own life. He knew what could happen. Others had been executed before him. Yet, onward he marched in translating God’s word into the English language. He feared not man, church nor government. He stood with what was right. His spirit, similar to those apostles in Jerusalem who were told to no longer preach Jesus, continued to do that very thing.
Our times may call for such courage again. To not fear government, man, nor punishment. To stand for what is right. To do what is right. To not be silenced because it is not popular or politically correct. To walk with God’s faithful have always walked. Sometimes that put them in fiery furnaces, lion’s dens and in prisons, yet they did not stop doing what was right. Our souls are greater than our lives. God’s word is greater than us. When secular politicians make claims that churches will have to accept what they want, rather than what God wants or face the consequences, it’s time for us to stand up, and declare, bring on the consequences because we have drawn a line in the sand with God and it is with God that we stand.
Will Tyndale be in Heaven? That’s up to God. I’d like to think so, but I don’t know. A greater question is, will you be in Heaven? You have what Tyndale always dreamed of, having God’s word easily available in your language. Do you use it? Do you read it? Do you follow it?
A sad anniversary in religious history, but a grand accomplishment that we appreciate even today!