Years ago, my family and I had visited with another local congregation in the town where we were living. The sermon was good, as far as I can remember, but after the sermon there was a memorable moment. I cannot remember the invitation song being sung by the congregation, but about half way through the song, as the congregation had moved from the second verse to the chorus, I saw it go up in the air. If you’re thinking I saw hands pop up in the air, you’d only be half right. This wasn’t a congregational effort to obey 1 Timothy 2.8, where men are told that they should “lift up holy hands to the Lord.” If that’s what it was, I’d have no problem and wouldn’t be writing an article about it.
No sir! What I saw was the Bible being lifted up in the air. The preacher, standing in front of the congregation waiting to welcome those who have “come on down” to the front, had lifted up the Bible high in the air, as a beacon of light, a lighthouse guiding sinners to the front of the auditorium. He looked forward at the congregation, singing our same invitation song, while waving a Bible above his head. It was reminiscent of Rafiki lifting up Simba in The Lion King as a display to all.
I’d never seen this before. I was dumbfounded when I saw it. I knew the preacher and his background, so I did some investigation and found that it was an old timey practice to “exalt” the Bible, literally, before the congregation. It’s a practice commonly performed by Billy Graham during the altar call at the end of his sermons. Greg Laurie is known to do this, as ask his congregants to join him, as a way of “showing support to the Scriptures.” It’s an Old School way to teach the importance of Scripture.
In some cases though, this can go too far. Scriptures are important. They are glorious. They are the power to salvation, the message of sinners, and the tools to help us become completely adequate in our service (cf. Romans 1.16; 1 Timothy 1.8-11; 2 Timothy 3.16-17). The Scriptures are clearly important.
But they are not God. They are the words of God. Important, but not worthy of exaltation and veneration. They are to be held in high esteem, but not as the recipient of our worship. The Bible can become our idol, and instead of instead of aiding us in our walk with Him, it interferes with our relationship with God. We can get so focused on studying that we forget about application. We can get so focused on learning that we forget about teaching. We can get so focused on knowledge that we forget about wisdom.
We have not been tasked with exalting the Word of God. Instead, we are to use it as our guide, our tool, our road map to help us go where we need to go. No one gets ready to go on a great family road trip, pulls out the map, and then settles in because they find the map itself so interesting that they forget about the trip. The map is only a map. It helps them see the things they came to see. It helps them get to where they are trying to go. The Bible is not the destination, it helps us get to our destination. It helps us get to the house of our God.