It was on this day in the year 1240 that copies of the Talmud possessed by the Jews of France were confiscated by the Church and ultimately destroyed by fire. Book burning seems to have been a popular past time in Europe throughout the ages. We say that because, as we know from recent history, Hitler and the Nazis employed this tactic to stamp out contesting views and anything that undermined their Aryan worldview. Apparently, there were those in the medieval church who shared, to some extent, this same view.
Burning people’s books might deprive them of their literature, but it doesn’t necessarily deprive them of what’s in their heart. Case in point, the Jews who forced into the death camps and gas chambers of Nazi Germany didn’t have written literature with them but many went to their deaths reciting the Shema. Books are one thing, but what dwells in a man’s heart is quite another. Therefore it is incredibly important that, as believers, we make sure that our hearts are filled with what is pure, true and holy. More specifically, it’s vital that the Word of God be hidden in our hearts, as the Psalmist says, “that we might not sin against Him.”
Most everyone today, at least in western cultures, has access to a Bible. Meaning, that we can pick it up and read it anytime we think we need it. So why should we hide it in our heart? Beyond what the Psalmist says, it seems any time a tyrant comes to power and wishes to eradicate an opposing view, they will focus on the information they receive, including the literature they hold dear. If we were to see, or were our children to see, a tyrant arise in our nation, might they follow Hitler’s example and attempt to eradicate our sacred literature, and by that I mean the written Word of God. Its feasible that such a person could successfully outlaw the Word and try to remove it from the bookshelves but could they truly remove it from our culture? Not if we have hidden His Word in our hearts!
Some would say that for America and other western nations that just sounds too far-fetched. If someone had suggested such a scenario thirty or forty years ago, I might be inclined to agree, but not anymore. In some ways, it’s already happening; culture already wants it removed from the public square. As a society, we are already banning its principles from our public lives and so it seems, its only a matter of time before some will attempt to remove it from the bookshelves and the pulpit. To underscore the point, consider that the Messiah said:
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:9-14)
His description of the last days strongly suggests the need to hide His Word in our hearts lest we don’t have a printed Bible to look to in times of trouble. In John’s Gospel, Messiah said this:
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:19-21)
There you have it. The world will persecute those who are His and who’s to say that the persecution won’t include banning the Bible – maybe even burning anything that offends their Godless mindset? For the record, I’m not suggesting that burning copies of the Talmud or any other apocryphal work is comparable to burning the Scriptures. No, the Word of God stands alone. I am suggesting that it’s possible that possessing a Bible might, one day, be considered unlawful. That’s just another reason why it is wise to hide His Word within our heart.