Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Proverbs 27:7 Are we truly hungry?

One who is full loathes honey from the comb,
    but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.


On the surface, this proverb seems to be talking about food, and hunger. But as I read it and thought about it, I came to believe that I needed to take away more than a surface explanation . . .

Are you hungry for God's word? Or do you feel like you are full, that you've had enough, that it's not urgent to read more? Are you eager to open your Bible each day?

Years ago, I heard the story of Captain James E. Ray and other prisoners of war in North Viet Nam. Ray's plane was shot down in 1966, and he was not released until 1973. He told a story that I've remembered ever since.

One night in the dark of his cell, after being tortured and shoved back inside, he thought he heard a whisper. Then he heard it again -- it was the man in the next cell. They began having whispered conversations each night, careful to pause whenever the guard walked past. Other men in adjacent cells joined in, and the information shared would be quietly, carefully passed from one to another. Their conversations ranged from "where are you from?" to "got any kids?" and "did you go to church at home?" 

They began sharing Bible verses that they could remember -- often when one man's memory of a verse was incomplete, another man could finish it. They memorized the verses, hungry for the comfort and encouragement that they brought. Some would tap verses in Morse code, and the hearers would scratch the verses onto the concrete floors of their cells. Weakened by their poor diet, they would painstakingly create "ink" from brick dust and water, and carefully write verses on bits of toilet paper, leaving them behind a loose brick for the next man to find. Discovery would have meant more and harder tortures.

In late 1970, the commander allowed them to have one hour each week to copy verses from a small Bible. He would hamper their efforts by resting his elbow on the Word, and then again by distracting them from their work, by asking them questions. After five weeks, the Bible was not seen again, but by that time, the men had copied and then memorized the Sermon on the Mount, Romans 12, I Corinthians 13, and many of the Psalms. Now they had a "living Bible" in the men of the camp.

Ray said, "We learned to rise above our surroundings, to overcome the material with the spiritual. Instead of going mad or becoming animals, we continued to grow as a community of men, sustaining one another in compassion and understanding. For as one of the verses that I heard thumped out on the wall one night said, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. (Deut.8:3) His word became our rock."  (from the Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 7, 1974)

Will you join with me in renewed determination to get into the Bible, and to be hungry for what it tells us? Even the "bitter" (verses that convict us of our sin) will be sweet to us, if we are truly determined. The Psalmist said, "How sweet are your words to my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  (Ps. 119:103)  
Where is that box of bandaids for my toes?

2 comments:

Belinda said...

What a story!! I am opening a new box of bandaids and I'll share with you...

I'm trying to read the new testament, chapter by chapter at night, but I have to woefully admit that I sometimes skip nights. :/

CATachresis said...

Amazing story! I think if I did not have so many Bibles available to me, I would value the Word so much more! That is a bit of a confession :( Thank you for that x