Reading Romans has been a turning point for many Christians. It helped Martin Luther realize that we’re saved by grace through faith, sparking the Reformation. John Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed” when he read Luther’s comments on Romans, which triggered another revival. Modern theologians continue to be amazed by the book. N.T. Wright called it the Apostle Paul’s “masterpiece” and “a work of massive substance, presenting a formidable intellectual challenge, while offering a breathtaking theological and spiritual vision.”
I’ll admit it — most old hymns put me to sleep. But there’s one that almost always brings tears to my eyes.
Amazing Grace was written more than 200 years ago but somehow the lyrics remain as fresh today as when they were written. It’s been sung by everyone from gospel choirs to bluegrass quartets to punk rockers to polka bands. If you’ve ever doubted the power of God’s grace to transform lives, then you haven’t heard the story behind the song …
Here’s VERSE #5:
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Everybody sins and falls short of God’s glory. You. Me. Your pastor. Billy Graham. Mother Teresa. The Apostle Paul. EVERYBODY.
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.
This beautiful blessing is the oldest contained in the Bible. Not only that, it’s the oldest known biblical text found by archaeologists. An amulet bearing this blessing was found dating all the way back to before 586 B.C. when the first temple was destroyed.
It’s been used as a blessing in Jewish services for centuries. It’s often recited in Christian services as well. It has even permeated pop culture. It’s the first line in the Bob Dylan song Forever Young. In the movie Deep Impact, Morgan Freeman (playing the President) quotes it just as a comet is about to smash into Earth. It’s also the inspiration behind Star Trek’s “live long and prosper” greeting and the Vulcan Hand Salute made famous by Leonard Nimoy as Dr. Spock. Nimoy grew up in a Jewish home and based the salute on a similar “V” gesture priests make while giving the blessing.
Here’s a translation from the Ancient Hebrew Research Center that illuminates a few more details:
Yahweh (he who exists)
will kneel before you presenting gifts,
and will guard you with a hedge of protection,
Yahweh (he who exists) will illuminate
the wholeness of his being toward you bringing order
and he will provide you with love, sustenance and friendship,
Yahweh (he who exists) will lift up his wholeness of being
and look upon you and he will set in place
all you need to be whole and complete.
MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU
AND KEEP YOU TODAY
We’re counting down the top ten Bible verses of all time, based on an exhaustive study conducted by research scientists with very large brains who determined how often each verse appears in print.
Here’s this week’s verse. Read it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Live it.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)