Translating the Bible's "Clean Pages"

Someone once asked me if Bibles International might use our limited resources more effectively by only publishing Old Testament portions, leaving out some of the lesser read passages, such as some of the prophets. Some people call those the “clean pages,” because many believers don’t study them as frequently as other parts of the Bible. I assured this person that since God gave us a complete Bible with 66 books, we ought to make the whole thing available everywhere we can.

Having given that response, a recent experience tempted me to relent from this commitment. I was leading a translation workshop where we checked Nahum, Zephaniah, Obadiah, Amos, and Jeremiah. These books provided some very challenging sections for us! However, we also encountered sections that made me stand back and worship, contemplating God’s attributes, which are described in rich and beautiful words. Take Nahum’s prophecy, for example, which condemns the ancient and evil city of Nineveh and predicts its imminent fall. How can this short book have value to the 21st century believer? The first eight verses paint a marvelous picture of God’s greatness. He walks on the storm, and the clouds beneath Him are no more than the dust of His feet (1:3). He controls the natural world by commanding the waters (1:4), and no one can stand before His wrath (1:6). Nahum juxtaposes God’s greatness with His goodness, describing Him as a stronghold to those who trust in Him (1:7). As Nahum’s expert use of poetry so well communicates, truly God is both great and good! Zephaniah also wrote a prophecy that warns of the Day of the Lord. Through it he vividly displays the just God who punishes the wicked (1:3), the violent and deceitful (1:9), the complacent (1:12), and the proud (2:10). God’s power makes His wrath inescapable (1:18). Sometimes we may wonder, “Why do the wicked prosper?” Zephaniah assures us that God will avenge Himself, in His time.

The prophets contain wonderful gems, rarely admired, maybe partly because they are hidden in passages on judgment. It is well known that God gives good gifts, but in Jeremiah 5:24-25, the prophet says that our sin sometimes forces God to withhold good things, such as timely rain for a good harvest. This warning is found in the midst of God’s scathing rebuke of His people early in Jeremiah’s book of prophecy. Even so our God of grace includes hopeful statements such as in 5:18: “Nevertheless in those days, saith the Lord, I will not make a full end of you.” In His mercy, God is always ready to receive the humble one as he comes in repentance. Even when surrounded by a wicked nation, opportunity remains for the individual to return to God for reconciliation. I encourage you to dig into the prophets and uncover the hidden treasures that God has buried there for your spiritual growth. Don’t let the prophets be clean pages in your Bible!