A Sermon by
Dr. Walter A. Maier

"Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shapham the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord . . .  And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord." - 2 Kings 22:8 and 23:2

Blessed Lord Jesus, Our Advent Glory:
Long years ago Thou didst come into this world of woe to save us from our sins; and Thou wilt soon return in the majesty of Thy Second Coming to judge unbelievers, but to take Thy children home to Thee in heaven.  Until that final triumph, daily enter our hearts by Thy holy Word!  O Jesus, we thank Thee for Thy Gospel with its promise of full, free, final forgiveness of our sins; and we praise Thee for all the Bible translations, the printing and distribution of the Scriptures, notably the freedom that is ours in reading Thy Word.  Repeatedly have hatred and unbelief sought to destroy Holy Scripture; but wicked plans have not succeeded in removing the precious Book from the face of the earth.  Thine almighty power has prevailed.  More than ever before, men are able to read in their own language Thy heavenly assurance of eternal pardon, unfailing guidance through all the suffering and problems of life's pilgrimage to the prepared places in Thy Father's many mansions.  Forgive us our neglect of Thy truth and bring the Bible to millions in this nation, to churches, homes, souls, that have turned from its comfort!  Revive us, O Christ, and we shall indeed be redeemed from death!  Amen.

 America's most destructive danger is the growing indifference to God's Word, the sullen sneering at the Bible.  In a critical moment like the present, when our country gropes on the jagged edge of long, protracted warfare, we ought to realize that neglect of divine instruction and opposition to sacred Scripture can pull down in one swift generation all the noble achievements which the founding fathers and their successors laboriously produced through a dozen generations.

 It was, therefore, with deep regret and alarm that I read the brazen assault on the Bible recently published in the CIO News, the Congress of Industrial Organization's official weekly organ.  Prominently displayed on its first page was a large-type item headlined "The New Twenty- third Psalm," a current version of that old shepherd-poem which many call their favorite Scripture passage.  As a parody on the beloved lines of "The Lord is My Shepherd," this publication suggested that we now read: "The CIO is my shepherd . . . They prepare a raise of my salary in the presence of my foreman.  They anoint my check with raises; my expense goeth down.  Surely the union and my wages shall follow me the rest of my days, and I shall dwell in a house of my own forever."  Now, I am not indicting the whole CIO for such blasphemy nor singling it out for particular attack.  I also know that the same ridicule of the Bible is widespread in other organizations.  I do feel, however, that when an official paper prominently endorses the sarcastic, Communistic delusion that a labor group takes God's place as the "Good Shepherd" ; when the union and the salary check push divine "goodness and mercy" completely aside, Christians affiliated with such movements should protest, call a halt to abominations like these and remove from positions of leadership all atheists and Communists - and there are 2,000 of the latter class alone, according to a recent Washington report.

 In contrast to this rejection of God's Word let us on this Sunday, which ushers in National Bible Week, study an outstanding instance when workers, carpenters, masons, with fervent faith and untiring zeal helped restore the Scriptures!  I point to a startling Old Testament incident recorded in Second Kings, the twenty-second chapter, verse eight and the twenty-third chapter, verse two, from which these words have been chosen as our text:  "Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord . . . And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord."  As we learn modern lessons from this ancient rediscovery of the Scriptures, let this be our cry:


- back to American churches, back to American homes, back to more of our American schools, back to our whole American life!


 When Josiah, of whom our text speaks, was crowned King of Judah as an eight-year-old child, the religion and morals of his people were at their lowest ebb.  The Temple at Jerusalem had been hideously desecrated; ugly altars to heathen idols were erected in the place where only God was to be worshiped.  The sanctuary had become a center of money-making.  Throughout the land pagan altars were built on high places.  Astrologers, fortune tellers, spiritist mediums flourished.  Yet Jehovah, the Lord of hosts, who had mercifully chosen Israel for His own people and Zion, the mount for His Temple, that great and glorious Creator and Sustainer, was forgotten by the leaders and the masses.

 Unbelief always goes hand in hand with impurity, and the more brazenly Judah rebelled against the Lord, the more bestial the people's conduct became.  Unmentionable sex sins were practiced within the very Temple bounds; commercialized vice for priestly profit was the least of these immoralities.  With religious leaders catering to lust, what could be expected of the people?  Outside the city walls, in the notorious Valley of Hinnom, they offered their own flesh and blood, helpless children, as burning, shrieking sacrifices to the hideous idol Moloch.

 Added to degeneracy and desertion of God were the national burdens under which the country and its capital Jerusalem, staggered.  These were hard, crushing times, bordering on destitution for many, since the Assyrians with whom, overriding divine protest, Israelite kings signed an unholy alliance, had made Judah a vassal state, robbed it of its liberties, and forced it to pay enormous tribute.  A royal, cuneiform inscription, uncovered near Nineveh, still bears emphatic testimony to the folly of leaning on man rather than trusting God.  This monument states plainly but ominously, "I, Esarhaddon . . . overthrew Manasseh, King of Judah."

 How, we pause to ask, can we account for these desperate days of national suffering, moral decline, and religious collapse, when Judah could have been the happiest, most prosperous and blessed place on earth?  There is one answer for the whole debacle: Israel forgot Jehovah, pushed His revealed will aside.  Even the priests, pledged to execute their sacred duties according to Old Testament specification; the prophets, who were to preach, teach, explain, and apply God's Word; the scribes, whose privilege it was to copy and publish Holy Writ - these high servants of the Almighty traitorously discarded His Scripture.  No longer did the Temple resound with the singing of David's psalms; no longer did Aaron's blessing re-echo through the sacred place; no longer did the high priest, with promises concerning the coming Christ in his heart and on his lips, enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people's sins.  If even the sanctuary had removed the divine oracles, certainly the common people, who only too readily follow the bad examples of their leaders, had long accustomed themselves to neglect divine instruction completely.

 Do not accuse me of pessimism or exaggeration when I now tell you that the same destructive, anti-Biblical tendency confronts the United States today.  We are in the midst of an unmistakable religious decline.  A deplorable number of churches as well as entire denominations within our borders are constantly losing members.  Those who had hoped that this era of two world wars would purify the nation's spiritual life ought now in all honesty confess their mistake and admit that this country witnesses more unbelief, brazen challenging of the Almighty, organized assaults on Christianity, worldliness in religious circles now than before World War 1.  Many church buildings have become centers of illegal money making.  If their members raffle automobiles, conduct lotteries, feature games of chance, against God's Law and man's, are they any better than the grasping, greedy Temple officials at Jerusalem?  Above all, when they reject Christ as the only and complete Savior; when they teach a fatherhood of God and a brotherhood of man which, despite these high-sounding words, simply means that all religions must finally be regarded as the same. That Jews, Mohammedans, Confucianists, Christians, Animists, Buddhists, Taoists are traveling toward the same goal, only along different roads, although Jesus sharply protests, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me," and His Word uncompromisingly teaches, "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" - when masses today put the God of the Bible on the same low level with the gods of the heathen, are they any better than the ancient Israelites who bowed before the Baals and the Astartes, idols of their heathen neighbors?

 Whenever, worship of God declines, morality sinks with it.  True, American infants are not offered to Moloch, but pagan practices prevent multitudes of children from being born or, after they have come into the world, help poison their souls with unbelief.  Sins of the flesh increase in number and boldness as young people give way to passion, their elders deliberately plan secret affairs, and the Christian ideal of keeping clean and chaste before marriage, true and faithful after, is laughed away.

 Besides, we find ourselves in the midst of accumulating problems and growing burdens.  How sadly the best efforts for improvement have failed!  Through tireless medical research and the self-sacrifice of the nation's physicians, the death rate of infants has been cut drastically; yet the suicide figure for adults - more than 20,000 each year - has steadily increased.  We have a better knowledge of the brain than any previous generation; yet we have greater worries, more nervous breakdowns, larger insane asylums.  We build the best schools, yet produce formidable armies of juvenile criminals.  We have the most attractive and commodious homes men have ever known; but America has more broken families and disrupted marriages than any other comparable nation.  We institute far-reaching welfare efforts, like the Red Cross, designed to save men's lives; but at the same time we record higher murder ratios than any other country, 12,000 plus every year.  We have more churches than any other nation, but, excepting Russia, more unchurched.  We boast of impressive financial reserves; yet we list the heaviest national debt.  We exalt our democracy; however, unquestionably we have sustained a serious loss in representative government.

 Why these glaring contradictions?  Write this down as America's number one transgression: We, too, are despising God's Word.  In this divinely enriched nation, where President John Quincy Adams declared, "I say to you, ‘Search the Scriptures'!"; where Andrew Jackson proclaimed, "The Bible is the rock on which our Republic rests"; where President Ulysses S. Grant appealed, "Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties!"  God's Word is as completely rejected by millions as in the days of Israel's deep decline.  Skeptical ministers in modern congregations belittle, attack, and even ridicule God's Word.  It used to be the work of loud-mouthed infidels - this discrediting of the Scriptures; but today many a theological professor opposes the Bible as persistently as did Bob Ingersoll - at the same time accepting his salary from Christian contributors or a Christian endowment.  Your letters likewise reveal that in some churches Scripture is practically a closed and sealed book.  Sermon texts, if any, are chosen from recent best sellers, four-starred motion pictures, or current events.  Baffled men and bewildered women who attend services to hear a promise starting with this assurance "Thus saith the Lord," must listen instead to discourses which feature statements by men, at a time when merely human utterances must be regarded with suspicion and distrust.

 If the Bible is banned from the pulpit, we must not be surprised that it has given way to nature stories and "pep" talk in the Sunday school' that private Bible reading in the home has suffered serious setbacks.  How many families are there in this vast mission of the air, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Coast, in which the family finds time to "search the Scriptures"?  I have before me a Bible printed in 1541, just 400 years old.  Prepared only fifty years after Columbus' first voyage, it contains a map of the world, grotesque in many respects and significant because it omits North and South America entirely.  Despite the changes that have intervened in these four centuries, neither the basic needs of humanity nor the power of the Scriptures to meet these needs has fundamentally changed.  Originally, this ancient Bible, large and cumbersome, cost at least twenty dollars; today a Testament - with accurate maps - can be bought for a fraction of a dollar.  Nevertheless, stolid indifference to the divine Word reigns in many hearts and homes.  Movements are organized to destroy the Bible.  Our youth is being coaxed from its truth, many churches directed away from its power.  At a time when America sorely needs divine, unfailing direction, we are forced to admit that millions are perpetuating the same traitorous and fatal mistake which helped to cast Israel prostrate in its darkest day.


 In this crisis we must follow Josiah, a God-fearing young man.  As he increased in years, his devotion to Jehovah was likewise strengthened.  When he was twenty-six years old, in the prime of his young manhood, he started to repair and rebuild the Temple.  There were no strikes or labor troubles in that reconstruction, because the builders, doubtless chosen from the faithful, were earnest and sincere workers, adequately paid and so thoroughly trusted by the king that he demanded no accounting of them.  There would be no strikes today and no labor legislation required by Congress if this same mutual esteem existed between employer and employee and both regarded their duties as a divine trust.

 In the course of Josiah's operations a startling discovery was made.  Accidentally, it seems, the workmen uncovered an ancient manuscript, a scroll that had perhaps been deposited in a wall when the Temple was built 350 years before or that had been contemptuously cast aside when Jehovah was no longer worshiped as the true God.  At any rate, Hilkiah, the high priest, immediately recognized the remarkable document.  He cried to Shaphan the scribe, "I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord!"  The scroll was read to the king.  When Josiah heard what the holy God demands of His people and then contrasted their repeated, protracted sins, he tore his garments in distress and ordered that the rediscovered Word of God be read to all the people.  In one of the most remarkable public demonstrations in history, so we are told, "the king went up into the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him and all the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord."  That reading of the Scriptures had a startling effect.  The people made a solemn pledge to God, promising faithfully to obey His Word.  A passover festival was held - greater than any since the early days of Israel - and a cleansing instituted in which the Temple was purged of false worship, the idolatrous priests removed, all immorality banned from the sanctuary grounds, every false priest throughout the land thrown out of office, and the cruel sacrifices of children in the Valley of Hinnom stopped.  In short, one of history's great reformations began, and it started when the Bible was brought back to the ruler, the priests, and the people.

 Today, if America is to have a thorough, effective reformation - and God knows we need it! - we must start where Moses started, where Josiah, Saint Paul, Luther began - at the Word of God and in the churches.  Say what you will about our country's various needs, the supreme necessity for this perilous hour pleads, America, bring back the Bible!  Banish the enemies of God's Word from Christian pulpits!  Exclude the opponents of the Scriptures from Christian theological seminaries and colleges!  Stop the printing and dissemination, under Christian auspices, of books and periodicals that put question marks behind the clear, sure statements concering our Savior's death and atonement!  Do what Josiah did, and that means, have the great masses of the 70,000,000 Americans who bear Christ's name turn completely from the denial of Scripture and rededicate themselves to the task and privilege of restoring the Bible to their hearts, their homes, their churches - and we will witness a sweeping reformation!

 However, Scripture must be brought back, not merely the"The Good Book," a collection of pious, helpful thoughts, a volume that contains God's Word, but as the Book that is God's Word, in at Genesis and out at Revelation, the divinely inspired and errorless Record which has never made a mistake and which will never be rightfully charged with error, the only decisive Source of Christian doctrine, the one infallible Guide for Christian life.  Because most Americans are not willing to declare the Bible, as originally given by God, without error; because even some Lutheran groups (not united with us) will not accept its full, literal inspiration, let me repeat the reasons which should lead us to rely unquestioningly on Scripture as divine Truth.  First of all, the Bible, unlike all other writings, repeatedly claims to come from the Almighty.  More than 3,100 times writers in the Old and New Testaments assert that their utterances are God's utterances.  Have you ever heard of another volume which makes like claims?

 The Bible proves itself God's Own Word particularly by the power of prophecy.  Read the predictions concerning Babylon, Nineveh, Syria, Egypt, Palestine; study the verdict of history which shows how clearly these have been fulfilled; and then ask yourself again whether this unique volume must not come from the Almighty and All- knowing, since only He can foretell the future with such startling faithfulness!

 The Bible must come from Heaven because only a divine volume could victoriously conquer the unparalleled, vicious opposition it has suffered.  Copies of it have been burned, thrown into the ocean, ground to pieces; yet the Bible is sold in greater numbers today than any other book; translated into a thousand different languages and widely distributed over the face of the earth.  Bob Ingersoll once stated in Denver that within fifty years the Bible would not have fifty believers left in that city.  A half century has elapsed.  Last week I wired the secretary of the American Bible Society in Denver to see whether Ingersoll was right and Scripture was a unknown book in that metropolis of the Rockies.  He replied that in the last year almost 38,000 Bible and Testament parts had been distributed in this city, one for every ten Denver citizens.  Recent newspaper reports tell us that in Fascist Spain a shipment of 110,000 Bibles has been confiscated by General Franco's totalitarian government and that they cannot be destroyed in this way nor by the persecution and imprisonment of its readers.  One nation rejects it, only to have another accept it.  From war-torn China come unprecedented demands for Holy Writ.

 We believe that the Bible is God's Word because of its divine power exerted on every page of history.  A hundred years ago, after the first missionaries had brought the Word to Africa, a Hottentot delegate to a London missionary society reported: "When the Bible came to us, we were naked, we lived in caves and on the tops of mountains, we painted our bodies with red paint.  The Bible charmed us out of our caves and from the tops of the mountains.  Now we know there is a God."  The Maharajah of Travancore, India, paid Scripture this pointed tribute: "Take it and read it, examine it and see whether it is good!  Of one thing I am convinced, do what we will, oppose it as we may, it is the Christian Bible which will sooner or later work out the regeneration of our land."  Survey the blessed influence of Scripture on womanhood, childhood, labor, education, government, charity, the arts, on nations as a whole, and you ought to be fair enough to realize that these startling improvements have come, not from politics, Christless religions, atheism, Communism, legislation, conquest, evolution, but from the Book of all books.  If only the Bible completely controlled the hearts and minds of the world's leaders and all its peoples, we could have Bible instead of bullets; Scriptures, not sub-machine guns; the Gospel, not gunfire; Testaments, rather than tanks!

 Particularly, however, do we believe that Scripture is God's Word because of its miraculous influence on human souls. It has done what no college degree, no code of law can accomplish.  It has changed, ennobled, and uplifted the human heart.  When Stanley lay on his sickbed in Africa during his first attack of jungle fever, he wrote: "Then verses of Scripture range iteratingly through my mind as applicable to my own being, sometimes full of flowing promise, often of solemn warning.  Alone in my tent, unseen of men, . . . I flung myself on my knees and poured out my soul utterly in secret prayer to Him who had led me here mysteriously into Africa, there to reveal Himself and His will."  The Bible changed Stanley into a believer.  Rabbi Slostowski, a professor of the Talmud in the rabbinical seminary at Tel Aviv, Palestine, as an orthodox Jew hated the Lord Jesus Christ.  Riding in a railway train from Haifa to Jerusalem, he noticed a young man on the seat opposite him who was reading a New Testament in Hebrew.  So great was the learned Israelite's resentment against Christ that he took it upon himself sharply to criticize the young Jewish convert.  The young man replied by giving Slostowski his copy of the New Testament.  That very night the rabbi, alone in his room, read on in the Gospels until three o'clock in the morning, with every passing page, he reports, increasing the deep conviction that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah.  For the first time in his life he fell on his knees and prayed in the name of Christ.  And today he writes: "I have already found more than 200 passages of the New Testament which prove beyond a doubt that truly Jesus is the Messiah."

 The Scriptures have this remarkable power since they testify of Him to whom each of our broadcasts is dedicated, the Lord and Savior.  Because the Bible in the marvelous provisions of the Old Testament and through its system of sacrifice pointed to "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"; because the New Testament portrays Jesus as true God and true man, the Son of the Almighty and the Son of the Virgin Mary, the crucified Savior and the resurrected Redeemer, the Servant of servants, yet the Sovereign of sovereigns, the Christ who on the cross pleaded for all men and who still makes intercession with the Father for us, the glorious Lord of grace and mercy once born in the lowliness of Bethlehem but who will soon return in His glorious Second Coming - and a score of evident signs foretell this - as King of kings and Judge of the quick and the dead; because this Savior calls the Scripture God's Truth, we should accept the Bible, trust it, cherish it, defend it, and ceaselessly spread its message of grace and truth.

 When we cry out, "Bring back the Bible!" we also add, "Bring back the Bible's Savior!"  As Christmas approaches and the Advent cry resounds, "Behold, thy King cometh!" may we be given the grace to prepare our hearts worthily to receive the coming King of grace!  However disheartening the burden of your sin, bring it all to Christ!  He has never spurned anyone who has come with a broken, contrite heart.  When you are the weakest and smallest, His mercy is the strongest and greatest.  However pressing your personal problems may be - and I know they weigh you down with unusual heaviness during these otherwise happy weeks of Christmas preparation - may the promise of His grace make you realize "what a Friend" you "have in Jesus, all" your "sins and griefs to bear"!  His glorious Gospel, penned for all men, yet written by divine inspiration especially for you, contains this climax of divine truth: God not only loved the whole world with such heavenly devotion "that He gave His only-begotten Son" as the Ransom for every sinner, but this mercy is offered you freely, without any condition or credentials, without any payment or prerequisite, without any thought of reward or recompense - for what have we, with all our transgressions, for which we could expect recognition in the sight of a holy God? - solely by the Savior's limitless love.  By His pledge "Behold, all things are become new" I promise you that if you come face to face with Jesus on the pages of Scripture, you can have incomparable joy.  Listeners from New York State write us that after hearing our broadcast they bought two Bibles - one in English for the daughter and one in French for the parents, who preferred that language.  They explain, "We never read the Bible before we heard your message; but now we read it regularly and attend a true Christian church.  Today we feel like a new family."  Every home in this radio assembly can likewise experience in Christ's renewing power.  Take time to bring Jesus into your household through daily Scripture reading!  Fathers and mothers of America, during these pre-Christmas weeks find at least five or ten minutes in each twenty-four hour day to explain to your children the real significance of Christ's compassion!  As you make ready to adorn your dwellings for these holidays, first of all prepare your hearts with the cleansing of His purifying Word!

 Jesus is calling you, asking for faith in Him and His Word, for loyalty to His promises and His Scriptures, for faithfulness to the cross and the Bible.  Because there can be no more important appeal, either for the nation as a whole, for the churches, for our homes, or for our own souls, in His blessed name and for the spread of His truth, I beseech you: Bring back the Bible!  Restore it in Christless churches; in unhappy, strife-torn homes; in benighted, sin-clouded hearts; in our own souls, so that in these desperate days God's truth may continue to march from victory to victory, the only hope for inner peace in a war-wracked world, our one assurance of pardon and blessing for earth and heaven!  The mightiest movement for the spread of the Scriptures was started 137 years ago in London, at a time when England appeared to totter on the brink of ruin as Napoleon's army, across the channel, threatened invasion.  Amid wars and the proud boastings of atheists, the British and Foreign Bible Society began its work.  If only during these years of mass slaughter and devastation destruction that can engulf our country there were a nation-wide determination to teach, publish, spread, read, cherish, and obey the Scripture truth as never before!  O God, we ask in Jesus' name, bring back the Bible to us, and bring us back to the Bible! Amen.

The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired on December 7, 1941 -- the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. This is the prerecorded version some of the sailors had just finished listening to when the bombs began to fall. When Dr. Maier learned of the Japanese attack he wrote a new prayer and introduction for the sermon before his live broadcast at one oclock that same day.