Our library here at Bible House in Cape Town is indeed a treasure trove. Here one finds Bibles that tell a unique tale. God’s Word as recorded in the Bible is the most awesome unfolding of truth, miracles, prophecy and promise as well as hope, love and peace. But these Bibles, also tell the personal stories of their owners.
A Bible that immediately grabs one's attention is one with a bullet hole through it and blood smeared on some of the pages. It tells a tale of conflict, redemption and second chances.
The setting is the conflict in the 1980s in what is today, Namibia. One day Josias Niholonge, a Kwanyama-speaking Christian teacher, was confronted by a group of armed men who saw his faith as a betrayal of their cause.
When he realised that he would not escape alive, he begged them for the opportunity to speak. He opened his Bible and read from Romans 8:31-39. “If God is for us, who can be against us? … Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger of death? ... For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers … there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
He was still reading when they opened fire at point-blank range, killing him instantly. His blood smeared over the very pages he had just read.
Stealing what valuables he had, the attackers fled. But one returned. He grabbed the Bible.
He had attended a missionary school as a child and had always wanted a Bible of his own. He hid it for fear of being discovered. The Bible is truly alive and active; as this soldier read it, it pricked his conscience. One time, he was so convicted by the truth that he threw the Bible into the fire. Conflicted and anguished, he snatched it back from the flames.
One night he deserted his brothers in arms and fled across the border. He found a missionary and asked for help. He was counselled and sought forgiveness at the cross of Christ. The missionary gave him a new Bible to replace the damaged one, which was subsequently returned to the Bible Society of South Africa, the original publisher of the Kwanyana Bible.
On the first pages of the Bible Josias had inscribed his wife’s name and their wedding date, as well as the names of his children and their dates of birth. This book was indeed very precious to him. He died, not hesitating to give his life for the truth of the Word. His Bible is testament to his courage in Christ and God’s saving power.
Who knows how many people’s lives were spared as one soul fighting a war decided to drop the gun and take up the armour of God instead? It is a message of sacrifice and hope. God works when it seems darkest and sometimes we are called to give up everything (yes, even die) for Him, but this heartening story tells us that God will work for the good and that he cares for every man and speaks to his heart directly, through his word, the Bible.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28