Message 16, It's Just a Book:
The Word of God is living and active, the lamp for our feet that not only guides us in righteousness, but also creates new life in fallen people as the Holy Spirit brings it to bear on our darkened hearts. We are pressured, however, to downplay Scripture as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and to treat it as a helpful moral guide that is just one book among many. Dr. W. Robert Godfrey looks at the power of God’s Word to overcome the darkness, and he calls upon God to move us from a low view of Scripture to a high view that understands that the Bible is entirely trustworthy and alone provides the message of salvation.
I have a sweatshirt. Many who have known me well have never seen me in a sweatshirt. Thank you. I have a sweatshirt that says, “So many books, so little time.” And I think that’s a profoundly insightful sentiment. “So many books, so little time.” I love books. I love to hold them, sometimes even smell them, open them, read the publication information, read the acknowledgements. I’m really weird. I can’t imagine reading from machines. I need paper. I need pages to turn. I need margins to write in. I love books.
And my life seems surrounded by piles of books, leading my wife, who is a very patient person, occasionally to sigh. Occasionally we talk about me retiring, and she says, “You can retire anytime as long as you figure out what you’re going to do with the books because you’re not bringing them home.” I said, “What will I do with them?” “Give them to a library. You can visit them there.” It’s not the same. So I love books.
But all books are not alike. And my topic today, my remit — what does that mean? My topic today, my subject today, is “It’s Not Just a Book.” Now, it is a book, isn’t it? It has covers. It has pages. It has margins. Apparently, it can even be found on machines. It is a book. And for at least 200 years, there have been a steady stream of critics in Western culture insisting it is just a book.
And indeed it’s just a book in the sense that it’s written by humans, and as a book written by humans, it’s full of mistakes. And it has been a major industry for a couple of centuries of scholars to try to prove to you that it’s full of mistakes. Historical mistakes, theological mistakes, every kind of mistake you can imagine.
There is a book called Isaiah. You know Isaiah didn’t write that, or maybe he wrote a little bit of it, but there’s a second Isaiah and a third Isaiah and a fourth Isaiah. There’ll be more Isaiahs as more doctoral dissertations are written. It’s just a book.
There are some books that say they were written by Moses, but of course Moses didn’t write them. There are all sorts of editors who wrote them. J, E, D, and P. And, if you had colored markers, you could go through the books supposedly written by Moses and make little colored charts of all the different sources of these books.
We have letters from Peter. There’s a chance he wrote 1 Peter, no chance he wrote 2 Peter. He uses different vocabulary. We have such a huge corpus of material written by Peter that we can evaluate what his style would be like in every letter he wrote. It’s just silly, some of the things that are said. Now, they have to be answered. It’s wonderful. We have great Christian scholars who have studied and answered the charges brought against the Bible to say that it’s full of mistakes, it’s full of errors, it’s full of things that are not true.
But one of the really interesting things is that the critics themselves have proven this is not just any book. No other book has been as criticized as much as this book. It’s uniquely criticized. No other book has been dissected and torn apart and subjected to all sorts of silly arguments as this book has. And so it is right that we pause in this conference where we have been so fed out of the Word of God to be encouraged again in the confidence we ought to have in this book which is not just any book.
Now, we want to approach this positively. We don’t want to focus on the critics who follow in that great tradition begun in Genesis 3. Did God actually say? Because we’re a people who say, “Yes, God actually did say. God actually did say what’s in this book.” We want to look at this positively today to see what the Word of God says about itself, to see how the Word of God expresses itself to God’s people, to give voice to what we really know in our hearts is true about this book, that it’s not just any book, that it’s unique.
Jesus said, you remember, as it’s recorded in John’s gospel, “My people will hear My voice and follow Me.” And, those of us who know Jesus, when we read this book, we know we are hearing His voice. We recognize it. It’s like picking up a telephone call and hearing a relative’s voice. You recognize it immediately. You don’t have to have it proven to you. You recognize it and that’s the way it is, I think, in a fundamental sense for Christians, they recognize the voice of God here.
But we also want to know in some more detail, what does God say about this book? How should we regard it? What do we think about it? And so one of the great texts to which we turn is in Hebrews 4, and I want to read just three verses there. Hebrews 4:11-13. I think it’s fair to say that Hebrews 4:11 is the conclusion of a sermon that’s been occupying chapters three and four of Hebrews to that point.
And verse 11 is in a sense the conclusion of the sermon, and then there’s a little addendum to the sermon. The sermon has been on the Word of God. It’s been based on a text. It’s been based on Psalm 95, and then we have the conclusion to the sermon.
“Let us therefore strive.” So glad to hear Kevin DeYoung last night encouraging us to strive. “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Psalm 95 had reminded Israel that their fathers had fallen in the wilderness because of their disobedience.
And the application of that text to the people reading the epistle to the Hebrews, that means you and me amongst others, is that we should strive to enter the rest God has promised His people and that we not fall through the same sort of disobedience that led to the death of the children in the wilderness.
And then the addendum. Why can I reach this conclusion? How can I apply this message to the people of God? “I’ve been expositing” — it’s as if the author to Hebrew says — “I’ve been expositing what the Scripture has to say, and why is that relevant?”
Well, it’s relevant for this reason. For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the hearts and the intentions — the thoughts and intentions of the heart, and no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Strive to enter that rest so that you won’t fall. And you know that’s true because it’s from the Word of God. And that Word of God is not just any book. It’s unique. It’s unique, of course, in the first place because it is God’s Word. It comes to us through the efforts of men. Most of the Bible does not claim to be dictated by a voice and then written down by a prophet at a single moment. But through the centuries, the Spirit of God worked in a variety of ways to lead the authors of Scripture to write down what was their words but more fundamentally His Word.
So David may have written Psalm 95, but the Spirit really wrote it. It’s the Word of God. It’s the Word of the living God that’s told to us in this sermon. We’re reminded that the God whom we serve is a living God. He is not a dead God. It’s an allusion it seems almost to Psalm 115 where the great God, the true God, the living God, is contrasted with the idols of the nations.
And the contrast is that the idols cannot speak. They cannot move. They cannot hear. But the true God, He hears and He acts and He speaks. And this is His Word, the Word of the living God, the Word in which He comes to His people to tell them the truth, to give them direction, to apply His promises and His warnings and His comforts, so that this Word is so full and so rich, and every bit of it is God’s.
That’s the amazement that should, should grip us, and that’s why we should have such confidence in this Word. One of the tragedies of our time is too many Christians and too many churches have lost confidence in the Word. It’s a little like what I was talking about yesterday with Luther.
We don’t have confidence in the Word and so we need to supplement it. We need to find something new, something exciting, something challenging. Luther said, “We get tired of just hearing about the cross and the resurrection, the cross and the resurrection, the cross and the resurrection. Can’t we hear something new?” And of course what we really mean when we say that is, “Can’t we hear something better?” And of course what Luther wants to say is, ‘No, you can’t hear anything better than the cross and the resurrection. That’s everything.’
And Luther, that famous story, you’ve probably heard it, he was asked, you know, “What, what have you done?” And Luther, sitting in the beer garden, talking to Philip Melanchthon and drinking beer, said, “I haven’t done anything. The Word has done it.” “I could have done things,” Luther said. “I could have plunged Germany into civil war.” And he was right. He could have done that. But he refused to do that because he said it’s not by civil war that the cause of Christ will be advanced. It’s by the Word of God that the cause of Christ will be advanced. He said, “The Word did it.” The Word did it, of course, first of all, in Luther’s own heart, didn’t it?
Luther became a great Reformer because the Word changed him. And since I’m a Reformation historian, I like to try to find anniversaries to note. This is the 500th anniversary of Luther as a young professor at the small and relatively new university of Wittenberg in AD 1515 lecturing on the Book of Romans. He was not yet a Protestant. He was not yet, by his own testimony, a Christian.
And it was probably not until I think AD 1518 that he was really converted, but oh, how those lectures on Romans in AD 1515, 500 years ago, began to change him. Not immediately, not overnight, not dramatically.
But having to lecture on that book, week in and week out to students, I mean, he had to think about it. He had to examine it. He had to look more deeply into it. And it began to change him. It established a knowledge in his mind that when the time came according to the Spirit of God, his heart would be suddenly changed, because his mind was full of the Book of Romans. The Word did it. And that Word is the Word of God.
You notice how here in Hebrews 3, the introduction to the text for the sermon, the introduction to Psalm 95 is prefaced by the words in verse 7. “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,” and then quote Psalm 95. That’s one way of saying, “This is the Word of God when I quote Psalm 95.” It’s not just any book. It’s God’s book.
But it’s not just God’s book as a past event, a past gift. It’s, according to verse 7, the Holy Spirit speaking, not the Holy Spirit said as a dead letter. “But therefore as the Holy Spirit says.” And that’s why we go on to read that this Word of God is living and active.
Now, what, what does that mean? If I take this book and I plunge a knife into it, it won’t bleed. This isn’t a Harry Potter movie. It’s not living in that sense, but it’s living in the sense the living God is speaking here. Every Word is His Word. Every Word of His is always alive. The Word of God never dies.
When I occasionally think of cleaning up my study, it’s a fleeting feeling. And I open drawers in my desk, I occasionally find cassette tapes. I never throw them away but I know I’ll never listen to them. I don’t think I have a cassette tape player anymore. And occasionally I’m tempted to think, “I wonder what I said in that lecture.” Those are sort of dead letters. But God never speaks that way. His Word never dies. It never grows old. It never grows stale. It never grows irrelevant. It’s always alive. It’s always active.
And throughout the Scripture, He bears witness to that in so many ways. I read a variety of somewhat strange books. I was reading an effort to reconstruct the life of Queen Hatshepsut of ancient Egypt. I think I read about 300 pages and I think about five pages are based on what we know for sure happened to Queen Hatshepsut and the rest was interesting. But one of the things that really struck me was how active the ancient Egyptian royal family was in ancient Egyptian religion.
It took hours and hours a day to fulfill the various requirements of ritual activity in their religion. And one of the important events of the year was to travel to Luxor into the temple at Karnak so that the image of the god Amun could be paraded in his bark, as the book put it, through the streets of the people. The city and the people would line up to see the bark of Amun passing, and they couldn’t see the image of the god but they could see the bark, or we would say, the ark. I thought, “Isn’t that striking that this religion is all built around an unseen image.” Maybe Moses saw that parade in his youth.
But biblical religion is built around an ark in which there is no image but in which there is the Word of God, because that’s the focus, that’s the center of where the Word of the living God is living and active for His people, in this book that is just not any book. And we need to have that confidence deep in our souls that when we look into this book, there is no wasted word. There is no unimportant bit.
I was recently teaching in our adult Sunday school on the book of Judges. It’s a very depressing book. It makes things today look good. And the last depressing bit is that awful tale of the Levite whose wife is raped to death and he cuts her body into 12 pieces and sends the pieces off to the tribes of Israel, demanding justice against the city of Gibeah in Benjamin. Come on, now, who cares about Gibeah? Who’s heard of Gibeah? How many of us really remember that story? Gibeah of Benjamin? That’s kind of a waste of time, isn’t it?
Well, when Israel wanted a king, not according to God’s purpose or God’s timing, but just so they could be more like the nations, where did they find a king? Where did they find that tall — always beware of tall people. Where did they find that tall, handsome man? From the tribe of Benjamin. And where was that tall, handsome man born? In Gibeah. Saul of Gibeah. Shouldn’t that have been a warning? It’d be like electing a president from Las Vegas. If I knew you all better, I might say, or from Chicago, but I won’t go there, no, no.
No, no, see, this is not a Republican gathering, just — although it might be alright to grunt, no applause, just — you see how intricately God has constructed His Word? Israel should have known when they went to look for a king not to look to Benjamin, not to look to Gibeah. But that Word still speaks to us because it reminds us we need a true king. We need a faithful king. We need God’s king. We need great David’s greater son. We need a king. And so the Bible speaks, you see, and in all of its parts, even its very peculiar, obscure parts, it speaks to us.
And here in Hebrews, it’s speaking to us. You know the context of the book of Hebrews. There were Jewish converts to Christianity who were beginning to wonder if they’d made the right choice.
They were beginning to wonder, maybe, wasn’t it better in Judaism than in Christianity? What did they get in Christianity? They got a lot of persecution. What did they have in Judaism? They had legal status. They had a beautiful temple. They had a homeland. They had a gloriously attired visible priesthood. And what did they get in Christianity? They got words. And they were beginning to think, “Is this a smart thing that we’ve done?”
And so Hebrews, as a whole in a sense, is a sermon saying to people, “Don’t give up on your first love. Don’t give up on Christ. Don’t turn back.” And that sermon of Hebrews as a whole is kind of distilled here in chapters 3 and 4. And here, the beginning of chapter 3, we read, “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus.”
As you think about who you are, about your future, about your choices, about your identity, about your religion, consider Jesus. And it says many wonderful things about Jesus, but in a sense, it’s calling us to consider Jesus as He was introduced to us in chapter 2:17, as a merciful and faithful high priest.
In chapter 3, he wants to develop particularly the notion that Jesus is faithful. Jesus has been faithful to the calling God gave Him. Jesus was faithful in all of His actions to build the house of God. Jesus was faithful as His — as God’s Son in every moment of His existence so that God would say of Him, “Here is My beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased.” Jesus was faithful, and so the sermon says, you be faithful too. Jesus’ faithfulness is saving, but Jesus’ faithfulness is also exemplary. As He was faithful to His Father, so He calls you to be faithful to Him.
And that’s the occasion for quoting Psalm 95. Psalm 95, most of us, hear as a call to worship. It’s a great call to worship. “Oh, come, let us sing to the Lord. Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving. Let us make a joyful noise to Him with praise. Oh, come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.” We usually stop about there, because the mood of the psalm changes dramatically, from this jubilant call to worship to this really serious warning.
“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day at Massah in the wilderness when your fathers put Me to the test and put Me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For 40 years, I loathed that generation and said they are a people who will go astray in their heart and they have not known My ways. Therefore, I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest.” Suddenly it’s not quite so happy a call to worship, but it’s a critical call to the heart of every Christian, isn’t it?
Because we’re numerically part of the people of God does not guarantee we will enter the Promised Land, the heavenly Jerusalem. Because we’ve made a public profession of faith, because we’ve been baptized, does not in and of itself guarantee that we’ll enter that rest because there’s a danger.
The danger is that we may harden our hearts against God. That’s what Psalm 95 is warning. That’s what Hebrews 3 and 4 is warning. Don’t harden your hearts. Don’t be unbelieving. Unbelief leads to hardened hearts. Hardened hearts leads to disobedience. Disobedience leads to the deceitfulness of sin and to damnation.
Do you want to hear God say to you, “I have loathed you all your life and you’ll never enter my rest?” Does that make you tremble? Do you find that horrifying? It makes me tremble. What’s the antidote? It’s to hear His voice. It’s to hear His Word. It’s to hear Him speaking.
Here in this place, it’s to hear Him speaking, be faithful. Jesus was faithful for His own, and He expects His own to be faithful to Him. Faithfulness is first of all believing Him and His Word and then living out that Word in a life of response and service. “Strive,” the conclusion of the sermon goes, “to enter that rest so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”
Yesterday, I quoted from Luther’s treatise in 1539 entitled, “On the Councils and the Church.” And in 19 — in 1539 — it seems just a few years ago — in 1539, Luther was facing a rebellion in his own ranks of antinomians who didn’t think obedience was important if you were a good Lutheran. And Luther was absolutely appalled. He didn’t get it. He, he said to himself, “How could anyone ever have read me to think I am indifferent to obedience or to holiness in the Christian life?” And I think he’s right. Anybody who has read Luther carefully could not possibly reach that conclusion about him.
Now, part of the problem with Luther is that one of the ways he’s an effective communicator is that he’s hyperbolic. And when you’re hyperbolic, you can have your sentences lifted out of context and used in all sorts of peculiar ways because you’ve exaggerated to make a point. And so if you really want to understand Luther, you have to read a lot of Luther.
But in 1539, he’s wanting to be very, very clear that Christians have to trust and obey. And one of the ways he powerfully puts it is, he says, “Some people think all we need is Easter preachers, preachers who talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, and that’s all we need to hear about.” He says, “I don’t know where they come from. I don’t know who they’ve been listening to. They haven’t been listening to the Word of God and they haven’t been listening to little brother Martin.”
“We need Easter and Pentecost preachers,” Luther said. “We need preachers who make clear the cross and the resurrection is the foundation of the forgiveness of our sins, and we need preachers who talk about the coming of the Holy Spirit into the life of God’s people to make us new creatures who live new lives according to the law of God.” Luther is so good, it could almost be Calvin. Don’t tell your Lutheran friends I said that.
But this is what’s happening here as an illustration, as an application of the great truth that the Word of God is living and active. That is to say, it’s living and active in our lives, for our lives, to change us, to change the way we think, to change the way we believe, to change the way we live. And if you don’t think that’s true, the text goes on to say, it’s not just living and alive and active in some general sort of sense. It’s alive to cut. Calvin says, “It’s two-sided so that it’ll cut whichever way it moves.” Two-edged. Whether you go this way or that way or this way with the sword, it cuts. It penetrates.
And this living, penetrating Word is living and penetrating to what effect, to what purpose, in your life and mind? Well, here, the point that’s being developed is it’s penetrating to make us see who we are, to make us see how we’re living, to make us see how we’re measuring up to the will of God for us, to force us to take a hard look at how faithful we’re actually being relative to the faithfulness of Christ for us. And that’s a disturbing thought, isn’t it? The Word of God comes to open our hearts to ourselves so that we might need to see ourselves as God sees us.
Verse 13 says that every creature stands before God naked and exposed. He sees us through and through. He sees all the innermost elements of who we really are. And that should be arresting. It should cause us to pause and to reflect and to think. The ending of that phrase is very interesting, in verse 13. It’s almost always translated, “To whom we must give account.” And that’s perfectly true, of course. We should think that we are exposed completely to the One to Whom we’re going to have to give an explanation at the great judgement day.
But the literal words in Greek are a little more ambiguous. Literally what it says is, “All are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him, before Him — before Whom to us the Word.” Now, the translation assumes that the Word is the account that we’re going to give to God. But I think it’s maybe slightly more likely that what’s being said here is we’re going to stand before Him one day, and He’ll know all about us because we’re naked and exposed to Him.
But as we stand there before Him, to us will come again the Word, not our word to Him but His Word to us, His Word that will stand as a witness to us, saying, “You knew this in your life, My Word, My living Word, My active Word, My penetrating Word, My revealing Word was in your life. Did you listen? Did you hear My voice? Did you strive to enter in or did you harden your heart?” That’s the question, you see.
And now we begin to see that this is not just any book, as some of the snide critics of inerrancy have said, “Well, if you have an inerrant Bible, you could just as easily have an inerrant telephone book. That doesn’t prove anything. Just because there are no errors in it doesn’t necessarily mean all that much.” And if that’s all we were saying about the Bible, is that it’s inerrant, it might not mean that much. We say it’s inerrant because it is God’s Word, not to prove that it is God’s Word. God is without lies. God is truth.
Therefore His Word must be without lies. His Word must be true.
But we have to see that this Word wants to come to us as much as more than simply truth. It is that, always that. But God wants us to see that this Word comes to us as life because the Holy Spirit is speaking here, because Jesus is speaking here, because Jesus’ truth, His good news, is here.
And that good news is not only the penetrating Word that comes to challenge us, to reveal us, to insist that we should strive to enter in with repentance and with faith and with obedience, but that Word wonderfully goes on to say — and you know if you’ve listened to this sermon — and that Word has penetrated into your hearts, and all you can think to say is, “Woe is me. I am undone. I’m a man of unclean lips and I live among the people of unclean lips.”
Then you need to remember the Word of God says that Jesus is not only faithful but He’s merciful, and those who turn to Him, exposed before God, distraught before God, can turn to Him knowing since then we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God.
Let us hold fast our confession that Jesus is that High Priest, Jesus is that Son of God, for we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are yet without sin. Jesus understands in a deep and profound way the struggles of sinners, not because He was sinful, but because He was tempted.
And I think sometimes we are tempted to think that because He was without sin, He doesn’t understand sin, because He wasn’t a sinner, he can’t understand temptation. “He doesn’t know what I’m going through!” And I think it was John Murray — it may have been Sinclair Ferguson. I steal good ideas so widely and freely that I don’t really remember where I get them.
I think it was John Murray who said, “Jesus understood temptation so much more profoundly than we ever will because he was pure, and the Devil came again and again with ever deeper temptations to try to lead Him away from God, whereas with us, he doesn’t have to invest much work in tempting.”
Jesus understands us, understands our weakness, understands our sin, and so let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. Jesus sits not on a throne of judgment for His people today but on a throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, that we may receive forgiveness.
If you have been faithless, if you have sins that the Word of God is exposing today, know that there is mercy at the throne of grace for sinners who come to Jesus and plead for help, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help at just the right time, at just the right time.
See, this is not just any book. This is a book where the living God is speaking His living Word, calling His people to faithfulness and calling His people to the throne of grace where they can find mercy and help and grace at just the right time. There isn’t any other book that can do that for you. There isn’t any other book where you know all the time that the living God is speaking there. And this is why historic Protestantism is shaped the way it is.
What is the shape of historic Protestantism? We are readers of the Word. We are the builders of schools so that people will be able to read so they’ll be able to read the Word of God. We’re the people who worship around the Word of God where the reading of the Word of God is central to our worship, where the preaching of the Word of God is central to our worship.
And where the Word of God is not being read and not being preached and we’re hearing happy-talk and stories, there’s no call to faithfulness or to mercy there. And the Word cannot do it because the Word is not there. I appeal to you ministers in particular, get out of the way and let the Word do it. That’s the promise of our God. That’s why we read the Word, we preach the Word. That’s why we sing the Word of God. If they never let you sing a psalm in church, object. Sing psalms so that the Word of God is in your heart and in your mind. Pray the Word of God.
We are meant to be a people seeped in the Word of God so that it can come to us at the right seasons of life, to be that grace that will help in the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s what it means to have a living Word of God. What a blessing is ours. Why would we neglect that blessing? Why would we trade it in on something else? It’s a tragedy of our time that people are looking for substitutes. Some people look for substitutes in the traditions of the church.
Flying out here, I saw several people on the plane with ash crosses on their forehead, and it reminded me, this is Ash Wednesday. And there are traditions where you save the fronds that were waved in church on Palm Sunday to welcome Jesus, and you burn them on Tuesday or Wednesday so that you’ll have ashes to put on the foreheads of the people so that they can begin Lent. And Lent is supposed to be a season of repentance. Well, repentance is a good thing but you don’t need a season for it. Daily would be good.
So, you know, fronds in church, that’s a distraction from Christ. What we need is the Word. Some people are distracted from the Word by claims of the presence of the Holy Spirit doing extra Word things. That’s not good either. The Spirit is good, but any claim of the Spirit that leads us away from focusing on the Word is not a real presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit draws us to the Word and speaks to us through the Word. And so let us not be a distracted people, but an eager people to turn to the Word again and again.
And be people in churches that say to your minister, “Oh, tell us more about the Word.” “It wasn’t very interesting today. Not very many stories. No good illustrations. It wasn’t very funny.” Be a people of God and say, “Oh, we heard a lot of the Word. We want to hear more of the Word.” Huge numbers of conservative churches in America have stopped having an evening worship service.
That means there’s fifty percent less time for the preaching of the Word. But those people who now are not going to church Sunday night, they’re doing really good things with that hour they saved. They’re watching Downtown Abbey.
Really? Now, people used to say to me, “Oh, you know, you’re such a traditionalist. Why do we have to have two services on Sunday? The Bible doesn’t say we have to have two services on Sunday.” Oh, we say, “That’s exactly right. I think we need to go to those ministers and say, ‘Why are you so lazy? Why do we only get two services on Sunday? Why don’t we get three services on Sunday? Why don’t we get four services on Sunday? We want more of the Word of God!’”
Speaking as a minister, I’ve never heard anybody say that to me. But, you see, if the Word, if this book is not just any book, if this book is God’s Word, and this book is alive and active, and if the Holy Spirit speaks to His people and remakes His people through this Word, how can we not want more of it?
I preached at the ordination of a friend from Psalm 119. I didn’t preach on the whole psalm. But I began with Psalm 119:129, and the first line there says, “Your testimonies are wonderful.” Your testimonies are wonderful. Now, what does that mean? We might be tempted to think that what that means is your testimonies are really neat. My subjective reaction to your testimonies is to say, “Well-done. I like them. They’re good.” That’s not what that verse means.
When the psalmist says, “Your testimonies are wonderful,” he’s not talking about a subjective response to God’s testimonies on our part. He’s talking about the objective character of these testimonies. And what it really means is, your testimonies are a miracle in our presence. And that’s the way we ought to think about the Bible. They — this book is wonderful in the sense that the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire that went before the Israelites was wonderful. It was inspiring, but much more important, it was objectively a miracle.
And there is a miraculous quality to this book because it’s come from God and it tells of God and it leads to God. And that’s why we need to treasure it. That’s why we need to love it. That’s why we need to possess it. That’s why we need to have confidence in it. The Word will do it, in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we study the Word, when we open the Word, when we hear of the Word, and when we share the Word, let’s have confidence in the Word.
It’s the living and active Word of our God. It’s a miracle abiding among us. It will lead us to faithfulness and it will lead us to a throne of grace where we will find mercy and grace to help at just the right time. May the Word of God always be for you help at just the right time.
Let’s pray together. Father, how thankful we are for your Word and how we confess that we are so very prone to take it for granted, to undervalue it because it’s hard to think of a way in which we could overvalue it. And so may this Word live in our hearts, softening them, drawing them to Christ, pointing to Christ and to His faithfulness and His mercy. Oh, Lord, be merciful to us, each one here, and to each one here, lead us in paths of faithfulness according to Your Word. Hear us for Jesus’ sake, amen.