I want to use two passages in the Bible as my text this morning.
The first one is the instruction God gave to Joshua as he began leading the nation of Israel. (Josh 1:8) “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”1 Joshua’s future depended on how he related to the revelation God had given in His word. “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Tomorrow will work out well for you if…if you keep the word of God prominent in your life, if you think about it day and night, if you do what it tells you to do. Of course, we know that Joshua took that advice to heart and was successful in leading Israel into the Promise Land.
In contrast to that, we now move to the days of Jeremiah when Israel had set aside the word of the Lord and followed their own ideas. Listen to the word of the Lord to the leaders of Israel in those days, Jerm. 8:9 “The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD; So what wisdom do they have?” The rhetorical question : “They have rejected the word of the LORD: So what wisdom do they have?” None that counts! To reject the word of the Lord is to reject wisdom. The consequence of rejecting what God has already said is that you have forsaken the wisdom that is available to you.
The word of the Lord was available to the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day. They had the “Book of the Law” that God had given Moses. They had the Psalms that God had given David and the Proverbs of Solomon. They even had the prophet, Jeremiah, in their midst. He was giving them the word of the Lord, as well. God’s word was readily available to those people. That was not their problem. Their problem was that they had not embraced that word as the rule of life. First, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and secondly, as a consequence of that, they have no wisdom.2 Our wisdom is to hear the word of the Lord and let that word direct our course in life.
A study by the Barna Institute found that that the number of people skeptical or agnostic toward the Bible nearly doubled from 2011 to 2014. Those believing that the Bible is “just another book of teachings written by men that contain stories and advice” doubled during that three-year period. That trend is alarming. The same study found that the number of people coming to Scriptures to connect with God is also declining.3 There is a drifting from the word or perhaps even a forsaking of the word of the Lord in our country. We will not be a part of that. We will follow Joshua’s example.
Four things we must do in our relationship with the word of God:
I. Respect the authority of the revelation in the word.
This is about our attitude toward the Bible. Is a book filled with interesting stories and advice from well-meaning men? No, it is much, much more than that. It is a revelation from God. It is designed to show you the way of salvation. It is designed to show you how to live life successfully so that the end result is good. It is authoritative above all other ideas because it comes to us from the Creator. Peter wrote in his second epistle, “knowing this first,” [as a priority get this down first of all] “ that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2:20-21). The Scriptures were initiated by God. The Holy Spirit moved on men and supernaturally revealed to them truth.
Paul warned the Christians at Colosse, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). There are ideas and philosophies of this world asserting influence all around us. There are ways of viewing life that are contrary to God’s will and many Christians are influenced by those philosophies. Paul says watch out that you don’t get deceived by those thoughts.
In the past few decades the culture has been significantly affected by a post-modern mindset. Most people think it’s their own reasoning; but, in fact, they have been influenced by the spirit of this world. They have bought into a worldview that does not acknowledge absolutes. So the rule of life becomes, whatever feels right for you. You let me live the way I want to live and I’ll let you live the way you want to live. There is something good about respecting one another’s free will. But when we add to that, the idea that one lifestyle is as good as any other lifestyle, we have been deceived. It is one thing for me to respect your free will and give you space to make your own decisions in life. It is another for me to say that what you do is right simply because that’s what you want to do. There are boundaries established by the Creator as to what is right and acceptable verses what is wrong and not acceptable. Since He made it all; and He owns it all, He is the One who decides what those boundaries are. And He has revealed some of those boundaries in His word.
Where do these absolutes come from? They don’t come through consensus of society. They come from the eternal God who does not change. Absolute truth is rooted in the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.4 So if I think I can make up a set of rules to replace the boundaries God has already revealed in His word, I am sadly mistaken. It is a fatal mistake to think you or I can simply ignore what God has told us to do and simply make up our own rules as we go. Don’t be deceived into thinking any such thing. I wish our Supreme Court could understand and accept this one simple truth. A few do, most don’t.
The One who has no beginning and no end, the Eternal One, does not change,5 He has revealed His will in His word and it never is outdated. It is not like the passing fashions of this world that fade away. God’s word is settled in the heavens.6 It is not up for debate. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away; but My words shall not pass away.”7
Again, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, we have a more sure word of prophesy. Therefore we have a more reliable understanding of truth than mere human reason.
In this first point, I’m talking about our fundamental understanding of what the Bible is. It is authoritative because it is revelation from the Creator. The truths revealed in its pages are eternal because the One who established it is eternal. There is “no variableness nor shadow of turning” in Him (James 1:17).
The Bible is a revelation of God’s ideas. It’s on a higher plane than your ideas or my ideas. It’s on a higher plane than the reasoning of any human being. It is authoritative and final.
In Isa 55:8-9 God says, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
So we respect this revelation more than our own reasoning power; more than the consensus of the culture; more than our own desires.
And we accept ALL of it; not just the part we like. Paul wrote in 2 Tim. 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
A lot of people who claim to respect the word of God, in practice only respect and accept the part of it they want to receive. Leviticus is profitable for doctrine if I receive it in the proper context of the whole revelation of Scripture. Dispensationalism has sliced and diced the Scripture so severely that, in practice, some camps only accept the New Testament revelation. In reality, some only receive the epistles as authoritative for doctrine and living. The Bible benefits us when we receive the whole counsel of God8 and keep it all in context. The God of the Old Testament is the same God as the New Testament. Yes, there is a new and better covenant. But you can’t fully appreciate the New without some understanding of the Old.
Our attitude toward Scripture must be one of respect and high regard. So much so that we let Scripture pass judgement on us rather than us picking through it and passing judgement on it.9
I. Respect the revelation God has given in His word.
II. Meditate on the revelation God has given in His word.
Engage the word with your mind! Read it; study it; ponder it’s meaning for your life. When God told Joshua to meditate on the word day and night, He was essentially saying, Let the word fill your thought life. If I’m framing a house, I have to think about measurements and nails. But woven in all that are thoughts toward God, reflections on what He has said in His word. I’ve got God on my mind all the time. I am considering what He has said in regard to what I’m doing. For me the Golden Rule comes up often. When I am deciding what to do to someone else, I am also remembering that Jesus said, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).10 Then there are special times when we can set aside other things and give more focus to our meditation of the word.
It’s not enough to just abstractly believe it is inspired of God and authoritative. We must engage the word in our thought life on a regular basis. We must read the word so that we know what it says. We must study its contents so we interpret it rightly. We must ponder it and apply it to our daily decisions. All of this was included in God’s instruction to Joshua.
We allow the word to shape our world view, determine how we think about things and value things. And ultimately direct how we live our lives.
Our minds are to be renewed by the influence of the word of God.11 The Scripture has a sanctifying influence that we need on a daily basis. The Psalmist wrote, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. 10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! 11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:9-11). Jesus used Scripture in Luke 4 to fight temptation. When the Devil made his suggestions, Jesus returned fire with Scripture that had already been hidden in His heart. Don’t wait until the attack comes and then try to find some Bible verse to counter it. Hide the word in your heart on a daily basis; and it will be there when you need it. Paul said to Timothy, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” We have to give attention to those things. There is a conspiracy against it. The Devil does not want you in the word on a regular basis. He will give you plenty of other things to do instead of that. We have to be very intentional about staying engaged with the word of God.
III. Live by the revelation God has given in His word.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reflected on His journey with the Children of Israel. In Deut. 8:2-4 he specifically pointed out an essential lesson God had taught them. “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”
The lesson: “that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.” What does that mean to you? Jesus quoted it in Luke 4:4 as He was contending with the Devil. Bread, especially in that culture, was the stable of sustenance. People lived on the nutrition of the bread they ate like Asians often live on the stable of rice. Got to have that bread to survive! But the lesson learned by Israel was that life is not sustained by material nutrition alone. Life is sustained by feeding upon the word of God. Your body needs bread; but your spirit (the very core of your being) needs the word of God to live on. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die” (John 6:48-50). The divine Logos, Jesus, is revealed to us through the written word that God has given to us.12
Our wisdom is found in the word of God. The leaders in Jeremiah’s day claimed to be wise; but they were fools because they were leaning on their own understanding. They were not living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. They had rejected the word of God, so what wisdom is in them? They rejected the one source of wisdom, therefore, they became fools. In contrast, the Psalmist said to the Lord, “Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. 100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts” (Ps 119:98-100 NIV).
The process that brings wisdom into our being is only complete when the respect for the word and the meditation of the word leads to living according to the word. “I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.” In the actual practice of the word, doing what God has said to do, we become wise. “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only” James says. So we live by the word in the sense that we draw spiritual sustenance from it. And we live by the word in the sense that it directs our actions in life. Deut. 4:5-6 "Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding….”
Faith is an essential part of all this. Heb. 4:2 “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard. “We have to believe the word to respect it. If we don’t believe it, we probably won’t invest much time meditating upon it. And if we don’t believe it, we certainly won’t live by it.
In 2 Chron 20:20 Israel was about to go into battle under the leadership of King Jehoshaphat. God had spoken through the prophets and given them assurance that He would be with them. Listen to the Jehoshaphat’s words of encouragement. "Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper."
I. Respect II. Meditate III. Live by
IV. Share the revelation God has given in His word.
I want to encourage to not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.13 The culture has become more and more aggressive in opposing it. But it remains their only hope of salvation. The word will speak for itself. God will honor His word. His word will not return void; it will accomplish its purpose. Share the revelation with others and let the Holy Spirit do His work on their hearts.
Paul wrote in 2 Tim 4:2-5,
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
I encourage you to do the same!
1 All Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version unless indicated otherwise.
2 Romans 1:23 “Professing to be wise, they became fools.”
3 Barna “The Bible in America, 2014” accessed at https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/664-the-state-of-the-bible-6-trends-for-2014#.V3FMNo-cHIU. Two-thirds of the skeptical are (28% Millennials, 36% Gen-Xers).
4 Hebrews 13:8;
5 Rev. 1:8, 11; 4:8; 22:13: Ps 102:25-27; Isa. 45:5-9, 18-21; Mal. 3:6;
6 Ps 119:89, 160; 1 Peter 1:23-25.
7 Matt. 24:35; Mark 13:31.
8 Acts 20:27
9 This does not mean that we don’t need to use our reasoning while examining Scripture. I’m talking about having a humble heart that readily receives correction and instruction from the Word, in contrast to the arrogance of sitting in judgement over the principles God has set forth in Scripture (as if my moral judgements exceeds those of God Himself).
10 It’s amazing how simple this makes many decision, if we are really willing to make those decisions on that basis.
11 Romans 12:1-2
12 In John 6:63 Jesus said, “… The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”
13 Rom 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”