Tuesday, April 12, 2011

God's Word in Isaiah's Mouth

[This entry follows a sermon titled "A King Stands at a Crossroads".  Click on the title to listen to the audio.]

Several months ago, our congregation studied through the doctrine of the Word of God on Wednesday nights.  I was helped in leading that study by some chapters in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology...a book I highly recommend.  I am going to write about the authority of God's Word, and if you recognize some phrasing from today's entry, that's because it comes from Grudem's book.  However, I unashamedly use the phrasing because God has gifted Wayne Grudem with an ability to say important things in very simple, clear ways.  So, with that being said, let me get to the thought for this week.

In Isaiah 7:10-13, something very interesting happened.  Here's the text: Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 'Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.' But Ahaz said, 'I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.' And he said, 'Hear then, O house of David!  Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?'"

Ahaz is facing a military threat, and Isaiah calls on Ahaz to trust in God's power to defeat the enemies.  God has promised that their wicked plans against Judah will not stand (v. 7b).  Yet, Ahaz will not believe, so God pursues Ahaz...God offers him a sign...God offers him assurance that his faith will result in the salvation of his and his nation.  And how does he do it?  This is the question that brings us to the issue of God's authority and His Word.  Look carefully at those verses again.  How does God offer the sign?  He speaks.

Notice that verse 10 says "that LORD spoke to Ahaz."  That seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it?  Ahaz responds, and then verse 13 begins, "And he said...'you weary my God'..."  Wait a second!  What just happened?  Something changed.  It's clear that God is speaking in verse 10, but then it looks like Isaiah is speaking in verse 13.  How do we explain this?  Were God and Isaiah backing Ahaz into a corner...ganging up on him?  Was this an intervention, and when God's words didn't produce the right effect, Ahaz needed to take over?  Absolutely not!

What's happening here is very important to our understanding of the authority of God's Word!  In both instances, God is speaking through the prophet's mouth.  When the prophet speaks on behalf of God, God is speaking by means of the prophet...the two are inseparable.  In verse 10, the LORD speaks to Ahaz, not in a mystical way but through the voice of Isaiah.  In verse 13, Isaiah speaks to Ahaz, not on his own authority but in the authority of the LORD.  If we don't understand this to be the circumstance in these verses, then we can get confused.  We might think that God's plea wasn't good enough or authoritative enough, so Isaiah added his authority.  That would be like saying the oceans don't have enough water to drown a man, so I will add a drop.  Yes...it's that crazy!

The point is this...the words of the prophet were God's words in the prophet's mouth, and so, the words do not derive their authority from the speaker but from the source.  We know this as parents, but only if you have more than one child.  Let's say your children are Billy and Susie.  As a parent, you may send Billy outside to tell Susie it's time to come in and do chores.  When you send that message out the door, even through the lips of a child, the authority in the command is your authority...it's parental authority.  Billy walks up to Susie and says, "Dad says it's time to come in and do our chores."  If Susie responds, "No!  I don't feel like doing that...it's not fair.  I'll come in when I'm ready," who is Susie disobeying?  Billy?  No...you.  The same is true when God speaks through His appointed mouthpieces.  His authority comes through their words and intersects with our lives.

What we have in the Scripture are a collection of men who are God's mouthpieces over a couple of millenia, writing down the words of God, that we might be taught, corrected, rebuked, trained, and given wisdom unto salvation through Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 3:15-16).  When God's written Word speaks, God speaks.  To disbelieve or disobey God's Word is to disbelieve or disobey God.  The Word of God to King Ahaz was that he must trust in the Lord...trust in the Lord's power to save...not trust in his own strategy or strength.  Yet, he did not have faith in God's Word...therefore, he did not have faith in God.  He disobeyed God's call to faith...therefore, he disobeyed God.

If we claim to be one of God's people, then that means we are committed to living in submission to His authority.  The best way to test that claim (i.e.- to be one of God's people) is to see what our relationship is to God's Word.  I leave you with these questions to consider.  Does the Bible carry authority in our lives?  When God's Word speaks, do we believe it and show that we believe it through our obedience?  Do we invest more authority in the counsel of friends than the counsel of God in His Word?  Do we lean on our intuition more than God's revelation?  Are we looking for a word from a mystical voice in our heads rather than looking to the words that have been written for our instruction?  Do we believe that God's Word carries God's authority?  Well, do we?  Our lives will answer that question far more clearly than our words ever will.