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830. The Trustworthiness of God’s Word

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
The Truth Network Radio
October 2, 2020 7:00 pm

830. The Trustworthiness of God’s Word

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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October 2, 2020 7:00 pm

Dr. Layton Talbert of the BJU seminary faculty continues a doctrinal series entitled “God’s Word in Our Hands” from Genesis 1

The post 830. The Trustworthiness of God’s Word appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Let's listen to today's message preached by Dr. Layton Talbert of the Bob Jones University Seminary.

How many of us are there? Then you know what I'm talking about, right? The youngest child is typically the informer of the family. And if there's one thing an informer loves, it's a scoop. Because you're so used to suffering with IDS, that's information deficit syndrome. You're the last one to find out anything about what's going on. You're the last one to know everything. So that when you come across some fresh information, you can't wait to pass it on. So when Bobby has to be taken out of the room at Sunday school. Or better yet, when Bobby announces at Sunday school that his mother might be going to have twins and his father isn't sure if they might need a new car and maybe they even need a new house because they don't know if they have room.

You can't wait to be the first to inform your family of this vital information. And having at your command an audience of people older than you who are dependent on you is a heady experience for a seven year old. But the first time you happen to get something wrong. The first time you unintentionally, erroneously convey false information. Accidentally convey. Unintentionally convey. Erroneous information. Oh the cruelty of childhood. You are ever after regarded as not entirely reliable.

And that's profoundly frustrating for an informer. But even as adults, when we know we are really telling the truth and people don't trust our words. We're hurt, we're indignant, we're insulted because our words are an extension of our character and when people don't trust our words it reflects on what they believe about our character. Do you think God is any different? Or do you think maybe he's a little bit like us?

Or do you think maybe we're a little bit like him in this regard? The more I study this book, the more I have become persuaded and seen evidence that God is profoundly jealous to be believed on the basis of his words alone. Part of God's passion to magnify his glory is his passion to magnify his integrity. And it's impossible to demonstrate your integrity apart from your words. So let's start here. God's trustworthiness is at the root of our confidence in all of his other attributes.

Why? Because we would know almost nothing about him if he didn't tell us. I mean the general revelation of creation testifies to the existence of a being of great power and glory, Psalm 19, Romans 1, that only direct self-revelation from God himself, what theologians call special revelation, can tell us what he's like and what he's doing. And that additional special revelation needn't be exhaustive, but it has to be reliable. So if this being is not reliable and if what he tells us about himself is not trustworthy, then we do not know God and cannot know God. That's why the Lord eagerly displays and jealously guards the integrity of his words.

His reputation, his glory, and our ability to know him as he is all depend on it. So God's trustworthiness is foundational, but God's trustworthiness is itself rooted in other attributes of God, like truthfulness. The veracity of God simply means that God tells the truth all the time. He does not and cannot deceive in what he says. God cannot lie.

You've got a number of passages there. You know these from Bible doctrines. But what if he's mistaken? What if he unintentionally misinforms us? That's where omniscience comes in. He is, of course, all-knowing. God's omniscience certifies the accuracy of God's veracity. God cannot deceive, but beyond that he cannot be deceived because he knows everything perfectly. But suppose he predicts or promises something that he fully intends to do, that he honestly meant to accomplish, but when it comes down to it, he just can't quite pull it off. That's where his omnipotence steps in because God is all-powerful.

He cannot be thwarted in anything that he says he will do. So reliability, trustworthiness, requires honesty and accuracy and ability, and God has these three perfectly. But what if he chooses not to speak? Or what if his words are vague and in some mystical language, supernatural language that only a select few, only a priestly hierarchy can understand?

Or what if God's words are so esoteric or ambiguous that only a scholarly hierarchy can correctly interpret them for us? To be meaningful, trustworthiness then requires one last component, and that's communicativeness. Trustworthiness has to be demonstrated towards someone and can therefore be displayed only in the context of a relationship. In other words, trustworthiness requires relationship and relationship requires communication. God's trustworthiness doesn't mean anything if we don't know what he says or can't really understand what he means. How else do we gauge his trustworthiness than by the correlation between what he says and the expectations that that creates and what he does? God is a flawless communicator. God means what he says, that's veracity backed up by omniscience and omnipotence, but God also says what he means, that's clarity.

And both of those are essential for trustworthiness to be a fully functional attribute. So God is always totally honest, fully informed, perfectly able, fundamentally clear, and therefore his words are utterly trustworthy, whether he is relating past history, telling us what really happened in the past, or telling us what he is like, his character, his attributes, or prophesying future events, this is what is going to happen, or explaining what's going on around us, or explaining to us what's going on or happening inside of us, or promising to provide our needs, his words in all those areas are entirely totally trustworthy. So let's start where he does, Genesis 1, because the biblical story begins by showcasing the trustworthiness of God's words. This may not be a passage that occurs to you in connection with this theme. You know what the Decalogue is, right? The Ten Commandments, we call them, but Decalogue simply means ten words. Did you know that the Bible opens with a Decalogue, a series of ten words, ten statements from God, in Genesis? Because ten times Genesis 1 reads, and God said, let such and such happen. The first time, chapter 1 verse 3, God's words simply become reality, and God said, let there be light, and there was light. Three times God's words are followed by, and or so God created.

In other words, he proceeded to do exactly what he first said. And God said, and then he did it. Six times, God's words are followed by an elegant assertion of effortlessness. And God said, and it was so. In fact, one Jewish translation renders this even more matter-of-factly. God said, and that's how it was. So on one level, this language conveys, and this is what we're used to thinking about in Genesis 1. This language conveys the creative power of God's words, that's true, but the more basic truth that we tend to overlook here is that what God says happens. The way God chose to create, and the way God chose to record how he created, hammer the point ten times over that his words are inherently reliable. Because God didn't have to create this way.

Does this ever occur to you? He could have simply thought things into existence and told us that's how he did it. He could have silently willed everything into being and told us that's how he did it. But he spoke, and it happened. He said, and it was. He chose to create via words.

And he chose to tell us that that's how he did it. So in the Bible's first chapter, God introduces himself to us as the one whose words dictate and define reality. This is heady theology.

And there is very earthy practicality in this as well. So the Bible opens with a record of creation that testifies not merely to God's power, but to the reliability of every word he speaks. So what he says is exactly what he does, what he speaks is exactly how it happens. But the reliability of God's words in Genesis doesn't end in chapter 1. Because that first decalogue in Genesis 1 is followed by another statement from God in Genesis 2. And God commands the man and tells them, don't eat of this tree, if you do this is what will happen. A word from God.

Is that reliable you think? Genesis 3 then puts those words to the test. The first challenge in human history to the trustworthiness of God's words took place in Eden. And when you strip it down to its bare essentials at the core of the first temptation was an attack on the trustworthiness of God's words. Those words that were just up there from Genesis 2. And you strip everything else away and at the heart of the fall itself was a decision not to trust God's words.

Satan's strategy unfolds in three stages. First, he instills doubt about God's words by questioning their content. Did God really say you can't eat of any of the trees in the garden? Second, he incites disbelief in God's words by contradicting their content.

You're not really going to die. You shall not surely die. Third, he engenders distrust of God's words by maligning the motive behind them. For God knows that in the day you eat of it, you shall be as God's knowing good and evil.

That's what's really going on here. God is indivisible from his words. The scripture shows that in so many ways. That was a whole point that I had to cut out.

Don't have time. But God is indivisible from his words. The same attributes that the scripture applies to God's person, it applies to God's words directly.

The same responses that scripture commands us to have towards God's person, it commands us to have towards God's words. And think of his titles. He commemorates this. He memorializes this eternally in one of his own titles. He is the Word.

Why? This is really important to God. And you cannot undermine the reality of God's, excuse me, the reliability of God's words without impeaching his character.

And you know what happens. The first human sin is traditionally described as rebellion. It was that, but not in the sense that we typically envision, rebellion. It was much more subtle than that. It all came down to the decision to trust, it all came down to the decision to trust someone else's words over God's.

To trust someone else's depiction of reality over God's. You ever notice that Satan never directly urged disobedience? He never said, go ahead, take a bite. He never drew attention to the fruit. He never talked about how tasty it was. He never dangled it in front of Eve.

You say, how do you know? He might have. Well, if he did, God didn't tell us. And that's the point, because this is God's testimony to what happened. And the details that he includes is what God wants us to know and understand about what happened and why it happened and how it happened.

And what he underscores is that Satan concentrated his entire attack on God's words. Human sin began with a failure to cling to God's words as totally trustworthy and reliable. And any decision to sin ever since is a decision to distrust God's words about that sin, about its consequences, about whether it's right or wrong, about what God says about it. And any decision to distrust God's words is always, always a decision to listen to someone else instead.

To trust their words instead of God's, whether that someone else is Satan or a friend or a celebrity or a theologian who's contradicting God's words, or just you and your own thoughts. Genesis begins not just with the theology of creation but with the theology of God's words and argument for the reliability of everything God says. Psalm 19 affirms that the testimony of the Lord is sure.

The word sure means reliable, trustworthy, exactly what we're talking about. And Genesis is God's testimony of how all things came to be and one thing he intentionally emphasizes in his testimony is the reliability of his words. So, for example, when someone espouses the interpretation that the early chapters of Genesis take the form of myth, there is more at stake here than just cosmology. That interpretation nullifies God's own first testimony to the trustworthiness of his words that he has built into his testimony of how it happened. And God is exceedingly jealous over the integrity of his words. In fact, next point, God goes to great lengths to defend and protect the trustworthiness of his words.

There are so many passages that we could go to to demonstrate this, so let me just give you a small taste of that divine jealousy from Jeremiah and Ezekiel. As part of Jeremiah's induction into the prophetic ministry, the Lord shows him an object and then asks him a question. And it might seem kind of weird unless you understand that in Hebrew there's a word play going on that is the connection between what he shows Jeremiah and his point in showing it to him.

So the first conversation between them goes like this. God says, Jeremiah, what do you see? Jeremiah says, I see an almond, a shakath branch. And God says, you've seen well, for I am watching over, shakath, play on words.

I am watching over what? My word to perform it. God's first prophetic revelation to Jeremiah emphasizes his jealous vigilance over doing exactly what he says. And this ends up coming out all through Jeremiah's prophecy. For example, Jeremiah 23, God delivers an oracle against false prophets. And he summarizes his objection this way, I am against the prophets who steal my words. I am against the prophets who use their tongues and say, he says, I am against those who prophesy false dreams and cause my people to err by their lies and by their recklessness.

Yet I did not send them or command them. Why is God so incensed? Because they have perverted the words of the living God, not just because they deceived other people. But by cloaking their lies as God's words, they're dragging God's integrity through the mud along the way. That incenses God. Because it undermines his credibility with everyone else. The reason God treats the misrepresentation of his words so severely is because his words reflect his trustworthiness.

And he takes that very seriously. In fact, God's concluding words to these false prophets in the end of the chapter are chilling. Because you say this word, the oracle of the Lord, and then follow it with your lies, therefore behold, I will utterly forget you and forsake you and will cast you out of my presence.

I will bring an everlasting reproach on you and a perpetual shame which shall not be forgotten. Would you say God is passionate about defending the trustworthiness of his words? In Jeremiah 44, God confronts a group of Jews who had fled Egypt to escape the Babylonian invasion, but taking their own idolatry with them, which was the cause for the invasion in the first place. So God swears to, quote, watch over them, same word as chapter one by the way, watch over them for adversity and not for good until they are consumed by the sword and by famine until there is an end to them. In other words, they escaped the Babylonian invasion, but they're not escaping God. He's going to watch over them and deal with them and judge them for their disobedience and their idolatry.

But he says he will secure a remnant who will return to Judah from Egypt. So why is God doing all this? Why is he saying all this? What's his goal in all this? Just to vent his righteous indignation?

To express his abhorrence for idolatry? This is how God expresses his objective. All the remnant of Judah who have gone to the land of Egypt to dwell there shall know whose words shall stand.

Mine or theirs? This is about God's words and the reliability and trustworthiness of God's words. And this shall be a sign to you, says the Lord, that I will punish you in this place, that you may know that my words will surely stand. Would you say God is supremely passionate about vindicating the integrity of his words? If that word supremely bothers you, think of Psalm 138 2, another passage we don't have time to go to.

But listen to it. God has magnified his word above all his name. He takes this really seriously. And then Ezekiel, in the book of Ezekiel, the phrase that they may know that I am the Lord, or some variation of that, greets the reader 78 times in this prophecy, that they may know that I am the Lord. God is going to do these things. And that theme is punctuated along the way with additional reminders that a word from God is as good as done. So you read phrases like this, for I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass.

I will say the word and perform it. The word that I speak will be done, says the Lord God. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will perform it. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it. I, the Lord, have spoken, and it shall come to pass, and I will do it. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it.

He keeps saying this. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord. The impact of God's future actions is compounded by the fact that he says ahead of time what he's going to do, and then he does it. If God merely intended to amaze the nations with his omniscience, he could limit himself to strict, sterile prediction of who's going to do what in the future. That would be pretty impressive, for God just to say, okay, he's going to do this, and then he's going to do this, and this is going to happen, without involving himself in it at all.

But this is about more than just his omniscience. If God wanted to wow the nations with his power, he could simply do all these things without any prediction. But God is passionate about proving the trustworthiness of his words, and if God's words and God's actions don't match, he forfeits his integrity, and he will never do that. All scripture argues for the trustworthiness of God's words. I argued earlier that God could have chosen any number of ways to create, but he chose to do so through words. Think of your whole Bible through that lens. Why does God make covenants? Covenants involve relationships, relationships involve words, and every covenant he makes is a public test of the trustworthiness of his words, which is why he is described as God, the faithful God, who keeps his covenants. Read through Exodus and Numbers, and notice how God keeps saying ahead of time what he's going to do, and then he does it.

Why? Why doesn't he just surprise everyone by powerful and unexpected interventions? Read through the books of Kings with its recurring emphasis on the word of the Lord, the word of the Lord, the word of the Lord. Why does he keep sending prophets to tell people exactly what's going to happen and what he's going to do? Because every prediction that he pronounces proves the trustworthiness of his words, which is why he says, my words shall not return to me void. When I say something, it's going to happen.

That's what he means in that context. Why doesn't God just silently provide our needs? Because every promise he utters becomes a demonstration of the trustworthiness of his words. There is a difference between believing and trusting. They're related. They're twins.

They're not identical twins, but they are twins. And we could delve into the lexical and exegetical arguments for that distinction, except A, we don't have time, and B, we don't really need to, because we understand this intuitively, don't we? We understand the difference between believing as intellectually assenting to information quite genuinely, and trusting as collapsing all the weight of my doubts and my questions and my fears on the assurances and the assertions, the words, of a trustworthy person. And we understand intuitively and experientially that we can genuinely, savingly believe the gospel and still wrestle for the rest of our life with actually trusting God.

We all understand that. Trusting everything he says throughout my life. Orthodoxy is believing God's word. Assurance, rest, confidence, security come from learning to trust God's words. And believing God's word is general. Trusting God's words is the specific. Learning how to move your soul from the general, believing God's word, to the specific, believing God's words, everything he says about everything, is a decision and a process, one statement of God at a time. God wants his children to trust his words, because that magnifies his character like nothing else can.

Just like when somebody entirely trusts your words, that magnifies their confidence in your character. And believe this, trust this, when all is said and done, every word that he has ever spoken will be proven, shown, demonstrated to have been 100% reliable. Father, we thank you that you've given to us a trustworthy, reliable record of your character, of our past, of our sin and our problem and our need, of our future. Lord, you didn't have to give us this kind of revelation. You didn't have to give us any revelation at all.

And you didn't have to give us so much. Lord, help us to understand your zeal, your jealousy over the trustworthiness of every word that you've said, and teach us, help us, grace us to collapse all of our trust, all of our confidence, and to find our confidence and rest and security in trusting all of your words. We pray this for your glory and in your son's name. Amen. Thanks again for listening to a chapel service from Bob Jones University. We look forward to the next time as we study God's Word together on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-24 22:42:39 / 2024-02-24 22:52:39 / 10

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