Series: Isaiah Series: Calling People Home
Title: “The Will of God and the Word of God” – Part Six
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
We cannot live in the will of God unless our minds and hearts are being fed by the Word of God and has authority in our lives. Although visions may come from God and do come from God, it comes largely through subjective means. By that, it is meant that they come from inside our own hearts, our own desires and feelings. Last week, Author and Bible teacher, Charles Price, began to explore the issues of personal guidance. He continued on Sunday, explaining how the subjective guidance of God must come under the objective guidance of His Word.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible with 171 of 176 verses referring directly to the Word of God. When David wrote this, he had only the first five books of Moses to go by, and perhaps some of the books which follow, Joshua, Judges. This was his own experience, recognizing that these were not the words of Moses, but of God, and therefore, we can safely project his statement, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” to all of Scripture.
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David made important decisions and interestingly, when he made them, we have a recurring phrase that comes up 8 times. “He inquired of the Lord.” He didn’t do that by climbing a tree, looking up to the heavens and inquiring of God – “just show me.” He did that by digging into the Word of God and he says he “delights in it”. “I set my heart on it. I obeyed it. I followed in its steps.” Ninety, if not 95 percent of the will of God can be found in the Bible. Our Christian lives may become extremely vulnerable if we don’t make time to read and meditate on God’s word. David writes in Psalm 119:133, “Direct my footsteps, according to your word.” What if you don’t know God’s word? Then He is not going to direct your footsteps and in this overwhelmingly secular world, you can become easy prey in being diverted from the Truth.
Charles talks about three ways people read the Bible; two rather self-centered ways, and a sound way where God is the focus. Some read it as a type of ‘remedial handbook’ for therapeutic purposes. They have a problem and they want to fix it. Maybe the Bible has something to say about it. They use it as a book on psychology rather than on theology; in other words, this is about me rather than God. It isn’t about self-help. It’s about God being our refuge and our help. It isn’t a sort of owner’s manual to help us live our lives well; it’s about Christ being Lord of our lives and living in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. It’s about Jesus being our Saviour and our Sanctifier. The subject of Scripture is about God at work in His Son, Jesus Christ, through His Spirit. The end result is the transformation of the human heart by coming into an intimate relationship with Christ where His activity and presence in our lives is what transforms us.
Secondly, we can read the Bible randomly, almost like a type of Russian roulette approach, where you need some guidance, so you just open up the Bible and hope you find something there. Maybe I’m considering going back to my homeland, so I opened the Bible and presto… it says, “I will bring back my exiled people.” Does that mean I should go back to my home country? Only God knows. There was a man who, seeking guidance, opened his Bible, closed his eyes and put his finger on a verse. It said, “Judas went out and hanged himself.” He didn’t like that, so he tried again and again, without anything being of help. Though it is very true that God sometimes gives us a word seemingly at random, it is not the most reliable way to read the Bible. We can keep looking and eventually will find a helpful phrase but it’s in the time spent in our normal reading of Scripture (where our Bibles are falling apart), that God is most likely to speak to us.
If we are going to experience the Lord leading and guiding us, we have to be people of the Bible; people who make time to read it, not merely for information, but through God’s written word, we come to know the Living Word. It is truth and not just truth we have to obey in some legalistic fashion, but truth which works out as the Spirit of God works in us. As we cannot sidetrack the discipline of regularly reading our Bibles and be in the will of God, how do we go about reading and understanding it correctly?
Charles points out seven simple ways, which he labels “units of truth” that will help ensure our understanding is correct and aid us in reading the Bible with confidence.
The first unit of truth is the sentence. We should never build anything on a collection of words without it being read in the context of the full sentence. For instance, fifteen times the Bible states, ‘there is no God’, but to read that in its entire sentence gives a completely different meaning. For example, Deuteronomy 32:39 says, “There is no God besides me.” Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.”
The second unit of truth is the paragraph. That doesn’t mean the verses on either side. Chapter and verses are helpful in navigation of the Bible, but paragraphs will often continue into the next verse or chapter. In Philippians 4:13, Paul writes, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” That does not imply we can jump over the moon because Christ strengthens us. Paul wrote this from prison and he was talking about knowing what it’s like to be in want or in plenty, whether well fed or hungry. In its proper context, Paul was saying whatever his circumstances, he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. The sentence has to be read in the full context of the paragraph.
The third unit of truth deals with the subject. Mostly everyone assumes that 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 is a beautiful expose on love. Though it is, that is not the subject Paul is talking about. In Chapters 12, 13 and 14, Paul is speaking on the gifts of the Holy Spirit that, exercised without love, would just be a noise or a clanging symbol. So he explains the love in which those gifts are to be exercised. His subject isn’t love, but the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The fourth unit of truth must be understood from which book of the Bible you are reading. The book of Proverbs is exactly that - proverbs, wise teachings. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not depart from it.” That was not given as a promise but a proverb, a guideline to help lead a more godly and fruitful life. Another prime example comes from the book of Ecclesiastes. The second verse of Ecclesiastes says, “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the teacher.” Ecclesiastes presents a humanistic perspective on life. No one has an advantage over anyone else. Man’s fate is like that of the animals. Man has no advantage over the animal. They all eat, sleep, mate, and die in the same way. It’s meaningless, but as you read on, it’s when we take God out of the equation that everything ‘under the sun’ is meaningless. Reading the complete book, gives an entirely different perspective.
The fifth unit of truth is in which testament you are reading. There are 613 commands given to Moses; some, like the Ten Commandments, which reveal God’s moral character, apply for all time, but the Jewish ceremonial laws were abolished the moment Christ died on the cross and their civil laws were not intended to extend beyond that. In the Old Testament, adulterers were stoned and we have to understand that law in the context of which Testament it was written. In Psalm 51, David writes, “Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.” In the New Testament, under the New Covenant, when we accept Christ into our hearts, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us and remains forever.
Both Testaments are inspired by God but they are different. The Old Testament is a Jewish book with the focus on God, setting apart a nation of people for Himself. It’s a story about keeping the people in the right place for the right purpose. The New Testament is a Christian book, which comprises the Jews of the Old Testament and the Gentiles. It’s a global story, a fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham from whose descendents would come “the Seed”, which would bless the world. From the Day of Pentecost, we no longer live according to the law, but according to the indwelling Spirit of the resurrected life of Christ.
The sixth unit of truth is the entire Bible. The Bible is one continuous book with only one progressive revelation of truth. There is a saying that goes, ‘The new is in the old contained and the old is in the new explained’. Both testaments dovetail together and the progression is not from part truth to whole truth but from promise to fulfillment. We have to interpret both testaments in light of the whole Bible.
In the seventh unit of truth, everything must be interpreted in the light of Christ. The Word became flesh and the Word is now the living embodiment of Truth. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” On the road to Emmaus, after Christ’s resurrection, He came alongside two men who were clearly distraught over the death of Jesus. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said throughout the Scriptures concerning Himself. It wasn’t until He broke bread with them that they noticed the wounds in His hands and recognized who He was. We cannot, in any way, detach the Bible from Christ as all roads in Scripture lead to Him.
And finally, our dependence upon the Holy Spirit is imperative so that ours hearts perceive and our eyes are opened to the divine revelations of God.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for
teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in
righteousness, so that the man of God may be
thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16