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Friday, January 10, 2020

A Lamp Unto My Feet

In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth" (John 17:17). That sounds like Jesus is praying that we would be sanctified by the Word. Indeed, that principle is repeated elsewhere. Telling husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, Paul explains that He "gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" (Eph 5:25-26). And there it is again. Sanctified by "the washing of the water of the word." So apparently God's Word is important. Critical, in fact. Is it any wonder, then, that the Word is under attack?

"It's not reliable," they argue. "It's man-made," they contend. "It's just a book." The Bible disagrees. Being "breathed out by God" (2 Tim 3:16), it is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17). In God's word we discover what is true ("teaching"), what is in error ("reproof"), how to fix error ("correction"), and how to live godly ("training in righteousness"). So effective is this tool (versus "unreliable," "man-made," or "just a book") that it can complete God's people and equip them for every good work.

Still the critics seethe. Both without and within the church, they doubt the content and effectiveness of Scripture. It's unreliable, unknowable, and largely irrelevant. To which I say that the Bible, apparently, doesn't know that.

The 119th Psalm is the longest chapter of the Bible. It is a celebration of God's word. Structured around the Hebrew alphabet, it has 22 sections, each beginning with its corresponding Hebrew letter. The text employs the widest ranges of synonyms for God's word that you'll find anywhere ... repeatedly. Despite the skeptic's claim that "the Bible isn't a book of rules," the author of the psalm includes descriptions like "promise" (Psa 119:41), "word" (Psa 119:42), "rules" (Psa 119:43); "law" (Psa 119:44), "precepts" (Psa 119:45), "testimonies" (Psa 119:46), "commandments" (Psa 119:47), and "statutes" (Psa 119:48). (If you were paying attention, those all occurred successively under one Hebrew letter.) In this list you can find the bulk of the content of Scripture. There are, from God, promises, information, rules, laws, precepts, testimonies, commandments, and statutes -- all that is required to equip God's people for every good work.

The author of the psalm has more to say on the subject. Those who keep God's testimonies are blessed (Psa 119:2). God's word will keep a young man's way pure (Psa 119:9). He repeatedly speaks of his delight (not apathy or ambivalence or loathing) for God's word. Love for His word produces joy, comfort, protection, direction, hope, and delight among other things. There are almost unbelievable things in there, like, "If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction" (Psa 119:92). Delighting in God's law kept him from perishing in trials. Not God's promises, God's support, or God's strength; God's law. One of the best known verses is this.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psa 119:105)
The best direction in life comes from God's word.

Jesus taught that we are sanctified -- set apart and made holy -- by God's word. The Bible says that the Scriptures are effective enough to complete and equip God's people for every good work. The psalmist delights in every aspect of God's word, from laws and commands to precepts and testimonies. God's word is protection, direction, even elation. I know that continuing loud voices outside and inside the church assure you that the Bible isn't all that -- not all that important, reliable, relevant, readable, or useful. It's a lie. And we know the father of lies.


Craig said...

I've always found it interesting that Jesus, as well as the authors of scripture all seem to agree that objective Truth does exist, and that we as humans are able to know the Truth. Yet I keep hearing people say that we can't know the Truth, that it's all opinion, that Truth exists but it's just beyond our grasp.

Clearly our knowledge of truth is limited compared to God, but just as clearly we are able to know Truth and expected to.

Stan said...

Yes, even among those who say, "I value the words of Jesus most" you will hear, "You can't know for sure." Jesus said, "You shall know the truth" and yet self-proclaimed Christians (and skeptics, of course) argue that we can't.

Craig said...

It all depends on what your definition of the word “know” is.