A Sermon (on Bible Sunday at St Keverne)
We face an uncertain and increasingly wicked world. How may we stand?
The Lord has written, The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Prov 1810)
The Word of God is also a strong tower into which we may run and be safe.
Scripture remains the one accurate and totally reliable book.
Let us have confidence in this: that the Lord means what he says, and that he always keeps his word.
What did Jesus do when Satan tempted him at the beginning of his ministry?
Three times he turned to scripture and said, "It is written ..."
By this means he defeated Satan.
He clearly demonstrated the value of the Word of God.
Compare this with what happened at the beginning when Adam and Eve fell.
What was the cause of their fall? They did not heed God's Word.
The Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree of the garden;
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
for when you eat of it you will surely die."
One day the serpent came and asked Eve a seemingly innocent question.
"Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
Eve replied correctly (for Adam had told her God's command).
"We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say,
'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden,
and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"
But she was unaware that the question "Did God really say..." was intended to bring doubt into her mind.
So now the crafty scheming serpent was free to directly challenge God's word.
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Not only did he challenge God's command; but implied a most unworthy motive.
i.e. His command is only to deny you your rights, your fulfilment, your success.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye,
and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
It was saddest day in the whole of human history.
Note that Adam had no excuse either.
He had been with her and witnessed the whole conversation.
He was duped just as much as Eve was.
He was blinded by Satan's guile and he did nothing. Together they fell. And the reason they fell?
They chose to discard God's Word for one of Satan's many lies.
In the last book of the Bible the Spirit specifically says,
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:
If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.
And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy,
God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."
At the start God was clear. At the end God is clear.
The Word of God is essential. All of it. Not just the bits we like. Nothing is to be added and nothing removed.
Why is the Word of God so valuable?
What is the purpose of God's Word?
1. To reveal the state of man
2. To reveal God's rescue plan
3. To enable us to live a righteous life
Let's take a brief look at how God revealed this purpose to some of the many different men during the first 4000 years.
Consider Cain and Abel.
Both were farmers. Abel kept sheep, and Cain was arable; he grew corn.
God reveals the state of each of their souls.
Cain was careless. He brought just 'some of the grain' and offered it to God.
He did what Mum and Dad said he should, but he had no hunger for God.
Sadly, he saw no need to plead with God for his forgiveness.
Abel's state was quite different. He brought the very best of his young flock,
and he offered the best fat portions of it to God.
Heb 11 says that he offered it 'by faith'.
I expect he must have said something like this: "Lord, this is my best, but I know this is not good enough.
I long for the day when you will somehow offer a perfect sacrifice for my sin."
God was pleased - and he told him so. Abel was assured of being forgiven and it showed.
The Word of God reveals the state of each of these men.
One saw no need to be rescued.
The other was thrilled to know God's forgiveness.
Like Mary, the prostitute who poured the perfume over Jesus' feet.
She showed much love because she knew she had been forgiven much.
Noah was distressed at the great wickedness in the world, and in himself too.
He cried to God for mercy and the Lord declares that he was made righteous.
He was instructed to built a wooden Ark and to cover it with pitch. Gen 614
You know the story - that many now so foolishly ridicule.
But the amazing thing is that the Hebrew word for pitch here is "Kappur"
A word that is used over 80 times in the OT.
But everywhere else it is translated 'atonement' or mercy, redemption ...
So Noah was told by God to cover the Ark inside and out with atonement.
Now when the flood came all would know that Noah was saved by Jesus.
For In the same way that we use bread and wine and 'remember,
Noah used real pitch or tar on his boat and looked forward.
We look back to what Jesus did, Noah looked forward to what Jesus would do.
We are both saved by the same blood of Jesus Christ crucified in our place.
In this the Word of God again reveals the state of man, God's rescue plan,
and also how righteous Noah then pleased God by being obedient.
Then there was Abraham.
One day God gave him the surprising instruction to go and sacrifice Isaac.
He obeyed. But as he and Isaac walked to Mt Moriah, Isaac asked,
"The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb?"
Abraham must have wondered too.
But God gave him one of the most profound prophecies of the OT; he replied,
"God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."
And he did. 2000 years later God provided his only son Jesus!
God kept his word.
To further emphasise this, God did provide Abraham with a ram in place of Isaac.
But Abraham did not call the name of the place
"The Lord HAS provided" but "The Lord WILL provide." Gen 228,14
Jesus also bears testimony to what Abraham saw so clearly. In Jn 856 he says,
"Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
So the Word of God reveals how Abel, Noah, Abraham and many others
each saw the great need of man for a Redeemer,
and how God alone could and would provide him.
Later we are told about the great prophet Daniel.
As a young man he was exiled by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon.
He faithfully served this great despotic ruler as PM for more than 60 years.
But Babylon was the epitome of wickedness.
There were over 50 temples to worship different idols in this new city.
Daniel longed with all his heart for a righteous kingdom,
where the Lord Almighty alone is worshipped and obeyed.
We are given his prayer of confession in Dan 9, and his pleading with God.
Who then sent Gabriel with his consistent answer:
Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' Dan 924,25
Daniel was told the Anointed one WILL come. He will put an end to sin.
He will atone for wickedness. He will establish everlasting righteousness.
God had at last answered his life-long dream.
Of the many dreams and visions in the book of Daniel this is probably the least known but the most important!
And incidently, it is very likely that it was this prophecy that was passed down,
which drew the waiting Magi from the East (from Babylon).
They had sought the same Anointed One, to end all sin.
At the appointed time they were expecting him.
So when the star appeared, they hurried to Jerusalem to find him.
In these last days men will increasingly deny the vital revelation of God's Word.
But God has written this unchanging truth:
For man to know his natural plight without salvation
For man to appreciate God's gracious provision for our redemption
And to depend on his continuing grace to live a righteous and obedient life.
These remain the central purpose of all of God's Word.
Today there are many ideas, many lies, many false hopes, and as Jesus warned, many are deceived.
Only God knows the truth and he reveals it to us in Scripture.
In 1 Chron 1232 the men of Issachar are described as men
"who understood the times and knew what Israel should do".
They were only able to do so because they knew the Word of God.
We need to read the Scriptures and we need to seek the mind of Christ.
Some in Jerusalem missed this second vital step, so Jesus said to them
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.
These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. Jn 539,40
So let us both study the scriptures and come to Jesus for forgiveness and life.
And for discernment and truth.
I'm not ashamed to own my Lord.