6. The Authority of Yahweh's Word
Sabbath School: Saturday 17 May 2003
"Everyone who is of the truth hears My [Yah'shua's] voice." Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"" (John 18:37-38, NKJV).
I want to begin today's lesson by asking everyone here to define a word for me - and that word is 'truth'. As used in our language, it is a word that actually has many meanings. In its most common usage we usually mean the quality of being genuine, actual, honest, or transparent. The person who thinks he is a fried egg, however, may be all of these. He may be being completely honest - he may believe he is a fried egg. And were you to connect him to a lie detector, he would probably register as being truthful.
Another definition of truth is being 'factual'. We all know that a person who thinks he is a fried egg is not dealing with the facts of reality. We can all see that he is a human being. Yet were you to hypnotise us we could be convinced, like the man, that he is a fried egg. I have watched hypnotised people - they 'see' things in a very different way to us by the power of suggestion.
Another definition might be verified facts - as a scientist might use them. Thus we can say - because we have tested the hypothesis so often - that the earth revolves around the sun. The evidence is overwhelming. But even the scientific method has its limits. When the first Soviet cosmonaut went up into space and said there was no visible God, and that therefore God does not exist, was he being factual? One could say his science was bad science. I myself have never seen wind but I have felt its effects often enough, as we all have.
I could give you other definitions which people use of 'truth' like loyalty, accuracy, and so on, but all would fall short of an absolute definition. And so not surprisingly people repeat that by now famous response of Pilate to Yah'shua (Jesus) when the He said: "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice". And today people are still asking: "What is truth?"
The word in Hebrew which we translate into 'truth' is 'emeth which means 'certainty', 'stability', and 'trustworthiness'. 'emeth doesn't change. The man who thinks he is a fried egg may get cured of his mental illness and discover he is a human being - he has moved from fantasy into reality or certainty. He has moved from a lie into a truth.
Yah'shua (Jesus) said that those who are of the truth - of 'emeth - hear His voice. That doesn't just mean hearing a voice speak but - as the Amplified Version of the Bible puts it - "hears and listens to my voice." A person who is a friend of the truth - who belongs to the truth - is fully engaged with the voice of the Master when He speaks. And he does so because Yah'shua (Jesus) is not 'truth', or 'a truth', or even 'some truth', but is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn.14:6). Expanding a little, what He is saying is that He is 'certain', 'stabile', and 'trustworthy'. You don't have to worry that He is suddenly going to change His colours, as it were. He won't suddenly turn out to be something or someone else. Or as Paul puts it, He is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb.13:8, NKJV). He is utterly reliable.
We come to understand, therefore, that truth is, in a way, absolute and that we have a living example of absoluteness in the Person of the Messiah (Christ). That ought to be reassuring. Yah'shua (Jesus) is not capricious - one of His characteristics is that He is not liable to sudden unpredictable changes in attitude or behaviour. Thus if He says He loves you, He really does. He won't suddenly do an about-face. When the Master speaks the Truth it becomes the Word.
The Gospel of John opens with one of the most astonishingly profound statements ever written. He writes:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with Eloah (God), and Eloah (God) was the Word. This was in the beginning with Eloah (God)" (Jn.1:1, HRV).
The word we use for 'Word' is dabar in Hebrew and means 'the real thing', 'the Authentic Being' or 'The Ultimate Reality'. And that, in my view, is a pretty good definition of truth. Yahweh our Father, the Creator, is the 'Ultimate Reality', 'the real thing', the 'Authentic Being', the Truth. Nothing and no one else is the 'truth' except by extension, manifestation or revelation. Speaking of Yah'shua (Jesus), Paul wrote to Timothy:
"Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Ruach (Spirit),
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory"
(1 Tim.3:16, NKJV)
Yahweh is the 'real thing' and we, as humans, have been privileged to see 'the real thing' revealed in Christ. Yah'shua (Jesus), as we know, was without fault. He was perfect, sinless, did no wrong, and obeyed Torah to the letter. He was, and is, faithful. And He is called 'the Word' or 'the dabar', which is the same word we use to mean Scripture.
The Torah is another manifestation or revealment of 'The Ultimate Reality'. It is an expression, in language - in words - of the Truth. The Bible is not itself living, however. It is neither God nor God-in-the-flesh. It is words in ink or type. And because it is not something that is living, it can have no meaning or use until it is activated. The Bibles which you are holding is not the Word of God - the Dabar of Yahweh - it is a representation of the Ultimate Reality in written words. However, add a magical ingredient and it will at once spring up into life.
Every morning several members of my family take a Vitamin C tablet and add it to water. When the tablet makes contact with the fluid, it starts bubbling vigorously. It springs, as it were, into life. But were you to add that tablet to petrol or olive oil nothing would happen.
Yah'shua (Jesus) taught a parable about the Word which you all know. He calls this Word the 'word of the Kingdom'. He said: "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart" (Matt.13:19, NKJV). He goes on to tell a story about seed falling on different kinds of ground - the wayside, stony places, thorns, and good soil, and describes what happens to the seed. Four different environments are described which explain why people react to the Bible so differently - from those who are in love with the book to those who find it crushingly boring or may even hate it.
"Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty"" (Matt.13:18-23, NKJV).
The Bible by itself is lifeless. Life and truth spring up from it when it is planted in the good soil of a receptive heart and is made understandable by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which we have spent two weeks studying now.
I once thought that the Bible was boring, stuffy, and lifeless. I remember I tried reading the King James Version when I was about 13 but it was all mumbo-jumbo to me. I didn't pick it up again until I was about 20 and then - then - the reaction was completely different. By then I was more open to it because I had experienced Yahweh in a supernatural way. It is amazing how we can see the same thing in two different ways at different times.
The Scriptures are Yahweh's expression of Himself in words. But they can't come to life until the right conditions are in place - a desire to know the truth and to respond to it. Once that Word is activated in the heart and mind, astonishing things start happening that reminds us of a marriage relationship. Paul says:
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church (Messianic Community) and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water [and] by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Eph.5:25-27, NKJV).
Now obviously if Yahweh could have brought the kingdom of pass without the Bible or written Scriptures He would have done so. However, there is a reason we have the Bible and a reason why we must work hard to come to know and understand it. Because every now and then one meets people who say conceitedly that the Word of God is written in their hearts and so they don't need the Bible - or they don't need to obey the written commandments - or that they obey the commandments but don't need to check up with what the Bible says the commandments are because the 'Spirit' will tell them what to do and what not to do. This teaching is both fallacious and dangerous because you will always find people who claim they are completely sane and rational whilst maintaining they are fried eggs. The commandments are given to us as a check so that we can see whether the Torah really is written on our hearts!
What would you say to someone who said that the commandments were written on their heart whilst they went around murdering or robbing people? Or of they refused to observe the Sabbath day of rest? Or if they spoke disrespectfully of their parents? Would that be evidence that the Scriptures were written on their hearts? Of course not! And that's why we have the Scriptures so we can check to see whether, in fact, all or only part of the Word is written on our hearts.
I don't know how many times I have met people who say that don't believe in rules. They seem to either hate rules or be afraid of them as though they were something harmful. The thought that the Bible contains rules makes them shudder though they never pause to think that the Person who wrote them was, and is, the Truth and Ultimate Reality. If they are so hateful and fearful, why would the God of love cause His servants to write them down?
I am sure you have all been driving in your car thinking that everything is fine when suddenly a red light starts blinking on the instrument panel. "What on earth is that?" you might exclaim. "There's nothing wrong with the car! It's going just fine." Then you discover, to your dismay, that you have been careless in not checking the oil often enough and that the oil has nearly all gone. A little longer and you might have ruined your engine.
We are supposed to regularly check up in Yahweh's Word to make sure that our souls are functioning properly and acceptably in His sight. I don't know how many times this has happened to me and to tens of thousands of other Christians but I have thought that I had something all taped up and mastered in my life only to discover a scripture to contradict that belief. What I thought was written in my heart wasn't there at all!
I meet sincere, honest, genuine, 'real' Christians all the time who believe the Torah is written on their hearts but the way they live proves it is not. They usually base their belief on some false teaching like they speak in 'tongues' so they therefore must be saved and Spirit-baptised. There are a lot of unbiblical teachings preached by ministers who should have known better that have deceived millions of believers. The trouble is, the ministers did not have all the Torah written on their hearts as they supposed and those they preached to failed to follow the good example of the Bereans to check up their Bibles to see if what the minister said agreed with the Ultimate Reality and not some 'feeling' they had inside.
The Word of God - the Bible - is our Reference Manual to make sure we are properly wired up to Yahweh. It is more than able to point out or errors. That is why Paul wrote:
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim.3:16-17, NKJV).
Anyone who says they do not need doctrine, do not need reproof, do not need correction, do not need to be taught about righteousness, that they are complete and able to live in a perfectly good way, is deceived and living in a lie. And anyone who says they do not need the Bible because they have been 'baptised in the Spirit', are saved and can never lose their salvation, have the 'law written in their hearts', or because they have a 'relationship' with Christ, is living under a massive delusion. And the reason they shun the Bible is likely because it contradicts an condemns the way they live.
There will be a time when we don't need our Bibles anymore but that time has not yet come. There will be a time when we don't need to be reminded of all the commandments because they will be written in our very personalities - not just in our brains, or in our feelings, but in our very way of being. There is a very real danger of vain confidence that leads to carelessness and an unwillingness to do things Yahweh's way. When that happens - when we no longer have the written Truth to point us in the right direction, we are soon off the Way that leads to Eternal Life.
Our heart, the Parable of the Sower teaches us, needs to be like soil if we are to be receptive to the whole truth - the Ultimate Reality - and not just some of it or fleeting glimpses of it. Soil that is not broken by digging, breaking, and turning, however, is not good enough to grow the seed of the kingdom. As any gardener, farmer, or horticulturist will tell you, the best soil is that which is broken down into fine particles. Our own hearts - which become encrusted and solid from disobedience, rebellion and self-will - need to be broken down before the Bible can take root and become a blessing instead of some boring exercise. And it must be watered, given sunlight, and be at the right temperature. In short, we have to make an effort to receive the Word. Without that, you might as well try to grow potatoes in granite stone.
The reason we have so much false doctrine in Christendom - and the reason why the Church has fallen away in mass apostasy - is because people have grown lazy. They'd rather hire others to do the thinking for them. But that is to give a power to ministers that they are incapable of handling and which often leads to cultism. Even the apostles were bound by the Word - they were not entitled to make up their own doctrines and claim a special 'revelation' to do so as so many modern false 'apostles' are doing. And though a man may indeed receive revelations from Yahweh they must square with Torah. If they don't, they are worthless.
The Bible and its contents are indispensable to both minister and lay-person alike. The Scriptures themselves tell us what they are for:
"The word of Eloah (God) is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Heb.4:12-13, NKJV).
It doesn't matter what wonderful experiences I have been having, it doesn't matter how much of a relationship I claim to have with Yahweh if my actions prove to be in rebellion against the Word. The Scriptures are "living", "powerful", "piercing" and enable us to discern both ourselves, others, and 'spirits'. And finally, we are to be held accountable for the way we used, misused, or didn't use them.
There was a time in ancient history when Israel lost the Scriptures. There weren't many copies around in those days because this was before printing presses were invented. The Israelites lived their lives blissfully ignorant of what the Scriptures taught. During repair work on the Temple, the High Priest Hilkiah came across a copy of the Torah and read it to the king, Josiah. We read in the second book of Kings:
"Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, "Go, inquire of Yahweh for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of Yahweh that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us"" (2 Kings 22:11-13, NKJV).
Whenever we read Scripture and find that we have been doing something we ought not to have done, or something we failed to do, if we truly love Yahweh as we claim we do, our reaction should the same as that of King Josiah: grief! If our hearts and the Word disagree, which has to give way? Yes, our hearts - even if we have convinced ourselves that we are led by the Ruach (Spirit), even if we convinced ourselves that the commandments are completely written on our hearts, even if we have convinced ourselves we are in totally right relationship with Christ. There is simply no other response. That is what the Word is for. It is authoritative and doesn't change. It remains for ever.
Yahweh has declared of His Word:
"So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it"
And if we are rightly related to what Yahweh has said in His Scriptures and not just what He has placed in our hearts amongst all the other unredeemed parts of our soul, then we have this promise:
"For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to Yahweh for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off"
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