The Foundation for the Faith

The Foundation for the Faith

May 18th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM

Isaiah 8:19-20

And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
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THE FOUNDATION FOR THE FAITH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Isaiah 8:19-20

5-18-75     8:15 a.m.

 

We welcome you on radio this morning to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Foundation for the Faith.  It is an expounding of a passage in the eighth chapter of the Book of Isaiah.  We are preaching through this mighty prophecy, so pertinent and relevant to our own day.  Last time we were in the seventh chapter, this day in the eighth chapter.  And he has something to say about the astrologers, the necromancers, the soothsayers, the fortune tellers.  In verse 19:

And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter:  should not a people seek unto their God? should the living go to the dead?

A necromancer is somebody who says that he can conjure up the spirits of the dead; spiritualists, you talk to the dead.

Should not people go to God instead of to the dead?

Then the twentieth verse:

To the law and to the testimony:  if they speak not concerning this word, it is because there is no light in them.

[Isaiah 8:19-20]

Not to an astrologer; I am overwhelmed by the astrological witchcraft that is furiously multiplying among American people.  There is not a great newspaper in America that would publish an edition without the astrological column in it; all of which shows to me that when people depart from the true God, they turn to empty, and sterile, and false gods—the astrologer, the soothsayer, the fortuneteller, the necromancer.  If they believe not the truth, God sends them a delusion to believe a lie.  And that occasioned this passage in Isaiah:

When they say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? should the living go to the dead for interviews?  To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because they are darkened, there is no light in them.

[Isaiah 8:19-20]

Lord Bacon, Francis Bacon, was one of the great intellectuals of all time.  Upon a day, he held that Book high above his head and said, “In this Book, God speaks.”  How certainly do the Scriptures say that God speaks through them!  At least seven hundred times in the Pentateuch— the first five books of Moses—is it written, “Thus saith the Lord.”  Four thousand times in the Bible is that phrase repeated, “Thus saith the Lord.”  Three hundred twenty times is the Old Testament quoted by citation in the New, and referred to many, many more.  The foundation of our faith is not in superstition, or in wizardry, or in astrology, or in hearsay, or even in a hierarchy.  It is upon the infallible, inerrant, unchanging word of God.

It is a marvelous thing, this law and testimony that a man can hold in his hands, this holy and heavenly Book.  It is like Jesus Himself, unique and separate and apart [Hebrews 7:26].   There is none like it in literature, none penned by human hand—not like this.  It is from the Bible that God reveals to us the beginning of the ages, the eons [Genesis 1:1].  No man was there; he was not created, no man saw it, he was not present.  It is revealed to us by the Word of the Lord.  And what God has said to us in unveiling the ages of the past, God has also predicted for us in lifting the curtain of the future.  Time is ever present before God; it is nothing for Him to write of a thousand years as of today [2 Peter 3:8].  And through the Holy Scriptures, God has given the outline in centuries and in millenniums of the unfolding days of the future, even to the consummation of the age.  But, as wonderful and as marvelous as the Bible is, revealing to us the ages of the past and unfolding for us the ions of the future, yet its marvelous preciousness is its present meaning to us now.

It is almost miraculous what can happen to the human heart in reading the Word of God and listening to the message of the Lord.  In the Fiji Islands, there was a black native, reading a Bible.  And a French infidel looking at him made fun of him and ridiculed him for reading the Word of God.  And the black Fiji islander turned to his critic and said, “Do you see that boiling pot?  Were it not for this Book, you would be in that pot!”

I pastored a sweet and precious church, White Mound Baptist Church in Coryell County.  There was a godly deacon in the church named Ed Davidson.  Everybody loved to hear Ed Davidson pray.  When you called on him, he always knelt on both of his knees and prayed.  There came into his hands a Spanish Bible.  He couldn’t read it, didn’t know what to do with it.  Then it occurred to him:  “There’s a tenant farmer on my place, a Mexican family; I’ll give the Bible to them.”  So the good deacon placed in the hands of that Mexican family this Spanish Bible.  The days passed and the weeks passed, and the Mexican father in the home came to Ed Davidson and said, “We’ve been reading the Bible you gave us.  We have found the Lord, and we want to be baptized.”  The deacon came to me and said, “What shall I do?”  I said, “Bring them to the house of the Lord.  Welcome them into the family of God, and we’ll receive them, and I’ll baptize them.”  I baptized the whole family.

I was in school, it was a student pastorate; on a Saturday I drove out to my little parish, and I was met by Ed Davidson.  He said, “Pastor, while you have been in school this week, the house burned down where my tenant Mexican family lived.  But they have something they want to show to you.  And I am going to take you to visit them.  They have lost everything that they had, but they have something they want to show to you.”

So he took me to a little place where they were housing that Mexican tenant family.  And the Mexican father in the home came out to see me.  He was so proud and so glad.  He had in his hand that Bible, mostly burned up.  And as he placed it in my hand, he said, “Pastor, just one thing did I try to rescue out of the burning house, the Word of God.”  And he showed it to me as he placed it, almost burned up, in my hand.  Isn’t it a wonderful thing what God can do through His inspired and infallible Word? [2 Timothy 3:16].  I have a pretty poem here to read:

We’ve traveled together, my Bible and I,

Through all kinds of weather, with smile or with sigh.

In sorrow or sunshine, in tempest or calm,

Thy friendship unchanging, my lamp and my psalm.

We’ve traveled together, my Bible and I,

When life has grown weary, and death e’en was nigh.

But all through the darkness of mist or of wrong,

I found there a solace, a prayer, and a song.

So now who shall part us, my Bible and I?

Shall ‘isms,’ or schisms, or ‘new lights’ who try?

Shall shadow for substance, or stone for good bread,

Supplant thy sound wisdom, give folly instead?

Ah, no, my dear Bible, exponent of light!

Thou sword of the Spirit, put error to flight!

And still through life’s journey, until my last sigh,

We’ll travel together, my Bible and I.

                        [“My Bible and I,” Rose Benn, 1893]

 

I made a special journey one time to stand in John Wanamaker’s store in Philadelphia.  He was a glorious churchman, and Christian, and man of God; a very prosperous and successful and famous merchantman.  He was appointed postmaster general of the United States, John Wanamaker.  He became one of the richest men in America.  And he said one time, “Would you like to know the best investment I ever made in my life?”  Well, you would have thought the buying of the property there in downtown Philadelphia for the erection of that glorious, and spacious, and beautiful store, or some investment in stocks and bonds.  You know what he said?  He said, “When I was a boy, I worked hard and saved my money, and I bought a Bible for $2.75.”  He said, “That was the best investment I ever made.”

You see, Jesus preached from this Book.  Isn’t that a wonderful thing?  When you hold the Book in your hands, Jesus held the Book in His hands.  And Jesus preached from these pages.  “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and, as His custom was, He went to church. He went to the synagogue, and stood up for to read.  And they delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah” [Luke 4:16-17].  Isn’t that a wonderful thing?  What I am doing now, preaching out of the prophet Isaiah, Jesus did, out of the same book, with the same words.  “They delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.”  And He opened the book and turned to the sixty-first chapter and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me” [Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-19].  And finishing the passage said, “This day are these words fulfilled in your ears” [Luke 4:21].  Jesus preached out of the Book.  Luke closes the story of His ministry:

 As He spoke to His disciples, beginning at Moses and all the Prophets,

He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

[Luke 24:27]

Isn’t that a wonderful way to preach?  For a man to take the Bible and to expound its message, which is a witness to the saving grace of the Son of God; and as though that were not enough for the beloved physician to write that about our Lord one time, he repeats it, he says it again:

And Jesus said unto them, Thus it is written—

and these are the words—

All things must be fulfilled which are written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me.  Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.

[Luke 24:44-45]

What a heavenly anointing, and unction, and endowment, and enduement from heaven! Lord, that You might open our understanding, that we might understand the Scriptures.

Do you notice, all of it, “all of it which is written in Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me?” [Luke 24:44].  The Hebrews divided their Bible into three parts:  the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim.  The Torah, Moses; and so He says, “written in the Law of Moses,” the Torah; “and the Prophets,” the Nevi’im; “and the Psalms,” biggest book in the Ketuvim, the Hagiographa, was the Psalms.  So not just in a part of the Book, or just selected texts of the Book, or favorite passages of the Book, but our Lord expanded the Word of God to the whole Book: the Torah, the Law of Moses; the Nevi’im, the Prophets; the Ketuvim, the Writings, the Hagiographa; the whole Book is inspired of the Lord.  And in my passage this morning, out of which I’m expounding God’s message for us, “To the law and to the testimony:  if they speak not according to this word” [Isaiah 8:20].  Now, it’s not exegetically incorrect to say that Isaiah was referring to all of the other Scriptures such as the Torah, but mostly he was talking about the word that he received from the Lord.  Listening “according to this word” [Isaiah 8:20]; that is, the message that Isaiah was delivering to his people.  We must hasten.

Not only did our Lord Jesus expound the Book [Luke 4:16-21, 24-27, 43-44], the apostles took their stand on the Word of God and proved out of the Scriptures that Jesus is indeed the Messiah God, and the Savior of the world.  In the eighth chapter, beginning at the same Scripture, Philip preached to that treasurer of Ethiopia Jesus [Acts 8:35].  And in the tenth chapter, “To Him,” said Simon Peter preaching to the household of Cornelius, “To Him give all the prophets witness” [Acts 10:43].  The apostles stood with an open Book in their hands, and preached the infallible, immutable Word of the living God.

And we are a people of the Book; so Paul would write to his son Timothy, “Till I come, give attendance to reading” [1 Timothy 4:13], reading the Word of God.  And the famous verse out of which I preach in these conferences so often, did so this past week, “All Scripture is theopneusta,” breathed of God [2 Timothy 3:16].

All Scripture—

translated here—

given by inspiration of God [2 Timothy 3:16].  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom, Preach the word!

[2 Timothy 4:1-2]

 My assignment is ever simple:  pore over these pages, fill my soul with this message, and stand up here before God’s people and expound God’s Word.

You know, the modern minister, typically preaching out of Reader’s Digest, out of the Christian Century, out of the newspaper editorial, out of the reports from the State Department, out of the economic forecasts and prognostications of these who guide our economy, and I think, “Dear me!  Why would a man called of God deliver a message from a so and so, or a this and that, or a something and the other, when he has the incomparable privilege to stand before the people and deliver the Word of the Lord?”

“Thus saith the Lord God,” and standing on that rock, he could never be moved: the priceless, precious, saving Word of God.

I have another poem that to me is one of the most blessed of all of the reflections of saints in years passed.  You see, for hundreds and hundreds of years the Word of God was denied to the people; they were not allowed to read it.  And the Waldensians; Peter Waldo was saved on a street and became a street preacher.  He would have a minstrel, and they would sing on the streets, and they would preach the Word of God.  He was a very wealthy merchantman in southern France.  So he took his fortune and had the Word of God copied—before the printing press—and as they went around, they would give out the Word of the Lord, little precious parchments.  Well, this is the story of a Waldensian merchantman; when I was a boy, we called them “drummers.”  Did you ever hear that word “drummer?”  Drummer: referring to somebody that went from house to house and sold things to the mother and the wife in the home? Why, I can remember when the drummer would come to my house, and he would open a great big, big suitcase, and he would show my mother silks, and calicos, and ginghams.  And mother would always buy some of it, and she made things with her hands; she was a beautiful seamstress.  Well, this is a drummer, a Waldensian drummer, and he has opened his suitcase to a queenly woman, and he is showing her his silks.  So the poem closes now:

“O lady fair, I have yet a gem which purer luster flings,

Than the diamond flash from the jeweled crown on the lofty brow of kings;

A wonderful pearl of exceeding price, whose virtue will not decay,

Whose light shall be as a spell to thee, and a blessing on thy way!”

The cloud went off from the pilgrim’s brow, as a small meager book,

Unchaste with gold or gem of cost, from his flowing robe he took!

Here, lady fair, is the pearl of price, may it prove as much to thee!

Nay, keep thy gold, I ask it not, for the Word of God is free!”

[“The Vaudois Teacher,” John Greenleaf Whittier]

Isn’t that a wonderful story?  And out of those roots, loving God’s Book, reading God’s message were we born, were we conceived, did we come into being as a church and as a people of the Lord.

We must stand and sing our appeal.  And while we sing it, to give your heart to the blessed Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], to come with us into the fellowship of the church, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your soul, make it now, come now, on the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.