The Foundation of the Faith

Isaiah

The Foundation of the Faith

May 18th, 1975 @ 10:50 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 OF THE FAITH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Isaiah 8:19-20

5-18-75     10:50 a.m.

 

We welcome you who are listening on radio and who are listening on television.  This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas; and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Foundation of the Faith: the Word of God.  We are preaching through the great, mighty prophet Isaiah.  Last time in the seventh chapter, today in the eighth chapter and our text is verse 19 and 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? why would one living turn to a word from the dead?—

a necromancer—

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

[Isaiah 8:19-20]

 

You would think that the prophet was speaking to us today.  One of the surest signs of the emptiness of the unbelief and infidelity of the American people is their turning with increasing multitudinous throngs to astrology, and to sorcerers, and soothsayers, and wizards, and fortunetellers, and necromancers; these who say they’re able to bring up the dead to speak to us.  There is not a great newspaper in America today that would dare publish an edition without a column on astrology.  It is a sign of the spiritual poverty of America.  When we turn from the true God, we automatically turn to false, and sterile, and barren gods.  It was that way in the days of Isaiah:

When they say unto you, Seek unto familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and mutter:  should not a people seek unto their God? and why would the living seek for answers among 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.

[Isaiah 8:19-20]

One of the great intellectuals of all time was Lord Francis Bacon, a philosopher of tremendous insight, an essayist and author of unusual gifts.  One time Lord Bacon held up this Bible above his head and said, “In this Book, God speaks.  Truly, truly, He does.”  In the Pentateuch alone it is repeated, “Thus saith the Lord,” over seven hundred times.  In the Bible, that phrase, “Thus saith the Lord,” is used more than four thousand times.  Three hundred twenty times in the New Testament is the Old Testament cited by word and Scripture, and it is referred to many more times.  This is the Word of God.  “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” [Isaiah 8:20].

The basis of our faith, the foundation for it, is not superstition, or soothsaying, or wizardry, or necromancy; but it is the revealed, true light from heaven bound up in these holy and sacred pages.  The Bible is the great unlike; it is the great unique.  It is like Christ Himself: there is none like Him.  And even the Lord identified Himself with His word:  both are called “the word of God”; the incarnate Word [John 1:1-12], the spoken word [2 Chronicles 36:16], and the written Word [2 Timothy 3:16].  The Bible is gloriously unique.  It reveals to us the ages past.  No man witnessed the creation; he had not been brought into being.  We know of the ions and the ages past because they are revealed to us by the Lord in this sacred Book.  The same Lord God that opens for us the ages of the past is the same Lord God that opens for us the vista of the millennia of the future.  It is nothing for God that He tell us what happens a thousand or thousands of years yet to come.  It is all present with Him.  And the Lord, from the beginning, seeing the end, outlines for us the movement of human history.  And I read on this sacred page the great consummation of the age; God reveals it to us in this Holy Book.

But not only in the revelation of the past, and not only in the glorious vistas of the future does God speak to us, but He speaks to us now.  The message from His Book is one of life, and strength, and light, and encouragement now.  In the beautiful passage that you read from the fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah:

As the rain cometh down from heaven . . .

and as it waters the earth and makes it to bring forth and fruit . . .

so does the Word of God . . . bring blessing to our lives.

[Isaiah 55:10-12]

The vernal showers that fall from heaven turn into flowers and into wheat fields and into beautiful meadows and pastures and into orchards that are so fruitful; so the Word of God coming down to us from heaven waters our souls and brings blessing and fruit to us and to God.  The change that the Holy Scriptures brings to human life and human destiny is precious and glorious beyond compare.

It is so meaningful how God’s Word can change human life.  In the Fiji Islands, there was a black native reading God’s Book.  A French infidel was watching him and finally came over to him and said, “So you’re reading the Bible.”  And the French infidel scoffed, and scorned, and ridiculed that black native who was reading God’s Holy Book.  And the black native turned to the French infidel and said, “Do you see that boiling pot over there?  Were it not for this Book, you would be in that pot.”  What a glorious change does the Word of God make in human life.

When I was in school, I had a lovely, beautiful, gracious student pastorate, the White Mound Baptist Church in Coryell County.  In the church was a godly deacon by the name of Ed Davidson.  He could pray the angels down.  When he was called upon, always he kneeled on both of his knees, and just talked to God as though they were the best of closest friends.  Upon a day, somebody gave to Ed Davidson a Bible written in Spanish.  He knew not what to do with it; he could not read any word in it.  Then he thought, “I have a tenant farmer on my place, a Mexican family.  I’ll give the Bible to them.”  He placed the Bible in the hands of that Mexican tenant farmer.  A day past, and a week; a week passed, and a month.  And the tenant farmer came to deacon Ed Davidson and said, “I and my family have been reading the Bible, and we’ve been saved, we’ve been saved.  And we want to be baptized like it says in the Book.”  Ed Davidson brought it to me and said, “What shall I do?”  I said, “Deacon, have them come to the church and welcome; make a confession of faith and glory, and be baptized.”  Hallelujah, praise the Lord! And they did, I baptized all of them.

In the passing of time, when I went on a Saturday to my little church parish, I was met by Deacon Ed Davidson.  He said, “Pastor, something sad has happened.  The house has burned down of my Mexican tenant farmer and they’ve lost everything.  It burned up in the fire.  But they rescued one thing, and they want me to take you to the little house where temporarily they’re sheltered; and they want to show you something.

So the deacon took me to the little, temporary place where the family was housed.  And the Mexican tenant farmer came out.  He was carrying in his hand to present to me that Bible that was mostly burned.  And placing it in my hand he said, “Pastor, I dashed into the burning house to rescue just one thing, this Word of God.”  And he placed it in my hands.  That’s God; God speaking in His Word, God treasuring up for us His holy, and heavenly, and blessed presence and promise.

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 should try?

Shall shadow for substance, or stone for good bread,

Supplant thy sound wisdom, give folly instead?

Ah, no, my dear Bible, revealer 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 buried a man in this church that I won to Christ.  For the years of his life he’d been a producer of those plays on Broadway in New York.  He married a beautiful woman in this church, and came to Dallas to live, and was won to Christ here in this congregation.  As he was growing in grace with us—redeeming the time—to my great and infinite sorrow he was stricken down by a heart attack, and died.  When I buried him, I stood at the casket and looked down on his still and silent face, and his wife had placed his Bible on his breast in his hand.  I said to her, “That is a beautiful thing, a precious thing.”  She said, “Yes, after he was saved he read the Bible day and night.  A little testament he put in his pajama pocket when he went to bed.  He’d prop it up by the mirror when he shaved in the morning.”  And she said, “When I looked on his face, his hands seemed so empty, and I went upstairs and got his Bible;” and he was buried with the Word of God on his breast.  My Bible and I.

I made my way one time in Philadelphia, to the beautiful and spacious store of John Wannamaker.  He was a glorious churchman and a marvelous Christian.  He became one of the great successful merchant-princes of America, with a beautiful specialty store—department store—in New York and in Philadelphia.  He was in Philadelphia, growing up.  And in later life, so famous and so affluent, appointed Post Master General of the United States.  John Wannamaker one time, was speaking to a group of businessmen and he was talking about investments.  And the great Christian churchman said, “I want to tell you the greatest investment I ever made in my life.”  They expected him to say the property on which he’d built that whole block long store in Philadelphia, or some wonderful investment in stocks or bonds.  No, John Wannamaker said, “When I was a boy, when I was a boy, I worked hard and saved my money, and I bought a Bible for $2.75.”  The great merchant prince said, “That was the greatest investment I ever made in my life.”  My Bible and I.

When I study the life of Jesus, He preached from this blessed Book.  Isn’t that a hallowed, sanctified, holy feeling?  When I look at this Book, this is the Book Jesus held in His hand, and out of which He preached:

And when He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up:

as His custom was—

He went to church—

He went to the synagogue,  and He stood up for to read.

And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

[Luke 4:16-17, Isaiah 61:1-2]

That’s the book out of which I am preaching these days.  They placed that holy book in His hands, the book of the prophet Isaiah:

And when He had opened the book—

He turned to the sixty-first chapter—

and He read the passage and said, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

[Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:17-21]

 

My Lord preached out of this Holy Book, even out of the great prophecy that I am expounding during these Lord’s days.  And the beloved physician who writes the story closes his twenty-fourth chapter in the Book of Luke, “And Jesus beginning at Moses and all the Prophets expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself” [Luke 24:27].  Expounding, exegeting, exposing the Word of God; and as though that were not enough, the beloved physician writes yet again:

And Jesus said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you…  that all things must be fulfilled in 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]

Oh holy unction, oh heavenly visitation, when God opens to us the meaning, the depths, the profundities of these holy pages.  Do you notice, “And he expounded unto them all things in Moses?” [Luke 24:27]. The Jews divided the Bible—and every Hebrew Bible is exactly alike—it’s divided into three parts:  the Torah, the Book of Moses; the Nevi’im, the “prophets”; and the Kethuvim—the Hagiographa—“the holy writings,” the largest book in it being the Psalms.  So the Lord says that He found the exposition of God’s Word in the Torah, in the Nevi’im, in the Kethuvim; that is, the whole Bible, not just a part of it or a text of it, or a piece, or a paragraph, or a parcel of it; but the whole Book from beginning to ending.

I think of Spurgeon, who preached through the Bible, preached through the Bible. His great collection of sermons are the best commentaries on the Word of God in the English language.  Somebody said to Spurgeon, “Mr. Spurgeon, your sermons sound all alike.”  And Spurgeon said, “That’s right, wherever I take my text I make a beeline to the cross.”  Isn’t that great?  The whole Book exhibits our Lord, exposes our Lord, lifts up our Lord.  And when a man expounds the Word of God, he presents the blessedness of the revelation and promise of the Father in the Son.

Jesus preached from the Bible; the apostles stood on that same rock.  In the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, “Beginning at the same Scripture, Philip the evangelist to that Ethiopian treasurer, preached unto him Jesus” [Acts 8:35].  In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, standing before the household of Cornelius, Simon Peter said, “To Him give all the prophets witness” [Acts 10:43], standing on the Word of God.

And this is our faith and our foundation today.  We are a people of the Book.  The apostle Paul, in his last letter to his son in the ministry, Timothy, said, “Till I come, give attendance to reading the Word of God, reading the Word of God.” [1Timothy 4:13] Then the glorious passage that I use so many times in speaking to conferences and to preachers, such as I did this last week:  “All Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed,” translated here, “given by inspiration of God”  [2 Timothy 3:16].  All Scripture has in it the breath, the pneuma—the ruach— the Spirit of God.  “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].

Not in a thousand years would I ever be able to understand why the great mass of the preachers of the nations stand in their pulpits and preach out of the Reader’s Digest, or out of the Christian Century, or out of Newsweek or Time, or out of the editorial pages of the paper, when he could stand there, like a giant in a mighty castle, or on top of a great throne, or mountain, and expound the Word of the Lord.  What a preciousness, a holiness, a heavenliness; this blessed Book.

In the years passed, on the street in Lyon, southern France, a man, a rich merchantman named Peter Waldo, was saved on the street in that city, on the Rhone River in southern France.  He began himself to witness on the streets of the cities of southern Europe.  And gathered around him men, Waldensians they were called, and singers, and on the streets they sang and preached the blessed Jesus.  Being a rich merchant, he took all of his fortune and he caused to be written little Bibles, and he gave them to the people in their own language; the Word of God.

And this is a poem of one of the Waldensian merchants, who is opening his silks to a queenly lady.  In my boyhood days we called a man like that a “drummer”—a drummer—when I was a boy growing up, “drummers.”  A drummer used to come to my mother’s house, and as a little fellow, I just looked in amazement at all the things that he had in that great big suitcase.  He took out his silks, and his calicos, and his ginghams, and showed them to my mother.  And my mother would buy, and she was gifted with her fingers, she was a wonderful seamstress.  And she would buy those things and sew, and make beautiful garments out of them.  It is a “Waldensian drummer” we’d call him in my boyhood; a Waldensian traveling merchant man, who’s in the presence of a queenly lady, and he is showing her his silks and his satins.  And then the poem begins:

Oh 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]

Take it, God gave it to us.  The Lord wrote it in blood, watered it in tears, bathed it in suffering and sacrifice, and handed it down to us by the hands of the angels.  Thus to believe and to receive the Word of God is thus to believe and to receive the Word of Christ.

In this moment that we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you to give himself to the faith, coming into the fellowship of the church, accepting the blessed Jesus as your Savior, coming to be baptized or to put your life by letter with us; or for the first time in life accepting Jesus as your Lord.  Make the decision now in your heart and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand; coming down one of these stairways or walking down one of these aisles.  Make it now, do it now.  Come now, while we stand and while we sing.

THE FOUNDATION FOR OUR FAITH 11/55, 5/75

The Word of God

Isaiah 8:19,20; 55:10,11

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Spiritual Preaching and Teaching

(The Bible as a basis for the Christian Faith.)

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The sarcasm sometimes heaped upon us.

(a) Geo. Abbott “you little Bible reading Christian!”

The Bible Belt

Bibliolatry

The modern way of preaching–no text, reading, a life situation.

The modern way of teaching–social problems, panel discussions;

book reviews.

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The way of Christ

Luke 4:16-21 preaching.

Luke 24:27,44,45 teaching the disciples who were to bear the message.

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The way of the apostles and Christian witnesses.

Brooding over the mystery of the incarnation, death, resurrection, they found it’s meaning in the Old Testament Scriptures.

Matt. 1:22; 2:15,17,23;8:17;12:17;13:35;21:4

John 12:38; 15:25; 17:12; 18:9,32

The death on the cross – 30 pieces of silver–Judas

-smiting the shepherd, sheep scatter-

ed-Zechariah

-crucified between two malefactors.

Isaiah.

-gambling for clothing-Psalms

-“I thirst”

-not a bone broken

-spear thrust

Compare: convention sermon.

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They spoke, testified, with the Book in their hands.

Acts 8:35; 18:24-28 The origin of the Codex.

Paul to Timothy. I Tim. 4:13; II Tim. 3:16,17;4:2

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(a) Whittier’s Waldensian Merchant

Isa. 40:8; Matt. 24:35

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Whittier has put into verse the story of a secret possessor of a precious Biblical manuscript, a traveling Waldensian merchant who guardedly unfolds his treasure to a nobel lady, to whom he had been exhibiting his costly silks:

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“O Lady fair, I have yet a gem

Which purer lustre flings,

Than the diamond flash from the jewelled crown

On the lofty brow of kings.

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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.

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The cloud went off from the Pilgrim’s brow

As a small, meager book

Uncased with gold or gem of cost,

From his flowing robes he took.

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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.

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One of the great intellectuals of all times was Lord Francis Bacon, a philosopher of tremendous insight, an essayist and author of unusual gifts. One time Lord Bacon held a Bible up above his head and said, “Thus God speaks.”

Phrases like these “Thus saith the Lord…”

“And God said” repeated 700 times in the

“The word of the Lord came” Pentateuch.4,000 inBible

Our faith not built upon hearsay, hierarchy.

Our faith is built upon God’s unchanging word. Isa. 40:8 New Testament

quotes Old Testament 320 times. Alludes to it as many more. Can hold it in my hand.

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As Jesus, separate and apart.

The Book separate and apart. Unlike any other.

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1. Reveals things which occurred before foundation of the world. Things only God knew. He revealed them in His word.

2. Speaks of things to occur thousands of years in the future.

“Seed of the woman”–where that?

Abraham- Isaiah-Jacob- 2,000 years BC

Bethlehem-750 BC Isaiah 753-750 BC

David-course of history.

3. Does things no other Book can do.

Isa. 55:10,11. Raindrops into flowers, wheatfields, green grass, orchards.

So, God, word, life, blessing…..

(a) Fiji Islands. A French infidel was belittling a native for reading his Bible. The black man “do you see that boiling pot over there?” “Were it not for this Book, you would be in that pot.”

(b) Ed Davidson, student pastor at the White Mound Baptist Church in Coryell County. Gave a Mexican family a Bible written in Spanish. They were saved and baptized. Their house burned down…the only thing saved was that Bible.

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The strength, comfort it has been to untold millions.

(a) The boy, his plane lost in hurricane beyond Boston. The father, preparing to leave seashore-praying for some sweet token of memory from his boy. Jacket washed up, in one pocket, the little Bible his mother gave him when she died.

(b) Poem “My Bible and I “

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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.

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We’ve traveled together, my Bible and I.

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

But all through the darkness of mist and of wrong;

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

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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?

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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.

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(c) John Wanamaker, Postmaster General U.S. “The best investment I ever made in my life, when I was a boy, I worked hard, saved my money, and I bought a Bible for $2.75.”

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