The Weight of God’s Word
September 28th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
THE WEIGHT OF GOD’S WORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-28-75 8:15 a.m.
And this is the pastor brining the message entitled The Weight of God’s Word. The Book of Isaiah through which we are preaching is divided into sections, such as the book of Immanuel, the book of woes, the book of comfort, and the book of burdens. And the message is in this book of burdens, the weight of the Lord.
Chapter 13, verse 1 begins with "The burden of Babylon." Chapter 15, verse 1 begins with "The burden of Moab." Chapter 17, verse 1 begins, "The burden of Damascus." Chapter 19, verse 1 begins with "The burden of Egypt." Chapter 21, verse 1 begins with "The burden of the desert of the sea;" verse 11, "The burden of Dumah"; verse 13, "The burden of Arabia." Chapter 22, verse 1, "The burden of the valley of vision." Chapter 23, verse 1, "The burden of Tyre."
The first thing that we notice in this book of burdens, the weight of the Word of God, is that the Lord addresses Himself to nations outside the circle and circumference of Israel, speaking to the whole civilized known world. For He is not the God of Israel alone, though in the Bible we are so oft persuaded that the center of God’s love and grace was in guiding through the centuries and the millennia His chosen people; but God was no less interested in Nineveh, or in Babylon, or in Memphis, or Thebes, than He was in Hebron, or Jerusalem, or Samaria. That was a very difficult lesson for Israel to learn. That is the story of Jonah: how is it that God who loved Israel could also find in His heart love for that bitter and heathen nation of Assyria and its vast capital city of Nineveh? But God is not only the God of grace and mercy toward Israel, but He is also the God of all the peoples and nations of the world.
In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus are given the laws of the Ten Commandments. But the nineteenth chapter of Exodus manifestly precedes the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus, and before God gave to Israel the oracles of His law, He said in chapter 19 that "Israel is to be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation" [Exodus 19:6]. That is, God gave the revelation of His character, and of His laws, and of His being to Israel in order that Israel might be the kingdom teacher of God to the whole world. For a priest represents the people to God, and God to the people; and Israel was to be the great missionaries and teachers of the true God to the whole world. I see, therefore, in this book of burdens, that God addresses Himself to all the nations and peoples of the earth.
I see another thing in the book of burdens, and that is the unusual word that is used to describe the oracles of God to the nations of the world: the "burden" of Babylon, or of Egypt, or of Tyre, or of Arabia, "burden." Why that word burden? In the twenty-fifth verse of the twenty-second chapter, you will see that word and see its definition:
In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the Lord hath spoken it.
Now the word burden there, a nail holding up a burden, the word burden there is the exact word that is used in the oracles that are addressed to the nations of the world. The Hebrew verb massa‘ means "to lift up a load, to raise it up." And out of that verb came massa’; the substantive verb, the noun verb, which means a holding up of a burden. Now, it came to refer to the oracle of God because the message of the prophet was one weighted down with the significance, and meaning, and judgment of the Almighty. It was a burden from the Lord. For example, in the burden of Babylon, the prophecy says:
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees. . .shall God overthrow as when He overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. . .But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there.
Have you ever seen the site of ancient Babylon? [Isaiah 13:1]. The most desolate of all of the places in the earth; "the burden of Babylon." Look at the burden of Moab: "In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, every one shall howl, weeping abundantly" [Isaiah 15:3]; the burden of Moab. Look at the burden of Damascus:
Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and set it with strange slips: And in the day that thou shalt make thy plant to grow, in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.
The burden of Egypt: "The Egyptians will I give over into the cruel hand of a lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord of hosts" [Isaiah 19:4]. The burden of the desert of the sea; that is, Elam and Media, the great, vast desert of the Euphrates:
Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it. My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath He turned into fear.
The burden of the valley of vision; that is, of Jerusalem, in that Kidron Valley before the city [Isaiah 22:1]. The burden of Tyre: "As the report concerning Egypt, so shall it be the same report of Tyre. Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her far off" [Isaiah 23:5, 7]; the burden of the prophecy.
And the messenger who delivered it, the prophet who pronounced the prophecy felt it, a burden of massa’, a thing heavily lifted up, a load to bear, the Word of the Lord. Jeremiah, for example, cried, saying:
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people,
And I said, since I spake, I have been in constant mockery and derision. Therefore, I will not speak anymore in His name, nor shall I deliver the message of the Lord. But His word was in me as a fire burning in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing; and I could not stay.
[Jeremiah 9:1, 20:8-9]
The burden of the word of the Lord. In Ezekiel, by vision God gave him a scroll to eat the words of God. In his mouth they were sweet as honey [Ezekiel 3:3], but when he delivered the message of the Lord, it was bitterness [Ezekiel 3:14]. In the tenth chapter of the Revelation, there is a great, mighty angel that descends from heaven; he has a book in his hand. He puts one foot on the land, he puts one foot on the sea. . .he raises his hand to Him that liveth forever and swears by Almighty God that, "Time shall be no longer"; that is, it shall no longer delay [Revelation 10:1-7]. These great prophecies of the tribulation shall come to pass immediately, one after another, quickly, swiftly, tachu, quickly. And after the swearing of the mighty angel with his hand raised to God, the seer John is bidden to take the book from his hand and to eat it. And John says, "I ate the book; and it was in my mouth sweet to taste, but in my belly it was bitter as gall." And the angel said to the prophet John, "Thou must speak yet and further to the peoples and nations of the earth" [Revelation 10:8-11], the burden of the word of the Lord.
You see, the terrible truth of God is never sheathed, but it is bare, and naked, and it cuts like a two-edged sword [Hebrew 4:12]; it has always been that. The delivery of the message of God has never been concealed in its truth, never hidden or unrevealed, but God bears it abroad like a two-edged sword. It was that way in the beginning: God said to our first parents, "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die" [Genesis 2:17]. And it is in the end thereof; in the last messages to the churches of the Revelation [Revelation 2:1-3:22], all but one, the martyred church at Smyrna, have condemnation from the Lord. And He says, "Except thou repent, the lampstand shall be taken from your midst" [Revelation 2:5]. The truth of God is never hidden. There is in the Bible a revelation of the character and the being of God that is like a burden. For example, Paul, in the eleventh chapter, the great predestinarion chapter concerning Israel, in the twenty-second verse he says, "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: toward thee, goodness, otherwise thou also, if you do not continue shall be cut off" [Romans 11:22]. And that’s a play on words, "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God," apotomia, "to cut off utterly," apokteino, "to cut off," apotomia, "a cutting off," translated here, the severity of God, "and if you do not continue in God’s grace and goodness, thou likewise shall be cut off" [Romans 11:22]. In the severity of God, "Behold the severity of God: on them which fell," he is speaking of the fall of Judah, of the desolation of the Jew, the judgment of God upon Israel, cut off, taken out, broken. Because of their disobedience to God, the judgment of God fell upon the temple, fell upon the holy city, fell upon the whole nation.
In the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Luke, our Lord says to them, "In the day of that judgment pray that it will be not in the wintertime, and in the day of that awesome judgment, woe to that woman who is great and heavy with child" [Luke 21:23; Matthew 24:19-20]. The severity of the judgments of God; this is a part of the character of the Almighty. It was the severity of God, the judgmental severity of God that swept the whole human race off the face of the earth, and saved just one Noahic family [Genesis 7:21-23]. It was the severity of the judgment of God that cut off Assyria, that cut off Babylon, that cut off Tyre and Sidon, that cut off Sodom and Gomorrah, that cut off Judah and Samaria, that cut off Rome; and it is the same severity of the judgmental character of Almighty God that has chastened Christendom ever and anon.
As I read the Bible, and as I try to understand the prophecy in the Word of God, I think the dark scourgings of communism today is a judgment of God against the lethargy and disobedience of the Christian faith and the Christian church. I cannot escape those awesome words, the burdensome words, in the Book of Hebrews. "It is a fearful thing, a frightful thing, to fall into the hands of the living God" [Hebrews 10:31]; "For our God is a consuming fire" [Hebrews 12:29]. These judgmental interpositions and visitations of the Almighty are not just in Israel, they are not just in Judah, they are not just upon the Jew, and they are not just upon a select or chosen people as the church. The great judgmental visitations of God are universal; there is no one who escapes. The great judgments of God are in all time, in all conditions, upon all peoples in this world – in the celestial world above us – there is no one who escapes; the great judgmental interventions of God are universal.
Like His law of gravity; there is no little exception to it. If I had a pen – there’s no little exception to it – there’s no little exception to it. Or if you go out into space, in the moon, and in the stars, and in the planets; wherever a thing is, it is subject to the universal judgmental laws of Almighty God. Like gravity, like the burning of the fire – here, or on the moon, or in a star, or anywhere – the great universality of the judgmental character of Almighty God.
So it is in all human life – whether it be in the life of a man, or of a woman, or of a house, or of a human, or of a church, or of a nation, or of the world – the judgmental laws of God operate universally; the severity of the face of God. Paul said in the sixth chapter of Galatians, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" [Galatians 6:7], the universal law of the harvest, there is no exception to it.
In the years passed, pastor of a village church where I knew the people, all of them, intimately; lived with them. In the little town, there was a druggist and his drugstore. This was in the days of prohibition and he became a most affluent man, for underneath the counter and back in the pharmacy, he not only sold medicines, and drugs, and pharmaceutical items, but he also sold bootleg whiskey. Why? Money! People would drive in from the cities, come into that little drugstore, go away with their packages; a very affluent way was he achieving financial superiority and success. I stood by his side – he had one son, he had one child – I stood by his side and looked on the face of his boy. The lad then was say, twenty-two, twenty-three years of age; tall, dark, and handsome. And the boy before the eyes of his father, died in delirium tremens: cirrhosis of the liver from alcohol. Can you imagine the feelings – desperate, tragic – in the heart of the father as he stands there with his big bank account, and his big plantation, and his affluence, and looks in the face of his dying boy because of what he had done? The universality of the judgmental laws of Almighty God.
It hasn’t been but a day or two since a man, a fine looking man in the very prime of his life sat down by me, buried his face in his hands like this and cried piteously, watching the dissolution of his home because of his own sins. O my God, my God, my God!
A family brought to me a letter and said, "Read it." I read the letter. A young woman not twenty years old had taken her own life and had left this letter. And as the letter went on down, the last of it was a gracious, appreciative thing of the pastor, asking me to bury her, and how she wanted the service, a pattern that it would follow. Syphilis had begun to attack the soft tissues of her eyes, and she was going blind. By the way, young people, venereal disease is epidemic in America this minute; the judgmental laws of Almighty God.
That hippie on his pad, that to God; and that liberated youngster, that to God; and a promiscuous nation, this to God: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked." The law of the harvest: what you sow, you reap [Galatians 6:7]; and there is no escape. That is why the burden of Damascus, the burden of the valley of vision, the burden of Arabia, the burden of Jerusalem; the burden of America, the burden of the house and the home.
O, Lord God! Is there no escape? Does this vicious cycle operate forever; sin and then death, transgression and then tears and sorrow? The hundred thirtieth Psalm: "If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" [Psalm 130:3]. If God looks at us in our sins, Lord, who can be saved? Then the penitential psalm:
O Lord, out of the depths have I cried unto Thee.
Lord, hear my voice: let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
For there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be honored, and revered, and feared, and loved, and worshipped.
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His promise, and in His goodness, do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.
Let us hope in the Lord.
[Psalm 130:1-2, 4-7]
That vicious and unending cycle of sin and in death, of iniquity, and in tears, and sorrow, and judgment, Lord, does it operate forever? Is there no hope in God? That is why our Lord – and may I substitute another word for it? That is why our Lord is not only a redeemer, bless His name. That is the word used in the hundred thirtieth Psalm here, the "Redeemer." Not only is He a redeemer, our Lord is also a great intervener. He breaks that awesome judgmental cycle of sin and death, of iniquities, and tears, and sorrow; He intervenes, and He delivers us, and redeems us from it. Because a man sins he doesn’t have to die, because we have fallen into iniquity and transgressions we do not need to be bowed down under the awesome judgments of Almighty God.
This is one of the dearest, most precious of all of the verses in the Bible, 1 Timothy 1:15, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." Not you, not you, not you; "of whom I am chief." The great Intervener; and when a man opens his heart God-ward, and bows his head in penitential tears and confession, the great Redeemer in heaven breaks that vicious cycle of judgment and death.
Look around you. Look around you; look in the balcony, look in the choir, look on the platform. Look around you. Everywhere you will see men, and women, and young people whose hearts God has wonderfully changed; marvelously does the great Intervener. There are homes that have been remade, lives that have been regenerated, churches, and nations, and cities that have been delivered by the intervention of God in heaven; and that is the glorious hope of the Christian faith. That is why it is called the gospel, the euaggelion, the good news:
There is life for a look at the Crucified One.
There is life at this moment for thee;
Then look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
[from "There Is Life For A Look," Amelia M. Hull, 1860]
Is that your hope today, your heart today? Lord bless me in the hour of my death, and save me. Lord bless my home, and my children, and my family; Lord, bless our people and our nation, and let it begin in me.
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, to give your heart in faith and trust to the blessed Lord, by a family – the wife, the husband, all the children – by a family, all of you to come, or just one somebody you, while we prayerfully, earnestly sing our hymn of appeal, make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. "Here I am, pastor, I make it now. I’m on the way." May the angels attend you as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
WEIGHT OF THE WORD OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Revealed here the God of all nations
A. Not of Israel alone (Isaiah 13:1, 15:1, 17:1, 19:1, 21:1, 21:11, 21:13, 22:1, 23:1)
1. Lesson of Jonah
2. Purpose and calling of Israel (Exodus 19, 20)
II. Meaning of the word "burden"
A. A heavy utterance of judgment (Isaiah 22:25, 13:19-21, 15:3, 17:10-11, 19:4, 21:2-4, 23:1, 5-7)
B. The weight of feeling in the heart of the messenger (Jeremiah 9:1, 20:9, Ezekiel 3:1-14, Revelation 10:9-11)
III. Terrible truth not glossed over or hidden away
A. The oracle is sharp, like two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12-13)
1. The first (Genesis 2:17)
2. The last (Revelation 2, 3)
B. The severity of the judgments of God (Romans 11:22, Luke 21:20-24, Matthew 23:19-20, Hebrews 10:31, 12:29)
IV. Universality of God’s judgment
A. No escape (Galatians 6:7)
V. Vicious cycle forever?
A. Who shall stand? (Psalm 130:1-5, Revelation 6:17, Luke 18:26)