Walking In the Way Of Our Lord
November 2nd, 1975 @ 10:50 AM
WALKING IN THE WAY OF THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-02-75 10:50 a.m.
Exalting the name of the Lord with us in orchestra and choir and assembly, we welcome you on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled Walking in the Way of the Lord. In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we have come to chapter 30, and beginning at verse 18 is one of the most beautiful and precious prophecies in the Bible. Isaiah 30, verse 18:
Therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are they that wait for Him.
For the people that dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: He will be gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when He shall hear it, He will answer thee.
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, or when ye turn to the left.
Actually, the fulfillment of the prophecy lies in the days of the millennium, at the consummation of the age, when the Lord Himself shall be seen by us. In my studying, I found translations of this prophecy that capitalizes and singularizes the word “teacher.” Our Lord will go before as a shepherd leads his flock, and we shall see Him; and His voice will guide us when we would err to the right, or roam to the left. Ultimately, I would suppose, the fulfillment of the prophecy lies at the consummation of the age, in the millennial reign of our Lord. But now it has a pertinency for us, as it did for Isaiah and the people of his time, to whom the prophecy was addressed.
The prophecy says, “In these days past, God gave you bread of adversity, and water of affliction; and your teachers were unrecognized, mowre, the godly faithful leaders and shepherds and teachers who spoke to the people, they were removed into a corner; they were not accepted, they were not listened to, they were not recognized anymore. But the day now has come when your teachers are visible; you can see them, and their voice has in it the voice of God. Your ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it, when you turn to the right, or to the left” [Isaiah 30:20-21].
The passage, as I seek to expound it, has in it a double reference in voice, “the voice of the teacher,” the godly shepherd, the faithful father and mother, the earnest pastor, the voice of the servant of God who pleads with us; and it has also a reference to the voice of the Lord who speaks in our hearts, “You will hear His voice, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” [Isaiah 30:20-21]. It also has a double reference as the Lord, in the voice of the teacher and in His own voice of pathos and pleading, speaks to us personally and then speaks to the assembly of the saints, the gathering of God’s children in the church. Let us follow it therefore, as the Book opens its treasures of preciousness to us.
The voice of the teacher, of the godly parent, of the earnest and faithful pastor, of the shepherd, as he pleads and as he speaks, “Turn, this is the way, walk thou in it.” I use the word “turn” because the prophecy says, “You shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk in it” [Isaiah 30:21]. So the wanderer has his back to God, he has his back to the blood of the covenant, he has his back to God’s mercy and grace, he has his back to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, he has his back to holiness and happiness and heaven, he has his back to the Lord. So when the Lord speaks, He speaks from behind, pleading that he turn [Isaiah 30:21]. Now, sometimes the wanderer will go right, and sometimes he will turn left, but never does he turn to face God. He has given himself to a rejection of the overtures of God’s mercy and grace. So the Lord speaks to him from behind, “This is the way, turn and walk in it” [Isaiah 30:21]. When we are tempted to turn to the right, they are right-handed sins, they are sins of respectability. Why, the man would be aghast at the thought that he would bathe his hands in human blood, that he’d be a murderer, that he would be in anywise prone to do violence, that he’d be a bank robber or a licentious drunkard; his sins are sins of respectability. They are sins of self-righteousness, they are cultural and acceptable sins; that is, right-handed sins. There are of course sins to the left, left-handed sins: sins of the flesh, sins of sex and of passion and of lust and of all of those things that are portrayed before us by those who enter a world of pot and acid and the carnal life that is so filled with darkness and degradation. But whether it be the sin of the right, respectable, or sin of the left, in lust and in darkness, behind is always that voice expressed in a godly father or mother, expressed in an earnest faithful pastor, expressed in a godly teacher or shepherd, “Turn, come back, this is the way, walk in it. Not that way with your back to God, but turn, this is the way; walk thou in it” [Isaiah 30:20-21]. And the pleading pathos of the voice increases as the wanderer goes farther and farther away from God.
Now, the prophecy says, not only is it the voice of the teacher, of the godly loving parent, or the faithful pastor, but it is also the inward voice of God that pleads with us, “This is the way, walk thou in it” [Isaiah 30:21]. You see, God can speak to a man’s heart. I can only speak to his ears, the physical frame. But God can speak to the soul. Isn’t that a marvelous and wonderful thing? God talks to us in our hearts, and His voice is heard in our souls. There’s not anything more revealing about God than Elijah standing in the front of the cave on Mt. Sinai, having run away from his post, his prophetic post in Israel, afraid of the king and the queen [1 Kings 19:1-4]. And as he stood there in the cave on Mt. Horeb [1 Kings 19:7-9], there came before him, passed in front of him, a mighty storm; and the lightening flashed, and the thunder roared, and the very mountain was shaken, but God was not in the storm. Then there was a mighty earthquake that rent the mountain in twain, broke the rocks in pieces; God was not in the rocks that were rent or in the earthquake that shook the earth. Then there was a furiously flaming burning fire; God was not in the fire. Then there was a still, small voice, and Elijah covered his face with his mantle, and bowed down in the presence of the great God with his face to the earth [1 Kings 19:11-13]. God was in the still, small voice [1 Kings 19:12]. And He speaks to us like that. He talks to us in our hearts, and His presence and His speech and His voice are universal, everywhere.
I was in Florida one time, in the winter, in the heart of the state. There were thousands of square miles of orange orchards around me, all of them in full bloom. The whole earth was filled with the fragrance and the aroma of those thousands of trees and blossoms. When you walk down the road, the aroma was there; when you went into the room, when you laid down at night, when you ate at the table; it was in your hair, it was in your clothes, it was everywhere. If someone loved the aroma, the fragrance, oh, it was like heaven. I can imagine how it would be if someone disliked it. It was everywhere. Thus it is with the voice of God that speaks to us in our hearts: wherever you go, there do you find it, and there do you hear it; God speaking to us in our hearts.
The prodigal son, in a far country, found no rest [Luke 15:11-32]. When he went to bed at night, there he heard that voice on the inside of his soul. And not only do we not find ourselves able to escape it wherever we turn, but whatever we do, there we hear it again. We can try to drown that voice in gaiety and in gay parties; it is still there. The greater number of amusements we go to, the less we are amused. The greater the number of entertainments that we attend, the less we are entertained. God speaking to us, pleading with us in our hearts, “This is the way, walk thou in it” [Isaiah 30:21], talking to us inwardly. And finally, we say in desperation, “I will drown that voice, I will choke it. I will kill it, I will crucify it!” But you still hear it. It’s in your heart, it’s in your soul, it’s the voice of God pleading, “This is the way, walk thou in it” [Isaiah 30:21].
I came down here to the church one time and listened to the choir. And as they sang a song, I lived this through again. You see, it started so plaintively, with such pathos, the little song of the Lord. And it went kind of like this, so quietly: (piano plays) and I said, “It doesn’t exist.” Then I said, “I’ll change the tune.” Then I said, “I’ll seize it, then I will kill it. I’ll nail it to a tree.” And I said, “That’s that!” And as I walked away, my way, I heard it again (piano plays). I don’t get away. I don’t escape it. Wherever I turn and whatever I do, there does the voice of God speak in my heart.
Whither shall I flee from Thy presence, and whither shall I go from Thy Spirit . . . If I take the wings of the morning, and flee to the ends of the earth, there do I find Thee and Thy right hand . . . If I say, Surely the darkness of the night will cover me, even the blackness of the night is as light unto Thee.
Always, that voice in my heart, “This is the way, walk in it. This is the way, walk in it.” When I seek to turn to the right hand or to the left hand, always, that voice in my heart, “This is the way, walk thou in it” [Isaiah 30:21].
Not only is it a voice heard in the teacher, the godly parent, and pastor, and not only is it the voice of the Lord speaking in our hearts, it is also addressed to us individually; to you in your heart and life, to us in ours. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? Look how God does. Here is a man who is jauntily going down a self-chosen path, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death” [Proverbs 14:12]; and he likes it, and it’s pleasurable to him, and he follows it; or, here is a man who determinedly gives himself to it, he seizes and pushes on and grasps damnation as though it were something to be prized rather than a doom to be dreaded, and he’s walking down his own pathway, his own chosen life, and the Lord speaking to him; how infinitely gracious, how infinitely precious. And the Lord speaks to him, “Look, this is the way, not that. This is the way, walk thou in it [Isaiah 30:21].”
Oh, the mercy and the goodness of God to us! He not only gives us something to hear, but He gives us ears to hear it. He not only spreads for us the feast, He gives us appetite to enjoy it. He not only furnishes the garment, but He gives us a sense of nakedness and of need that we wear the righteousness of God. He not only speaks to us that we walk in the way, but He gives us feet to follow after. “Thou shalt hear a voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, this is the way, walk thou in it” [Isaiah 30:21].
Do you notice how specific and how plain God is when He speaks to us? “This is the way.” Could such a thing be for us? That each one of us has an assignment, a way, the way, God has chosen for us? I think so. I am persuaded so. I believe so. There is a way that God has chosen for you, “This is the way, walk thou in it” [Isaiah 30:21]. There is an assignment for each one. There’s a great heavenly plan for each one of us, and you will hear that in your voice, and in your heart, and in your ears, and in your soul. “This is God’s will for you, this is God’s way for you, walk thou in it.” And there is no fullness of life so rewarding and so glorious as when we listen to the voice of the Lord and follow in His will and way.
Uncounted numbers of young people have come to me and said, “How can I know the will of God? How do I know it? There are so many alternatives before me, how can I know the will of God for me?” And I always reply in the same way: “God can speak to you as plainly as I speak to you. If God cannot talk to you and if God cannot speak to you, there is no God and it makes no difference. But if you will listen, there’ll be a voice of the Lord inside your heart, saying, ‘This is the way.’ And if there is in us a marvelous willingness to respond, every step of the pilgrimage is sweeter than the one before.”
Not only is the appeal addressed to us individually, “Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk thou in it” [Isaiah 30:21]; it is addressed also to the assembly of the saints, to the people of God, to the church, the fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what a wonder, what a miracle, “This is the way, walk thou in it”; and I begin walking in the way of the Lord. And as I walk, I turn and look: all of us walking the same way, going the same direction, loving the same Lord, listening to the same directive. What a marvelous thing [Isaiah 30:21].
Sometimes, seated here in the pulpit, I have felt the Spirit of God in our congregation so deeply until I bow my head and weep, my heart running over—the fullness of the presence of God in the assembly of His people, and I used to wonder at that. Lord, how is that so poignantly, so faithfully, so heavenly true? How is it, Lord? Then I begin to understand. When you bring the Spirit of God in your heart [1 Corinthians 6:19-20], all around you is a little circle of love and prayer and intercession. And when you bring the Spirit of God with you, all around you is an aura of heaven. And when you bring the Spirit of God, there is around you a feeling of intensest interest and intercession. And you put us all together, bringing the Spirit with us in our hearts, all of us loving the Lord, all of us facing the same direction, that’s what I feel, and sometimes it is so overpowering that my heart overflows. “This is the way,” and all of us in it, going the same direction, loving the same Lord, obeying the same Master, following the same Shepherd [Isaiah 30:21].
Wasn’t that Pentecost? “They were all with one accord in one place, and the Spirit of God came down” [Acts 2:1-4]. Wasn’t that the triumph of Gideon? “Together they broke the pitchers, together they held up the light, together they blew the trumpet, together they shouted the cry, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” [Judges 7:15-20]; the power God bestows upon a people who follow together in the way of the Lord [Isaiah 30:21]. The pages together make a book. The books together make a library. The trees together make a forest. The drops of water together make a mighty ocean. The citizens together make a great state. And the Christians together make a wonderful church. And their praying together is the kingdom of God in the hearts of men. The preaching is the faith. The practice is the walk. And the praying is the sweet blessedness of the presence of God in our midst. “Thou shalt hear a voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk thou in it” [Isaiah 30:21].
And that is our appeal this holy and heavenly hour. Does God say something to you? Does God speak to you? If He does, today, will you answer with your life? “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. God has spoken to me. This is God’s will for me, and I am on the way. Here I am.” A family you, to put life and love and hope and prayer in the fellowship of our dear church; a couple you, or just one somebody you, in a moment when we stand up to sing, make the decision now in your heart, and when we stand up, stand up walking down that stairway, or into this aisle and down to the front, “Today I make that decision for Christ, and here I come.” God bless you as you turn toward us. Angels attend you as you come with us. And God be praised forever as we seek to serve Him together. Bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
IN THE WAY OF THE LORD
I. The open voice of God
A. Represented by
teacher, preacher, parents
B. Addressed to the
wanderer with his back toward God
C. Sometimes he roams
to the right or left
II. The inner voice of God
A. Addressed to the
B. God can make a man
hear in his heart (1 Kings 19:11-12)
C. Cannot escape voice
of God; it is everywhere (Psalm 139:7-12)
III. God’s voice addressed to us individually
A. Man can choose a
path opposite God (Proverbs 14:12)
1. God in mercy
2. Gives us ears
B. God’s instructions
IV. God’s voice addressed to the company of
the redeemed, the church
A. All of us going same
direction (Acts 2:1, Judges 7:15-20)