Walking In the Way Of Our Lord
November 2nd, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
WALKING IN THE WAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-2-75 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who have joined with us on the radio sharing the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Walking in the Way.
It is an exposition of one of the most beautiful passages in the Word of God. In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah we have come to chapter 30, and the passage, so precious and tender, is beginning at verse 18 through verse 21:
And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him.
For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: He will be very 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 voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
The passage of course ultimately finds its fulfillment in the millennial kingdom of our Lord, when the Lord will be with us in person, when we shall see Him. One of the translations of Isaiah that I studied has a capital "T" and a singular substantive, "Thine eyes shall see thy Teacher," referring to the great final consummation of the age when the Lord Himself shall lead His people, like a shepherd leads his flock. "And thine eyes shall see thy Teacher," and He will speak to us face to face directly and lead us lest we stray to the right hand or to the left. That is the ultimate and final meaning of the prophecy. But it also has a meaning in the day of Isaiah and in our day.
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, and when ye turn to the left.
The passage may be an adumbration of the glorious millennial kingdom yet to come, but its immediate prophecy referred to the goodness of God in the day of the prophet and in our day. The voice of the Lord is heard in the voice of the teachers, morin, godly teachers, these who shepherd the flock. In days past they were afflicted. In days past, they ate bread of adversity, and their godly teachers were shuttered away. They were not recognized. Isaiah says they were removed into a corner. But now, but now God has mercy upon His people; He is gracious unto His people. And the shepherds, the teachers, the godly fathers and mothers and earnest committed pastors, they are seen in the presence of the company of God’s redeemed. And they speak, and the voice of God is in their speaking, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it, when you turn to the right, or when you turn to the left" [Isaiah 30:21].
There is in the passage a double reference in voice and in address. There is the voice of the teacher, the shepherd, the pleading father or mother, the earnest and consecrated pastor, in whose voice God also speaks. Then there is a reference to the voice of the Lord in our hearts. This is the way, walk ye in it, when you turn to the right, or when you turn to the left.
There is also in the passage a double address. It is addressed to the individual: to you and to me; and it is addressed to the saints, to the company of God’s redeemed, to the church: "This is the way, walk ye in it."
Now first, there is in the passage the voice of the teachers, the shepherds, the pastors, the godly fathers and mothers. There is the cry of those who empathos, seek after the wanderer, saying "This is the way, walk ye in it." And the voice is heard from behind [Isaiah 30:21]. Therefore I would assume that the wanderer has his back toward God, and has his back toward the godly teacher, and the godly father and mother, and the godly pastor. "Thou shalt hear a voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk thou in it." For you see the man who rejects our Lord and rejects the voice of our Savior has his back turned to God; he has his back turned to the blood-bought redemption of Jesus; he has his back turned to the regeneration wrought by the Holy Spirit; he has his back turned to heavenly holiness and happiness; he has his back turned to the people of the Lord. And he turns to the right and he turns to the left, but he never turns around toward God.
You know there are right-handed sins. Here is a man who by no means would ever look upon himself as a candidate for bank robbery, or for licentious drunkenness, or for murder, or violence. His sins are right-handed sins. They are sins of respectability and self-righteousness.
Then of course there are wanderers who fall into left-handed sins. They are sins of the flesh; they are sins of sex, or of pot, or of degradation. But the voice of God – speaking through a godly pastor, or a godly teacher, or a godly father or mother, or a godly friend – the voice of the Lord is in the voice of the teacher, the shepherd, pleading, "Turn! Come back, come back, come back. This is the way, walk thou in it. Turn around, come, return."
Now, not only is the voice of God heard in a pleading father or mother, in a godly teacher and shepherd, or in a faithful and committed pastor, but the voice of God is also heard in the heart, in the soul, "Thine ears – spiritual ears, ears of the soul – shall hear a voice behind thee saying, This is the way, walk thou in it" [Isaiah 30:21]. You see I cannot address myself, and a human teacher cannot address himself, but to the ear. But God can speak to the soul, to the heart, and He does it.
Do you remember the story of Elijah when on Mt. Sinai dwelling in a cave, running from the queen and the king of Israel? [1 Kings 19:9]. He stood at the front of the cave, and there was a great storm – lightening, thunder; but God was not in the storm. And there was a great earthquake, and the mountain was rent; God was not in the earthquake. And there was a furiously burning fire, a conflagration; but God was not in the fire. Then there was a still small voice, and Elijah wrapped his mantle around his face and his head and bowed down as God spoke in the still small voice [1 Kings 19:11-13]. God speaks to the heart, to the soul, and He does it in a still small voice. And He is everywhere, and He speaks to us in every place and in every condition, and through all time. His voice to us in our hearts is universal. There is no escaping.
One time I was in the heart of Florida, the center of Florida, and for miles and seemingly to be thousands of square miles around me, in every direction the orange trees were in full bloom. And the beautiful fragrance and aroma of those orange blossoms was everywhere. When you went to bed at night it was there; when you walked down the street it was there; when you got in your automobile it was there; when you sat down to eat it was there; the fragrance of those orange blossoms filled the earth. To someone who loved it as I did, it was one of the most delightful things I ever experienced. To someone who would be offended by it, it would be terrible. But it was everywhere.
So the voice of God speaking in our hearts; we don’t flee from it; we don’t escape it. The prodigal son in a far country found no rest. He heard the voice in the middle of the night, and whatever we do we do not escape it. Gaiety and gay parties cannot drown that voice in our hearts; the voice of God speaking to us. And the more amusements we go to the less we are amused. And the more entertainments that we attend the less we are entertained. The voice of God speaking in our hearts: "This is the way, this is the way, walk thou in it" [Isaiah 30:21].
But I don’t want to walk in it. So I try to drown that voice; and I try to choke that voice; and I try to kill that voice; and I seize it. But it’s always there, speaking to my soul.
Our choir sang a song here one time, and as I followed the song and listened to its plaintive melody, it brought that message to my heart, for you see it began with a pathos that sounded to me like the voice of God in my heart. It began so softly and quietly, that plaintive melody:
And I said, "I don’t like it."
And I said, "It doesn’t exist."
And I tried to change it.
And finally I seized it.
And I said, "I’ll kill it and I’ll nail it to a cross."
And I cried, "That’s that!"
And then when I thought I had slain it, and I thought I had killed it, and I thought I had escaped it, then it does die.
I can’t escape it. That’s the voice of God in the soul and in the heart.
Whither shall I flee from Thy presence, and whither shall I go from Thy Spirit. If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in sheol, Thou art there. If I say I will rise on the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth, even there I meet Thy voice and see Thy hand. If I say the darkness shall cover me; even the night is as the day to Thee; for the darkness and the light are the same to Thee.
I cannot escape the voice – plaintive, pleading – of God in my soul. "This is the way, walk thou in it" [Isaiah 30:21]. It is in double reference in address; it is addressed to me, personally. You know a man may jauntily be going down the way of life with his back to the Lord, seeking out every pleasure and personal happiness – or he may determinedly set himself to seize damnation as though it were a prize rather than to abhor its due. And yet the plaintive voice of the Lord never ceases: calling, speaking, pleading, inviting. Not that we seek God but that He seeks us [Luke 19:10]. Not that we love God but that God loves us [Galatians 2:20]. And all the gracious mercies He provides for us; He not only has something to say to us, but He gives us ears. Isn’t that a remarkable and miraculous thing? He gives us ears, ears of the heart and the soul as well as ears of the human frame; He gives us ears to hear His voice. He not only spreads for us the feast, but He gives us the appetite to eat. He not only furnishes the garments, but He gives us a sense of nakedness and of need that we want to be clothed. He not only speaks to walk in the way, but He gives us feet to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. And His voice to us is always plain and specific and clear. "This is the way; This is the way, walk thou in it, not to the right, not to the left; but this is the way of the Lord for me [Isaiah 30:21].
Isn’t that an unbelievable providence of God? There is the way, not a, the way that God has chosen for you to walk. There is an assignment, the great assignment for you in your life; there is God’s will for each one of us. "This is the way, walk thou in it." All that God does is plain and specific to those who will listen to His voice.
Ten thousand times have people come to me, especially young people, saying, "How do I know that God wills thus for me?" And I say, "Listen, God can speak to you just as plainly as I can. And if He can’t, He doesn’t exist, there’s no God. If there is a God, He can talk to you; just as clearly, as distinctly, as plainly as you’re listening to me now. And there is a way, the way God has chosen for you. And all happy and blessed is that one who will find God’s will for his life and walk in that beautiful way.
And it is also addressed to the assembly of the saints, to God’s redeemed, to His church, "And thine ears shall hear a voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk thou in it," when you’re tempted to turn to the right or to the left; the voice of God in His assembly, in His congregation, in His church.
You see when God guides you down the way and He guides me down the way and He guides you down the way – I look around, I look around, and we’re all going in the same direction, facing the same glorious Lord, doing the same thing pleasing in His sight. What a remarkable thing, all of us moving in the same way, walking down the same road. What a glorious thing.
You know, coming to church, there are times when I’m out speaking as I was in Chicago last week; there are times when I will tell those people, "Sometimes the Spirit of God is so in the congregation that, before I stand up to speak, I will sit there in the pulpit and my heart overflows. I weep in the presence of the goodness and graciousness of the Lord." And you know I began to turn that over in my mind, "Why is that?" And I came to the reason: you know why? When you come to church, full of the Spirit of God and seated there, there’s a little circle of sanctity, and holiness, and redemption and love, and mercy, and thanksgiving, and praise around you; there’s a little circle. And when you come to church full of the Spirit of God, there’s a little aura around you, and around you, and around you; and when you have the church house filled with those who love God and who pray and who intercede, the whole place is filled with the moving presence of the Holy Spirit. And that’s what I feel; and feeling it sometimes I burst into tears; my cup, my heart runs over. It’s the voice of God in a congregation, "This is the way, walk thou in it." And I look around and we’re all going in the same direction; all walking in the same way.
That made Pentecost; they were all with one accord in one place [Acts 2:1]. That made Gideon’s army. Together they broke the pitchers; together they held up the light; together they blew the trumpet; together they cried "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon" [Judges 7:18-20].
The pages of a book together make a Bible. Books together make a library. Trees together make a forest. Drops of water together make an ocean. Citizens together make a state. Christians together make a church. Praying together, loving God together, opening our hearts to the voice of the Lord together makes for the kingdom of heaven – the preaching, the faith, the practice, the walk, the praying, the kingdom, together in the love and faith and walk of the Lord.
Did I not say this is one of the sweetest passages in all of the Book. "Thou shalt hear a voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk thou in it" [Isaiah 30:21]. And when my heart responds and I walk in the pilgrim way, I am blessed of all men. I am happy beyond what heart could contain, and God Himself is the Shepherd that leads us into glory.
We must sing our hymn of appeal now. And while we sing it, if God has spoken to you, if in your heart the still small voice, would you answer with your life? "Pastor, today God has spoken to me and I’m coming." Putting your life in the fellowship of the church, accepting the Lord as your Savior, joining us in our pilgrimage to glory, answering a call to a special assignment; I cannot say it, God must speak the word. If He does, today, would you answer with your life? "Here I am, pastor, I am coming; accepting the Lord as my Savior, He has called me" "Coming into the fellowship of the church, this is God’s will for me." Or maybe an assignment to which the Holy Spirit has led you – make the decision to answer in your heart now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming, and God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.