Is There Any Word From God?

“For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth He devise means that His banished be not expelled from Him.” 2 Samuel 14:14. A woman of Tekoah preached this little sermon as a rebuke to the king of Israel.

The Bible story begins when Amnon, the king’s son wronged his half sister, Tamar, who was a full sister to Absalom. Absalom took revenge by killing Amnon then fleeing into exile to avoid revenge being taken upon him. For three years he lived with a foreign king, far from his homeland. For three years he anxiously watched and waited, asking everyone whom he thought might know, “Is there any word from the king?” But the king remained silent. There was no indication that he even cared about Absalom. Finally, the woman of Tekoah, in consultation with Joab, preached this little sermon to the king as a rebuke. Pointing out that his action was unlike the action of the Lord that he professed to love and obey, she reminded him that the merciful God we serve devises means whereby the banished may be restored.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve enjoyed open communication with the Lord. We are told, “The holy pair were not only children under the fatherly care of God but students receiving instruction from the all-wise Creator. They were visited by angels, and were granted communion with their Maker, with no obscuring veil between.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 50. All that changed when sin came in.

Have you ever noticed the way nations relate to other nations in modern diplomacy? When two nations are not getting along, very often they do not communicate directly but talk to each other through a third party. They fear that direct communication would blur the message of condemnation that they are trying to give, and cause people to say, “Well, it must not be all that bad. They are still on speaking terms.” So a means is devised by which communication can go on, but still the testimony, against what is conceived to be evil, remains.

God has used a similar method to bear testimony against the evil of man’s rebellion. God recognized that to communicate directly with man would blur the testimony and cause confusion. Maybe the rebel would say, “Well, I must not be so bad, the Lord is still talking to me.” So the Lord had to break off direct communication, yet He devised a means to continue communication. He chose individuals who were not in rebellion against Him and through them He sent messages to those in rebellion. In this way He communicates to the rebel, but at the same time He declares to the universe His rejection of the evil action of the rebel. We call this Divine Diplomacy.

This special class of people, through whom the Lord communicates, we call prophets. They can declare, “Now the word of the Lord came unto me,” and this gives them a sense of commission that is unlike anything the world has ever seen. We look in amazement at prophets going before their kings and demanding that they come into line. That is certainly not something a common man would do, for it would mean risking his life.

Recall the time when a certain king of Israel asked a prophet what would happen if he went to war. The prophet told him truthfully that he would not come back because the Lord did not approve. The king in fury said, “Take this man and throw him in the prison and keep him there until I come back.” We would expect the man to drop to his knees and plead for mercy, but he did not. He said, “Your majesty, if you come back at all, the Lord has not spoken by me.”

The history of the prophets’ relationship to their kings reveals their steadfast integrity, their unflinching and unyielding demand for righteousness on every level from the highest to the lowest classes of society. There is not any class of men like them in the world, and they produced literature. Some of their messages appear to us in a Book that is unlike any other book in the world—the Bible. We value it because we believe it contains revelations from God.

Theories and Facts

What actually is revelation? To fully answer this question, I first present an example to you. Suppose that you are the king of one of the Hawaiian Islands where a horse has never been seen. Some Europeans arrive and tell you that in Europe there is a large animal called a horse. How are you going to know what a horse is like? One way that you could find out is to call a committee of the most learned men in your kingdom and commission them to collectively study this matter out and report their findings back to you. The only problem is, they have never seen a horse. They only have fragments of information about a horse, and the largest animals they know are sharks and whales. It would not be too surprising, then, if the report they brought back to you is that a horse is something like a whale or a shark. Having never seen a horse, that would be the best they could do.

Another way to learn about a horse would be to send a few thousand dollars to Europe to have a horse shipped to your island. When the horse arrived in Hawaii, your learned men could examine the horse and then draw up their final conclusion. That would be a perfectly appropriate method as long as they did not try to ignore the evidence and force their previous theories on the actual horse!

Consider a theory that some of the best brains in our world adhered to before men had ever walked on the moon. They recognized the Law of Gravity in the world and in the universe. They believed that the degree of the pull of gravity was related to the size of the planet. The larger the planet, the stronger the pull; the smaller the planet, the less the pull. Since the moon is so much smaller than the earth, they reasoned that there would be very little gravitational pull there, which would mean that the surface of the moon might be extremely soft. Gravity would not have pulled it in as hard as it is here on earth and a man landing on the moon might sink in to his waist or even to his neck.

Finally, the day came when a man landed a spacecraft on the moon and stepped out onto its surface for the first time—and he only sunk in about two inches. There was not that much dust. What if the scientists had said, “We will not accept that; we know that the surface of the moon is soft”? That would have been ridiculous! Instead, they corrected their theory when the facts were in. They could not force their theory on the moon!

All of the examples I have given you are leading to a very crucial concept: there is nothing wrong with speculative thinking, but it should always be corrected by the observable data!

Man’s Theories about Revelation

As we come back to our basic question, What is revelation?, we discover that man has a very strong tendency to set up a theory about revelation and force it on the Bible instead of letting the Bible tell them what revelation is! Here are just a few of the many examples I could give you.

People theorize that if there is such a thing as revelation, if there is a Book in existence which contains information revealed by the God of the universe, certainly it would have just one heavenly literary style throughout that whole Book. But, when we look at the Book, it is not like that. There are sections of it that are purely historical in style. Sections of it are dramatical in style, like the book of Job. Others are poetical, like the Psalms, and others are apocalyptic, like Daniel and Revelation. What should we do with these facts? Will we let the facts correct our theory? Or are we determined to hold to our theory no matter what?

Another very common way that many have reasoned is that if there is something in the world called revelation, if God has spoken to man, then certainly that message would come from God in the highest language and with the most perfect vocabulary known to man. However, as men studied the New Testament, written in Greek, they saw a great difference between the Greek of the New Testament and the Greek of the classical writers. At the same time archeologists were finding written materials in the Greek language. There were contracts, deeds, instructions, bills of lading, and receipts. They finally found that the truth of the matter was that the language of the Greek New Testament was the simple everyday language of the common people. The idea that the Greek of the New Testament must be an especially elevated form of Greek had to be laid aside.

Some people had real trouble with that. They reasoned that it would be impossible that God could pass by the beautiful language of high Greek for the common language spoken on the street. It was a jolt to them. But that is exactly what God did, and we had better allow our theories be corrected by the facts.

Men speculate that if the Bible is a revelation from God then every description of a single incident should be exactly like every other description. But this is not true at all. We look at the Gospel records of the life of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and they are not contradictory, but they are different. They apparently reflect the different interests of the writer.

A study of the gospel of Mark shows that he wrote for the non-Jewish reader. His gospel contains many explanations telling why the Jews had certain customs or explaining a word that had a particular meaning for the Jews. Matthew, on the other hand, obviously wrote for the Jew and he often notes how prophecies, well known to Jews, had been fulfilled. Luke was the careful historian trying to set everything in the context of the events around it. He often says, it was in such and such a year of a certain ruler, it was such and such a time, or in such and such a place. John had a very different emphasis. He was the theologian. In his gospel, he spends very little time on locations, but he spends a lot of time on the theological meanings of what Jesus said. All of the gospels are true and contain important lessons for us, but they do not provide identical accounts. Here again we have to let our theory be corrected by the facts.

Some would argue that if the Bible is from God, it should be so legally precise that it is impossible to misunderstand it. But God, we discover, is not interested in forcing anyone to believe. He sets before us enough evidence that we can believe if we choose to, and with that He is finished. He will not try to force anyone. So we do not find the Bible to be legally precise. In order to be sure we have the right picture, we must compare many verses, one with another.

More of Men’s Theories

According to men’s theories, if the Bible is a divinely inspired book, we should not find any records of evil. But we find that the Bible records, in frank and honest detail, the sins of David and the apostasy and betrayal of Peter and other things that are painful for us to read. So we have to let that correct our theory again.

According to our theory, the Bible should be systematically organized. Everything should be in proper chronological order, but this is not true either. Take, for example, the book of Jeremiah. When you read it, it looks as though Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, collected all of the masses of Jeremiah’s writings and just bound them together in a book, without any attempt at all to put them in proper chronological order.

In the New Testament, even the parables are not recorded in the same order in the different gospels. If you tried to figure out which one came first, you would not find it easy. Ellen White suggests that the narrative of what Jesus said and what He did was called back to the authors minds by certain circumstances and so the different events of Christ’s ministry and the lessons He taught, do not always appear in chronological order in the different gospels.

We theorize that if the Bible truly is the word of God, certainly it must be entirely original. It does not seem logical that in it there would appear anything a man had copied from another man. But that does not check out either. When you look at your Bible, you find that there is clear evidence that there was some copying done.

If you begin with 2 Peter 2:4 and compare it with Jude 6, and read about the next ten verses in each chapter, you will conclude that someone did some copying. Either Peter had Jude’s epistle before him as he wrote or Jude had Peter’s epistle before him as he wrote. Matthew also must have had the book of Mark before him as he was writing, and Luke must have had both Matthew and Mark before him as he was writing. Some scholars tell us that ninety-five percent of the book of Mark is copied word for word into Matthew and Luke.

In the book of Genesis there is a strong indication that earlier records were incorporated into Scripture. Genesis chapter 1 through chapter 2 verse 3, covers the story of creation. There we see a record of the days of creation and exactly what happened on every day, including the seventh. And then, verse 4 starts in with another new story of creation. It begins, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” What is then recorded is not contradictory to the first account, any more than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are contradictory, but it is different.

Look at that word “generation” in verse four. In the past scholars believed that writing was unknown in the ancient world. Some skeptics insisted that we know Moses could not have written Genesis because writing was not being done in Moses’ time. However, the archaeologists have corrected our understanding and we now know there was a great deal of writing being done long, long before Moses was born. In the days of Abraham they even kept little clay tablets with Bills of Sale and Title Deeds to their property. So certainly writing was not uncommon.

Archaeologists have discovered genealogical tablets called the towledah. These little tablets would have all the names of one’s ancestors, so it was the towledah of that man or family. And towledah is the word used in Genesis 2:4, translated “generations.” There is strong indication here that when Moses wrote the book of Genesis he incorporated some pre-existing records into his own record of the early history of our earth. We believe that the Holy Spirit would not have let him include them if they had been faulty. But they were accurate records and so Moses simply copied them right into his own record.

We could go on and compare Kings and Chronicles and add many more illustrations, but the evidence is already conclusive and leads to one point—we must correct our theories by the facts revealed in the Word of God. We must let the Bible tell us what revelation is and not force our theories upon the Bible.

God’s Penmen Not His Pen

Another theory that is commonly held by many sincere Christians is that if God spoke to a man by His Holy Spirit, then certainly the man merely copied the words spoken to him. But that does not check out, either. I learned something about this with an experience of my own.

There was a time when I feel that the Lord talked to me directly. It happened when I was pleading with the Lord for guidance in an important decision that had to immediately be made about an evangelistic series. I began to quote to the Lord one of His own Scriptures which said, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” I said, “Lord, You have to tell me what to do. You have to give me a sign. I have to decide this quickly.” And the Lord responded. I did not hear a voice, but my mind was instantly illuminated with a complete thought, like a flash. I cannot quote it to you as quickly as it came, because I have to report it to you in words and the words take time. But the message came in a thousandth of a second. “What are you doing reading to Me a promise of wisdom while you ask Me for a sign? A sign is not wisdom.” That hit me so hard that I stopped praying. I said, “I guess that is right.” And so, I sat down on my chair and I said, “What would wisdom do?” Then I laid out a little plan, I tried it and it worked. It was a miraculous thing.

I cherish the memory of the few times in my experience that I believe the Lord spoke to me directly. I cannot tell you by what method it was done, but it was immediate and the whole message was there in my mind.

I tell people that experience in different words from time to time, words calculated to reach the understanding of the person I am talking to. I do not think that does any violence at all to the experience. It was not given to me in words that I either heard or saw.

Ellen White tells us that the writers of the Bible had to do something like that. “The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is human is imperfect. . . . The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God’s mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen.” Ibid., 20, 21. (See also Selected Messages, vol. 1, 20–48.)

I have listened with great interest to many earnest and sincere scholars in the university classroom, as they struggled desperately to describe how God speaks to a man in revelation. They could not do it. I cannot do it either. But Ellen White reminds us that we see the same thing in revelation that we see in the incarnation. No man can tell precisely how humanity and divinity are blended in Jesus Christ. No man can tell precisely how humanity and divinity are blended in the Word of God. It is beyond the human understanding. This is probably a subject we will be studying through the ages of eternity.

She goes on: “It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expression but on the man himself. . . . The words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will, thus the utterances of the man are the Word of God.” Ibid. And then summing it up, she says, “I take the Bible just as it is, the inspired Word. I believe its utterances in the entire Bible.” Ibid., 17.

The Bible can be compared to a tall man bending down to talk to a child, then getting down on one knee so that his eyes are level with the child’s and trying to communicate with him. It is God stooping down to communicate with us in language that we can understand. Human language is not adequate to fully contain the thought of God, but God devised a means to communicate the truths vital to our salvation in a way that we mortals could understand.

God Calls Us Back

David devised means whereby Absalom could be brought back. But notice the difference. David did not act until he was urged. God devised the means long before there was a need. He was ready with His plan that His banished would not be expelled and that those separated from Him by sin would not be hopelessly separated. He devised a means to bring them back, to restore them.

David’s restoration of Absalom was not complete. He told Joab to bring him back to Jerusalem and let him live in his own house free, but not to let him see his face. That is not like God. Remember in the story of the Prodigal Son, the father saw his prodigal son returning and he did not say, “Well, I see my son is coming back. Send one of the servants to take him to the servants quarters and we will send some clothing down there. But see to it that he does not come to this house.” Oh, no, Jesus describes the father, himself, going out to meet him. He wraps his arms around him and draws him close to his heart of love. Then he commands that a robe be brought to cover his filthy rags and he calls everyone to celebrate his restoration so that all will know that his restoration is complete. The son is restored as fully and completely as if he had never sinned. That is the way the Lord works. His ways are much higher than the ways of men.

How thankful we are that God devised means for rebellious mankind. It is as if the rope tying man’s boat to the dock is cut and man is on the boat drifting ever farther and farther away from God. But God was not content to sit in silence in His palace, like David did, and say, “That is too bad. It is not My problem.” God made it His problem. He devised a means and because He did, we have His Book in our hands.

This precious, invaluable Book is the greatest treasure we can have because it comes from God. I suggest that we lay aside all of our preconceived theories and let this Book tell us what revelation is and does and what it does not do. Let us thank God that He devised the means so that everywhere man may go, there is always this Book waiting for him. Whenever man in his exile asks, “Is there any word from the King?” the answer is always “Yes, there is a word from the Lord.” You can turn to it anytime, anywhere and discover that the Lord is waiting to welcome you home.

“Come, every soul by sin oppressed.

There’s mercy with the Lord,

And He will surely give you rest,

By trusting in His Word.”

That Word is always there. There is always a word from the Lord saying, “Come home and be forgiven. Be as fully restored as if you had never sinned.”