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Sunday, March 5, 2011 am

TREMBLING AT GOD’S WORD
Isaiah 66:2

Isa 66:1-2, “Thus says the Lord: "Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool.  Where is the house that you will build Me?  And where is the place of My rest?  For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,"

says the Lord. "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.”

                It is no secret that we live in a society that has decreased in its respect for the Word of God.  In virtually every way that such is possible, sadly we find it. 

·         The integrity of scripture itself is constantly under attack by those who want nothing to do with Jesus or the Bible, whether it be agnostics, atheists, humanists or those following false religions that reject the scriptures.  As time goes by and as God is further silenced in our society, this number seems to be increasing along with the ensuing immorality that accompanies an unaccountable society.

·         But there are also others whose liberal theology calls into question the reliability of the text or its significance in our lives today.  They view the Bible as nothing more than a book of suggestions that MIGHT help us to serve God.  In this camp we find those who say the scriptures we have are corrupted, incomplete, outdated, OR simply a guidebook whose specifics are unimportant (i.e. as long as we believe we are fine, but HOW we believe is up to us, etc.).  These will also question the inspiration of the original writers and interpret the scriptures to support their lifestyle, even if it is totally contrary to what scriptures actually teach.

·         THERE is a third group that we need to consider as well.  They believe the Bible to be verbally inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16, 17), and contextually accurate in its message.  BUT, when it comes to studying and living its message, they fall way short.  They see the Bible as the word of God, but they are not moved by its message to the point of total obedience and submission.  In other words, they know that they have the word of God preserved in written form (or revealed orally), but they choose to flippantly dismiss it or apply it randomly when it agrees with their personal desires.  Or they become so familiar with it that it is no longer treated with the reverence that the Word of God deserves.  In this category you will find those who see no need to intensely study the word of God (2 Tim. 2:15) and therefore are ignorant to its message and/or living lives of nominal service to God.  Jesus described them as “thorny ground” (Luke 8:14).

 

                It was to this third group that the Lord spoke through Isaiah in our text.  Isaiah was a prophet of God sent to Israel and Judah (and other nations) around 756-711 BC.  He warned of impending Assyrian captivity for northern Israel and a challenge for Judah to repent.  He spoke of future events, some in the greatest of details.  A major theme in his letter was Israel’s rejection of God through idolatry as well as simple neglect of God and His message.  They came to believe that no matter what they did, Jehovah God would tolerate it and protect them as long as they rendered to Him some token service.    They were WRONG!  The Bible records Israel being carried away by Assyria into captivity from which that generation would never recover.  But he also delivered a message of hope to those who were faithful to God.  The last half of this book elaborates on that hope in many ways.

                In our text, the Lord told Judah what He was looking for in His people.  He describes two attributes: 1) a poor and contrite spirit and 2) one who trembles at His word. 

                What does it mean to tremble at the word of God?  Is this something we need to give consideration to today?  And if so, HOW do we tremble at His word?  In our lesson we will examine these questions.

 I.                    Trembling at God’s word

a.        The word “trembling” is descriptive of one who is greatly fearful to the point of shaking because one is terrified. In scripture, when the word is used in context with God there is the idea of a healthy fear reverence and awe when one considers He is in the presence of God and those things which belong to Him.
1 Samuel 4:13, while the Ark of the Covenant was accompanying the children of Israel in battle, we read that the heart of Eli trembled for the Ark of God.  In vs. 18, when Eli heard that the Ark had been captured we read that Eli fell of his seat and died.
At Mt. Sinai, Exodus 19:16 describes the people of Israel trembled at the thundering, lightening and thick clouds.  IN vs. 18 the word is used of the mountain quaking.
Heb. 12:21 tells us that even Moses was exceedingly afraid and trembling on that occasion.
In the New Testament we read of Paul who in Acts 9:6 was trembling and said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Also consider the Philippian jailer who fell down at the feet of Paul trembling – Acts 16:29
THE POINT: We read of these examples of real people with real reactions of terror when they considered the sacredness of the occasion and the presence of God.  It is an attitude that we TRULY ought to think about.

b.       The need to tremble in the presence of God.

                                                   i.      God deserves nothing less than our highest reverence and a healthy godly fear (Heb. 12:28-29).  By godly fear I mean a realization of Who we are in the presence of.

                                                  ii.      Deut.31:10-13, And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.” 

                                                iii.      Jer. 5:22, “Do you not fear Me?’ says the Lord. ‘Will you not tremble at My presence, Who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, Yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it.”

                                                iv.      Prov. 28:14, “Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.”

                                                  v.      Consider these examples of individuals who realized the greatness of God.
Judges 6:22-23, Gideon saw the Angel of the LORD and feared thinking he would die.
Judges 13:21-22, Manoah and Hannah saw the Angel of the LORD and feared dying.
Isaiah 6:5, Isaiah having seen the Lord in a vision said, “Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.”

c.        The need to tremble at His word –
When we have a proper reverence for God, we will also have that reverence toward His word.

                                                   i.      OUR TEXT addresses specifically the one who has this reaction to the word of God. 
There are many other passages that bear this out:

                                                  ii.      Ezra 9:4, “Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive, and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice.”

                                                iii.      Ezra 10:3, “Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.”

                                                iv.      Psa. 119:120, “My flesh trembles for fear of You, And I am afraid of Your judgments.”

                                                  v.      Psa. 119:161, “Princes persecute me without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word.”

                                                vi.      Josiah when He read the word of God trembled.  The word of God had been lost, but under Josiah’s righteous direction the temple was repaired and the book of the law was found.  We read in 2 Chron. 34:19 that when he read the book of the Law brought to him by Hilkiah, “Thus it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, that he tore his clothes.”  Here we have an example of trembling at the word of God.

                                               vii.      Acts 24:24-25, Felix, as Paul preached to him about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, trembled and put off obedience.

d.       Should we be afraid of God?

                                                   i.      Obviously, the authors that we have noted did not have in mind that you should be afraid of reading the word of God.  We ought to love His word and seek to spend considerable time learning it.  That is how we know how we can please Him. 

                                                  ii.      Nor should our service to God be based merely upon a fear of Him.  1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love casts out fear.  We are reminded that a relationship with God based upon love is one that can be sustained with hope and joy.  If fear is our only motivator, we will be miserable.  That is NOT what God wants.

                                                iii.      BUT the POINT is: When you read His word, DON’T treat it like some common novel that you read once and pass it on to someone else, or even some self-help book written by the latest pop-psychologist.
Seriously consider that what you are reading is God’s message to you.  It is “the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11), it is the “God breathed” writings (2 Tim. 3:16 – inspiration), it is His power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16,17),  it is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…” (Heb. 4:12), It is His message of salvation to us!
AND, as we read it, it ought to cut to the heart (Acts 2:37) and that is when we tremble at His word.

                                                iv.      The ungodly do NOT tremble at His word or at Him - Psalm 31:1 says, “…concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God in his eyes.”
Acts 5:1-11 records the account Ananias and Saphira who were struck dead because they did NOT tremble at God’s word – they treated Him and His word loosely.  As a result of this action we read, “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.” (Acts 5:11)

 

Continued, 3/13/11

II.            When we tremble at God’s word we will:

a.        Seek Him from the heart

                                                   i.      You will not reverence God nor His word unless you first humble your heart. 

                                                  ii.      Do not forget that the one pleasing to God in our text must have be poor (in spirit) and of a contrite heart. (Isa. 66:2) 
Following this, Isaiah described the heart that does NOT tremble at God’s word.  (Isa. 66:3-4).  God was insulted with offerings that were not accompanied by a contrite and sincere heart.

                                                iii.      When Josiah inquired of God after he read the Law and tore his clothes (trembling) he inquired of God’s prophets as to what was next.  The response in found in 2 Kings 22:19-20 says, “because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you, ‘ Says the Lord.”  We then read that Josiah would go to his grave in peace before sentence was carried out.

                                                iv.      The PURE in heart will see God (Matt. 5:8) because they realize who He is and seek Him unhypocritically and unconditionally.

                                                  v.      Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”  More familiar, Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.”

                                                vi.      The hardened heart doesn’t have a chance to tremble at God’s word – Satan immediately snatches away the word (Matt. 13:18-19).  In describing why He spoke in parables, Jesus referred to a prophecy from Isaiah 6:9-10 in which He described hearts that had grown dull and refused to turn lest they be healed.

                                               vii.      Friend, if you are not diligently seeking God through His word, you NEED to be trembling, but you probably are not!

b.       Treat His word with the reverence it deserves. 

                                                   i.      It was mentioned last week, and it bears repeating: We are dealing with the WORD of GOD!  This is the message from our creator!  Realize it is God talking to you.   Also realize that the same God whose words spoke this world into existence (Heb. 11:2) and sustains all that is in it (2 Pet. 3:5-7) has revealed to us His desires and person (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-16).

                                                  ii.      Hebrews 4:12 describes the word of God as “living and powerful” and capable of “piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

                                                iii.      Consider Nehemiah 8:5 as the people in Jerusalem are seeking to restore their broken relationship with God.  Ezra was handed the Book of the Law (of Moses), “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.”  (cf. 1 Kings 8:14, 2 Chron. 7:6, etc.)

                                                iv.      Someone has said that the way we think of God will reflect how we treat His word.

                                                  v.      How truly sad it is to see one fail to reverence God’s word.  Rom. 1:24-25 describes the ungodly who have been rejected by God because they rejected Him.  It says they, “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”

                                                vi.      IF what we hold before us is God’s word (and it is), even if it is just a copy of His word, we ought to treat it with due respect.

c.        Seek to glean from it the intended message

                                                   i.      2 Tim. 2:15.  Since it is the word of God, we ought to be VERY serious to ensure that our understanding is as close to what He meant as possible.  You CANNOT achieve that with a casual reading of His word.

                                                  ii.      Paul commended the Thessalonicans because “when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God which also effectively works in you.” (1 Thess. 2:13)

                                                iii.      We ought to tremble at the thought of being wrong when it comes to God’s word.  And if we are wrong, it will NOT be because we could not understand it (Eph. 5:17).
 It will be because we failed to search the scriptures daily to verify the truth (Ac. 17:11).

d.       Realize it is the standard by which we will be judged on that day.

                                                   i.      Romans 2:16 tells us that God will judge the secrets of men by this gospel (the gospel Paul had personally accepted).

                                                  ii.      Jesus Himself said, “the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48) 

                                                iii.      2 Thess. 1:8-9 speaks of “flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Friends, this is NOT a one time act, but a way of life (Note: “Obey” is a present tense verb, meaning ongoing action). 

                                                iv.      When the Hebrew writer said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31), he had our judgment in mind.  That fear and trembling comes from a realization that we have rejected His message.

e.       Seek to APPLY that which we have learned. 

                                                   i.      It is NEVER enough to know the word of God.  We have to live it.

                                                  ii.      Matthew 7:21-23 calls for our obedience.

                                                iii.      James 1:22-25 in a straight forward way tells us that knowing the word is not sufficient.  We are expected to be doers of the word.

                                                iv.      IF we truly understand what the word of God is, conformity to its message would be our top priority!

                                                  v.      Psalm 119:110, “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts.”

f.         REPENT when we are out of favor with His word.

                                                   i.      In keeping His word, from time to time we are going to sin.  We will miss the mark which is what the word sin actually means.  But the godly realizes that such puts his soul in danger.  Understanding the consequences of rejecting God’s word ought to lead to true repentance when we are out of favor with Him.

                                                  ii.      2 Cor. 7:8-11 describes true repentance.  Note in vs. 8 that their repentance was based upon the word of God (i.e. 1 Corinthians).  But notice the efforts made to clear themselves.  It was a realization of their favor with God in their present state.

 

III.                  Because we tremble at His Word we will NOT:

a.        Look for loopholes – such as the Lawyer of Luke 10:29 or as the Pharisees in setting aside God’s laws with their traditions (Matt. 15:3-9, esp. 6, “Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”), etc. 
There are far too many today who come to God with conditions.  They will obey Him IF He will conform to some standard they have made.  That is NOT trembling at His word.

b.       Treat His word as a novelty OR flippantly – while through the centuries great efforts have been made to preserve with integrity and dignity the Word of God (because we realize what it is), we find today many so-called translations that treat His word loosely.
There are also those who are simply not serious about His word no matter how accurate it is.  This WAS the problem in Isaiah’s day and a recurring problem throughout Israel’s history.

c.         Take His name or His word in vain – It should go without saying, when you realize who God is and comprehend His greatness and holiness, you will act accordingly.  Though respect for authority seems to have been lost by far too many in our society, protocol still calls for respectful behavior when in the presence of dignitaries, whether presidents, kings, and judges.  Furthermore teachers and law enforcement officers are due respect as well.  As Christians, we are commanded to honor our elders as well (1 Tim. 5:17, Heb. 13:7, 17).  Therefore, it goes without saying, we ought to show due reverence to God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Judge.
 Psalm 111:9 says, “He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name.”
Psalm 89:7, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him.
Psalm 99:5, “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool – He is holy.

d.       Twist its meaning – 2 Pet. 3:16 speaks of those who twisted the letters of Paul (God’s word) to their own destruction.  ANYTIME we manipulate the word of God, be it adding to it or taking away from it or changing it or reinterpreting its message – we are NOT showing reverence for HIS word.
In essence, we are coming to God with conditions upon which we will serve Him. 
Know that God takes the one who manipulates His word very seriously – Rev. 22:18,19
Prov. 30:6 says, “Do not add to His word, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar.

e.       Pick and choose which parts to accept
We need ALL of it to ensure we are ALL that God would have us to be.   
James 2:10 warns us that if we keep the whole law and yet stumble in ONE point, we are guilty of all.

 

In these lessons we have seen that trembling at His word is very much needed today.  IT is founded in a truthful reverence for His message to us, both in our efforts to study and learn it, as well as our need to apply it in our lives.  What about you?  What does His word mean to you?  Are you keeping it as you ought to?  IF not, WHEN was the last time you trembled as you read it?  If we are obedient to His will there is no need to be afraid.  BUT, if we reject His truth – BE AFRAID!  Be very afraid! Think about it!