Sunday, July 22, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Flawless"

“Flawless”
Family Bible Week :: July 22, 2018
Proverbs 30:1-6

We’ve had a fantastic Family Bible Week here at Lanse Free Church.

As your pastor, I’ve got to say that I am so proud of you.

It takes a whole church to put on a terrific week of Bible teaching, worship, fun, fellowship, and evangelism like that each year, and this was a really good one.

Thank you to everyone who served. It takes a big team to get this kind of Game On, and everybody played their part so well!

Next week, I hope to return to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew and maybe even finish studying The Sermon on the Mount together. We started it in February, and we haven’t even looked at it for a whole month! It’s about time we complete that loop.

But because this is Family Bible Week, and because the adult class has been studying the Proverbs all week, I thought it would be best if we were in the Book of Proverbs together today.

And this particular passage, Proverbs chapter 30 verses 1-6, is about WHY we have Family BIBLE Week in the first place.

Why do we have Family Bible Week?

Why is Bible our middle name for these events?

In the Summer, Family Bible Week.

During the school year, Family Bible Night.

And each and every Sunday, our central message come across in the preaching is the B-I-B-L-E.

Now, I’ve been to churches where there is very little preaching from the Bible.

The Bible is on display, but it isn’t central to the life of the church or to the believers in that church.

Several of you told me this week, that you had never heard the stuff we were learning in the Adult Class even though you grew up going to church!

The Bible was not opened. It wasn’t studied. It wasn’t preached. It wasn’t taught.

And you weren’t encouraged to read it for yourself!

Why is the Bible so central to our ministry here?

It’s because the Bible is God’s Word, and it is completely and absolutely trustworthy.

God’s Word can be trusted.

You can you trust your Bible.

You can take what it says to the bank.

And that’s the message of Proverbs 30, especially verses 5 and 6 today.

I want to get us to verses 5 and 6, but to truly understand them we have to get to know the person who wrote them.

His name is Agur. A-G-U-R. He’s the son of Jakeh, and that’s about all we know of him. His name doesn’t appear anywhere else in the whole Bible for us to look him up and find out more about him.

Some people think that Agur was a pseudonym for Solomon, a pen-name, but I don’t see much evidence for that.

I think he was just another person God used to reveal Himself to us, and God’s people recognized that and included his sayings in this chapter of Proverbs for us.

The Bible says that his words here in Proverbs 30 are an “oracle,” or King James, “prophecy” or as the 2011 NIV says, an “inspired utterance.” They came from God.

And verse 1 says that he spoke these words to Ithiel and Ucal whom we also don’t know anything about. Are they Agur’s sons? We don’t know.

I wish Heather and I had named a couple of our sons, Ithiel and Ucal. Wouldn’t that be fun? Which one is Ithiel and which one is Ucal?

It’s also possible by switching in different Hebrews vowels that verse 1 actually says, “This man uttered, “I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and faint.” or “I am weary God, but I can prevail.”

Biblical scholars aren’t 100% certain about which vowels belong where here because the original text didn’t have any vowels; they were just understood or implied!

But we do know one thing. Agur did not have a big head.

Agur was humble, and he did not have an inflated opinion of himself.

Listen again to how he feels about himself. V.2.

This is what he said to Ithiel and Ucal.

“I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.”

Here is one great big, “Duh” coming from Agur!

That’s how he feels about himself.

Is that who you’d like to have your write your Bible for you?

Obviously, it’s who God wanted to write Proverbs 30 for us.

Actually, this is someone who has realized something profound:

On his own, he is not wise.

Let me say that again.

On his own, he is not wise.

We sang it this morning. W-I-S-D-O-M.

“Left to my own self, I always tend to go astray, but in the Bible you reveal your perfect ways. You teach me to think like you instead of being a fool.”

Agur knows that on his own, he is a fool.

He’s a brute. He’s an ignoramus.

What does Agur have here?  What is another name for this kind of humility before God?

“The fear of the LORD,” right?

That’s the beginning of knowledge. That’s the beginning of wisdom.

Agur is saying, “Don’t listen to me if what I tell you is just what I think.”

Who am I? What do I know? Nothing!

More than that, he says that’s what everyone is like down here.

What does anyone know? Really?

Who truly has wisdom here on earth?  V.4

“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!”

What does that sound like to you?

What other book of the Bible does that sound like?

It’s also in the wisdom literature.

The Book of Job, right?

What is the answer to all of those rhetorical questions?

“Who has gone up to heaven and come down?”

What man has done that? You done that?

“Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands?”

Anybody here?

“Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak?”

Not me.

“Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!”

Some translations say, “Surely you know!” It’s a challenge.

Come on. Give me a name. Tell me who his son is!

What guy on earth has got the corner on truth and wisdom?

The answer is nobody knows anything trully and fully and comprehensively.

Nobody...but God alone.

So, if we’re going to truly know anything, we have to have a word from God.

And that sets us up to truly hear verses 5 and 6.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

I don’t know diddly-squat, not really, not on my own.

But “every word of God is...flawless.”

That is such good news because we live in a very flawed world.

Have you ever felt like Agur? I sure have.

I do regularly. There is so much I don’t know and so much that I so often get wrong.

And other people fail me, too. I have some heroes, especially some pastors and theologians who are my heroes, but they have feet of clay.

The best of men are men at best, and they all make mistakes.

But “every word of God is flawless.”

That is so good to grab a hold of.

“Every word of God is flawless.”

Let’s think about that together for a few minutes.

Let’s chew on that. Ruminate on it like we’ve learned this week in our class on Proverbs.

This proverbs is a little different than some of the ones we looked at this week, but it’s still a proverb and operates in much the same way.

Let’s think about it together and turn it over in our minds.

First, “every word.”

#1. EVERY WORD!

Not just some of them. God isn’t like your best friend that you can trust most of the time.

God is absolutely trustworthy in everything He says 100% of the time. 24/7/365.25!

Every word.

Not every other word.

Every word is flawless.

Statements like this is where theologians get the phrase “plenary verbal inspiration” of the Bible.

“Plenary” means full. It means “every,” no admixture of falsehood or untrustworthiness.  Flawless through and through.

“Verbal” means words.  The Bible is inspired by God down to the very words of Scripture. Not just the ideas or the concepts but the very words of Scripture are the trustworthy words of God.

And “inspiration” means “breathed out.” From God.

Plenary Verbal Inspiration.

“Every word of God is flawless.”

Wow! That is such good news.

#2. FLAWLESS.

Now think about that for a second.

Flaw-less.

Without flaw. Perfect.

The King James and the new Christian Standard Bible translates that word as “pure.”

The English Standard Version says, “proves true.”

“Every word of God proves true.”

The picture is that of a precious metal like silver or gold that has had its dross removed. It has been heated and cooled and heated and cooled until all of the impurities have been risen to the top and been scraped off.

And what is left is 100% pure.

100% “Flawless.”
100% trustworthy.

You can trust the words of God.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there was a time when God’s word was impure or flaw-full. It didn’t go through a refining process.

Agur is saying that this just the way the Word of God is.

“Every word of God is flawless.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I understand all of the words of God.

I certainly don’t, and I don’t know anyone who does either, though there are people much wiser than I am.

But as I do come to understand God’s words, I know that I can trust them 100%.

Now, every once in a while, there is a question about which words are God’s and which ones aren’t.

We already saw in verse 1 that there are multiple ways of understanding where the vowels go which might give us a little bit of confusion at times.

And there are other places in Scripture where small copying errors have crept in over the centuries, and we have to make a judgement call about which reading is original.

But catch this! There is no major doctrine affected by any of those insignificant textual questions! Not even one. Most of the time, it’s questions like, “how many n’s are there in John’s name? One or two?”

And we have so many thousands of ancient manuscripts at our fingertips that scholars can confidently reconstruct the originals within a percentage point or so of perfect accuracy!

The Lord has so preserved His word that we have today virtually the same thing that was written thousands of years ago.

“Every word of God is flawless.”

Don’t let somebody tell you that the Bible is full of errors.

If they do, ask them which ones and then look them up.

I have done that again and again, and I have found that “Every word of God is flawless.”

Now, I don’t always find the answer the tough questions, and there are tough questions.

But the problem, it seems to me, rests in my understanding of the solutions, not in the words of God.

“Every word of God is flawless.”

Now, let me say a word about translations.

Here’s what the words of Proverbs 30, verse 5 are:

 כָּל־אִמְרַ֣ת אֱל֣וֹהַּ צְרוּפָ֑ה מָגֵ֥ן ה֝֗וּא לַֽחֹסִ֥ים בּֽוֹ׃

The Bible wasn’t written in English.

It was written in Hebrew, a little bit of Aramaic, and in Greek.

Those are the words of God that are flawless.

And the closer an English translation gets to capturing the meaning of those words, the better the translation is.

But because Hebrew and Greek are not the same as English, and because English changes throughout the years, it will take many English translations for us to “get” what is embedded in the flawless words of God of Proverbs 30, verse 5.

What you have in your hands is the Word of God written.

And it is authoritative for life.

Because of the work of faithful translators, we can trust that we are reading the flawless words of God translated into our own heart language.

That’s awesome!

Some translations are better than others.

But most of the major translations are very very good.

Different translators have different translation philosophies. It’s important to understand what the philosophy is of the translation that you are using.

Some are emphasizing, for example, a more wooden literal word for word translation which tends to make it sound like Greek in English. It’s bad English, but it preserves more of the word-for-word literalness.

The NASB is like that. Very good, very wooden.

On the other side are translations that emphasize a more “thought for thought” approach to translation. And they are often called more “dynamic” translations that still believe that the very words of God are flawless, but that it will take different words in English to convey the very words of God from Hebrew in a thought-for-thought manner.

On the far end of that spectrum is the Living Bible which was a paraphrase. Or the New Living Translation. Those are the most dynamic in their approach.

They are very readable. You might lump “The Message” in there, too, but I don’t think that is really a paraphrase even; it’s more like an artistic reinterpretation.

Those are good to read, but I probably wouldn’t use them for studying.

What would I use?

Well the King James Version is always very good.

The King James Version is over 400 years old and going strong! Long Live King James!

And it has proven to be an incredible translation of God’s Word.

I refer to it each week as I study. It has been a true gift to the church.

I think there are places where it can be improved in its textual basis and especially in its modern English.

Sometimes we don’t know what it’s talking about because we don’t speak that English anymore.

But it’s a good translation. As is the New King James which took out some of the thees and thous and other ancient language that we don’t use and neither did the authors of Scripture.

The translation my wife uses is the English Standard Version or ESV.

I’ve been reading that, too, for the last fifteen years. It’s more on the word-for-word side of things, and its translators have tried to keep the feel of the King James while giving the best of up-to-date faithful scholarship to the translation.

It’s the version that we’ve been using in the Gospel Project in Sunday School the last 3 years.

I highly recommend the ESV, and if I were starting my preaching ministry today, I might preach from it each week.

(By the way, it’s free on your phone or device.)

For the last twenty years, I have been preaching from the NIV, the New International Version of the Bible.

For many years it was kind of our central Bible currency here at Lanse Free.  How many are looking at an NIV right now?

I really have felt like it’s been in the dead center on the spectrum between readability and accuracy.

So, that’s why I picked that one. It’s also been very popular.

And I’ve been preaching out of this copy which has the version published in 1984.  It originally came out in 1973 (when I was born), then was updated in 1978, and then found it’s final form in 1984.

And then in 2011, the Committee on Bible Translation published an updated version also called the NIV.

Does anybody know if they have the 2011 NIV? How many know that they have a newer one?

The 2011 NIV has a slightly different translation philosophy than the 1984 version and a number of significant changes to it because the translators believe that English has changed significantly since 1984.

We don’t talk like we did back in 1984. And we don’t understand English like we did back in 1984.

So there is a newer NIV. It’s actually 7 or 8 years old now. It’s a really good translation, and I expect to start preaching some from it over time.

It’s the one that we’ve been giving to the graduates for the last several years.

Another new Bible translation that just came out last year is the Christian Standard Bible or the CSB. It’s also a full scale update of a version called the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

It’s a lot like the NIV to me. Very readable and very accurate.

You know the musician, Michael Card? He wrote “El Shaddai” and that song the choir sang at Easter called “Why?”

He was the word stylist for the whole CSB so that it reads so fluidly.

I’ve been using the CSB Study Bible as I preach through the Gospel of Matthew, and I find it very helpful.

The Catch the Word memory verse we did this week for Family Bible Week was from the CSB, and our new Sunday School materials this Fall will also be using the CSB.
It’s good stuff.

What I want to emphasize is that all of these translations are good and faithful.

The scholars who have done the work of translating God’s Word believe that “every word of God is flawless,” and their work reflects that.

Not that they agree at every point. That would be great, but it’s not happened yet.

But they all agree that “every word of God is flawless,” and that we should not tamper with it.

That’s the point of verse 6:

“Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

#3. DON’T CHANGE THEM!

Agur says, “You don’t want to go there.”

You don’t know squat.
I don’t know squat.

We should not presume to add to God’s words!

Now, obviously, at this point the Bible wasn’t completed, and Agur was adding to God’s words by speaking these words to Ithiel and Ucal.

But his words here were God’s words, too.

And Agur doesn’t go out on his own spreading his own wisdom, his own truth, his own ideas, his own concepts into the world.

“Do not add to his words, or [God] will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

That’s serious stuff.

Have the fear of the LORD!

I don’t want to be rebuked by God for adding in my own 2 cents.

How scary is that?

How would you like the Lord to say to you, “You are a liar!”

There will be foolish preachers who will have to hear God say that to them on the day of judgment. “You liars! Why did you speak those words in my name?!”

I would not want to be in their shoes.

Every word of God is flawless.

Don’t mess with it.

Don’t add to it, and other Scriptures says, “Don’t take away from it.”

Don’t change those words.

Don’t confuse His meaning and throw in your own stuff.

Don’t say, “He can’t mean that (for the thing He does mean) and change it to suit your own desires.”

Don’t change those words.

What should we do with it?

Trust it!

#4. TAKE REFUGE IN HIM.

Look at v.5 again.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Agur is quoting and riffing on King David.

The Bible loves to quote the Bible.

It’s from Psalm 18, verse 30.

David sings, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”

Now, let’s do a Proverbs analysis of verse 5.

Like we did all week in the adult class.

The Hebrews liked to what?

Repeat themselves. Hebrew Parallelism.

Where would you divide this one up? Is there and A line and a B line?

A. Every word of God is flawless.

B. He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Is one a wise line and one a foolish line?

What is the relationship between the A line and B line?

They are saying the same thing. A = B.

Or better yet, “A what is more B.”

Do you see that? The second line is saying the same thing as the first line.

They are both wise lines because they are both about God.

I love how the focus shifts from the words of God to the author of those words.

God’s words are trustworthy because God is trustworthy.

In fact, He is a shield.

He is a safe place to hide behind.

What He has said is safe to believe.

Let me say that again.

What God has said is safe to believe.

“He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Is that just good information?

No.

The proverbs are not just informational they are...transformational.

Agur wants you to take refuge in the LORD.

Because every word of God is flawless.

This is how we say it in our EFCA Statement of Faith. It’s point #2 about the Bible.

“We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”

Amen?

That’s why we have Family BIBLE Week every year!

That’s why we have an adult class at Family Bible Week.

That’s why I preach from the B-I-B-L-E.

So that we can go get the wisdom that we need for life.

This is a glorious thing to hang onto.

What are you going to do about it?

Read your Bible!

If every word of God is flawless, why wouldn’t we read our Bibles?

I talk to people all of the time who say that they pray, but they don’t read their Bibles.

That’s a one-sided relationship!

Imagine a friendship where only one of you talks and the other person just listens. And never the other way around.

How about I stop listening to you and just talk from now on?

Sure there is a time for talking. God wants us to pray!

But He wants us to listen, too.

It’s a two-way relationship.

Read your Bible.

And believe what it says and do what it says.

Take Refuge in the Author of the Bible.

What is your plan for meeting with God over the pages of Scripture this week?

I’ve tried to show our adult class how they could just take one proverb a day and meet with God over that one proverb and how good that would be for growing in the art of living skillfully.

Of knowing the right thing to do in a given situation.

Of being a wise person.

Take Refuge in the Author of the Bible.

July is birthday month for our family. Heather has a birthday. Robin has a birthday. She just turned 18! Peter has a birthday. He just turned 15 last week. Isaac has a birthday. He just turned 14 and was one of our teachers for Family Bible Week.

I can’t believe how old they are all getting. Drew will be 17 in December.

There was supposed to be another July birthday in our family.

Her name was Charis, and she would have turned 19 this month if we had got to keep her.

Back in 1999, Heather was six months pregnant with a very active little girl.

And the worst thing we could imagine happened. The little girl died in her Mommy’s womb.

We realized that something was wrong and took a painful ride to a hospital to confirm our worst suspicions. I have never cried so hard or so long. I just talked to the teens at Challenge about that terrible day.

We drove back home. Heather was induced, and we held our little one in our arms for the first and the last time.

We named her Charis.

It means grace. Because she was grace to us.

How do I know that?

Because of God’s words.

In that time of terror and sadness and grief, Heather held onto Romans 8:32.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

That’s God’s word.

And it was our refuge.

If we didn’t know Romans 8:32, then we would have been lost in our grief.

But we knew then and we know now that, “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises...” (2 Peter 3:1-2a).

And they will call come true.

“Every word of God is flawless, he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I the knowledge of the Holy One.

I have not gone to heaven and come down.
I have not gathered up the wind in the hollow of my hand.
I have not wrapped up the waters in my coat.
I have not established the ends of the Earth.

I don’t know why my daughter died!

But I know that every word of God is flawless, and I know that he is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.


***

Readers with good memories might recall an earlier version of this sermon, preached in April of 2012.

2 comments:

Thank you for the overview Matt.
It's so good that God has preserved The integrity of His Word, it takes determination and Holy Spirits work, to find greater depths of the Gems of His Word. So the importance of comparing translations, to find clarity on a particular matter, where the one that represents The truth of translation is consistent with the remainder of the translation, is often essential, because Christ is completely consistent with Himself. One indicator of the truth being found, is that the Truth of The Word always increases God and decreases man.

God Bless
Andy