Tuesday, April 17, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Every Word of God"

“Every Word of God”
April 15, 2012
Proverbs 30:1-6

We’ve finished our series on Acts, and we’ve just gotten through Passion Week with Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday, so the big question in April is always, “What’s Next?”

Where in the world, where in the Bible, are we going next?

And the big answer to that question is the book of Judges. The seventh book in the Bible. The book of Judges. Lord-willing, we’re going to go back to our long-term study of the Big Story of the Bible, and the next book is Judges.

But I’m not quite ready to jump into Judges with you, so it’ll be a few weeks before we start that. Please begin praying now for that series. I think it will be a challenging but good one for us.

But until then, “What is next?”

I have had a few ideas and desires for the next few weeks, but this is what the Holy Spirit keeps bringing me back to, and that is, a message on the absolute trustworthiness of God’s word.

God’s word can be trusted.

You can you trust your Bible.

That was what I felt the Lord wanted me to talk about this Sunday.

And the place I was led to was Proverbs chapter 30.

I especially want us to focus on verses 5 and 6 today.

But they have a context that we can’t ignore, namely verses 1-4, so we’ll start there and then work our way down to our key verses for today.
Proverbs 30:1 The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh-- an oracle: This man declared to Ithiel, to Ithiel and to Ucal:  2 "I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man's understanding.
 3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.  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!  5 "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.  6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
I want to get 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, 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 saying 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 an “inspired utterance.” They came from God.

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

I wish we’d named a couple of our sons Ithiel and Ucal. Wouldn’t that be fun?

It’s also possible by switching in different 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.” 

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 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.”

There is one great big, “Duh” come 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.

You know that song we sing, 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.

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?

Job, right?

What is the answer to those rhetorical questions?

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

What man has done that? You done that?  President Obama done that? Mitt Romney 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.

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 get wrong so often.

And other people fail me, too. I have some heroes, especially some pastors and theologians who are 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.

First, “every word.”


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

He is absolutely trustworthy in what 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.

“Inspiration” means “breathed out.” From God.

Plenary Verbal Inspiration.

“Every word of God is flawless.”


That is such good news.


Now think about that for a second.


Without flaw. Perfect.

The King James says, “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.

“Every word of God is flawless.”

Now, 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.

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 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!  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!

God 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.

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 solution, 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-אִמְרַת אֱלוֹהַּ צְרוּפָה;    מָגֵן הוּא, לַחֹסִים בּוֹ.

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 30:5.

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.

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.

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

I refer to it each week.  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.

I 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.

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

I’ve been reading that, too, for the last decade. 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.

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

(By the way, it’s free on your Kindle or iPhone.)

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

We’ve made it 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, then updated in 1978, and then 1984.

And it 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.

So, now, if you go to the store to buy an NIV, you’ll want to check the publishing date in the front to know exactly what you are buying.

And if it says 2011 (which most of them now will), that will have some differences from what you’ll hear me read on a Sunday morning.

Now, I’ve bought a 2011 NIV and I’m reading it this year in the mornings. I believe that it is a very good translation of God’s flawless words.  I recommend it for reading and for study.

I will read it every week as I prepare for my sermons.

But, I am still planning to preaching from the 1984.

Here’s why. I know the 1984 version much better. It is 95% the same as the 2011 version, but I’ve done my memorizing in it and I’m comfortable in it, and I still think it’s really really good.

I don’t prefer the translation choices of the 2011 NIV. I understand them, and I’m not shooting at them, but I’m not excited about them, either.

So, for the time being, I’ll be sticking mainly to 1984 and checking it against 2011 just like a check it against the King James each week and the ESV.

Make sense?  Feel free to ask me more questions about this.

I’ve been wanting to tell you about the 2011 NIV and this seemed like a good time to bring that up.

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.”


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.

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

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 mess with it.

What should we do with it?

Trust it!


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.”

I love how the focus shifts form the words of God to the speaker of those words.

God’s words are trustworthy because God is trustworthy.

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.”

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.”


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 you read it?  Huh?

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!

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 God over the pages of Scripture this week?

Take Refuge in the Author of the Bible.

Thirteen years ago this week, Heather and I were getting ready to go to the district conference just like we are this week.

And 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.

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

We named her Charis.

It means grace. Because she was grace to us.

And we know that because of God’s words. In that time of terror and sadness and grief, we 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.

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.