The words of the Lord are pure words:
Like silver tried in a furnace
Of earth,
Purified seven times.

Psalm 12:6

Your word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:105

“Your word is truth.”
John 17:17b

The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
Psalm 119:130

All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD,
When they hear the words of Your mouth.
Psalm 138:4

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.
Deuteronomy 18:20

If you would take a concordance of the Bible and run down the listing of the occurrences of “word” in Scripture, you would find it a very imposing list.  And if you would go further and delve into the occurrences, you would find that many times it is used in the phrase “the word of the Lord.”  This phrase describes for us the very essence of the Scripture which we all know and study…these words that we read are the word of the Lord. 

The mystery of the word is explained to us somewhat in Psalm 12:6.  The verse does not appear in the New King James exactly as I have given it above, but I think there is good authority for dividing the verse this way into four lines rather than three.  This interesting verse first glorifies the words of the Lord, telling us they are pure, like silver that has been tried in a furnace.  The second part of the verse explains to us how this can be, for these words are only words, after all, just like the words that everyone else uses.  What is so special about them?  They are merely words of the earth.  But they are far more than that.  They may be words like unto the ones we use, but these words have been purified seven times.  No charge can rightly be made against the word of God.  His words are pure, beyond corruption.  Anything I write, and anything that ANY man writes, may be flawed and impure, but God’s words stand above all others in purity.  They are the written embodiment of the Living Word of whom we read in the pages of Scripture, the very Word Who died for us.

But the word of the Lord is more than pure.  It is the light that guides our paths, it is the lamp which guides our feet throughout the darkness of this world.  Indeed, that word is truth in written form, even as Christ is the Word in human form.  It is our guiding light in this dark world, and without it we would be lost.

It is no wonder then that God is so jealous for His word.  In Deuteronomy 18:20, God sets forth the punishment that must be given if anyone claims to speak His words and makes that claim falsely.  Death is the only penalty possible in such a case.  This puts this crime on a par with murder, adultery, blasphemy, and other crimes considered most heinous by the law of God.  Certainly its seriousness can be seen when we consider what the word of God is…the written embodiment of God, the words which God has purified seven times, the truth of God, and the means by which we come to faith.  With this in mind, it can be no wonder that such a strict penalty was reserved for anyone who would dare to counterfeit it.

In spite of this, many are willing to pretend to speak the word of the Lord falsely.  One man of God died from listening to the lie of an old prophet in I Kings 13.  And the record of Kings abounds with false prophets after that.  There were plenty of false prophets to bring an untrue message of victory to Ahab and Jehoshaphat in I Kings 22.  They were even inspired by a supernatural being, for we read of a lying spirit sent by God to deceive them.  These prophets were the false prophets of Baal, so God could readily place a lie in their mouths.  His true prophet Micaiah revealed what He had actually determined.  His words, however, were not so well received.  Neither were Jeremiah’s when he opposed the false prophet Hananiah in Jeremiah 28.  Hananiah’s message was very patriotic.  It sounded very good, like a message God might have sent.  And Hananiah was even in the house of the Lord, not a prophet of a false god as the ones Micaiah had spoken against.  Nevertheless Hananiah’s words were not truly from God, but were rather concocted to please his hearers.  Therefore he is cursed, and Jeremiah tells him in verses 15 and 16, “Hear now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie.  Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth.  This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the LORD.”

But now we live in a different dispensation.  God no longer punishes crimes against His words, but allows men to continue in their sin through His grace.  Nevertheless, the seriousness of the crime of falsifying God’s words remains, and we must never forget it, or why it is so important.

That said, I will voice the concern which has prompted me to write this article, which is that many of us in the community of believers seem to have forgotten the preciousness of God’s words and the danger of falsifying them.  What do I mean by that?  Let me give an example.

There is a radio program that I used to listen to on the Christian station in my area.  I have not listened to it for a long time, but the last time I did I heard something that particularly disgusted me.  The host of the show was interviewing a man who had recently written a book on Christian finances. The enthusiastic host was asking the author about his book, and he cheerfully asked a question that they obviously had agreed upon beforehand, saying, “You are going to tell us why your book is worth a hundred dollars?” The book, of course, wasn’t actually priced that high, but the author was making the claim that it was actually worth far more than he was charging for it…you were getting quite a deal getting the book at a regular book price!

The author responded to this question as to why his book was worth a hundred dollars like this. “Well, my book is practically the word of God.” Then, he quoted a verse talking about the preciousness of God’s Word…I cannot remember the verse. Then he explained that that is why his book was worth a hundred dollars…it was, in his words, “practically the word of God.”

Listening to this, I was really disgusted. I knew very well that this man’s silly little book on Christian finances was nowhere close to “practically the word of God.” It was just his own, human ideas about finance. Since this was over a decade ago, his book has no doubt come and gone by now, long since passing off the scene. Maybe he made his quick buck off of it. But it certainly will not be lasting thousands of years, as the real Word of God has. That this man would compare his own book on finances, however “Christian” his ideas may or may not have been, to the Word of God shows how little respect he really had for either God or His Word. NO book written by men is “practically the word of God,” no matter how “Biblical” the things written in it may be. To use the word of God as nothing more than a clever selling point to make yourself some money was, to me, just pathetic. And for this radio show host to go along with this only served to show how little he really cared for the Word of God either.

Yet how often, in everyday life around me, do I see a similar lack of respect for God’s Word played out on the part of believers? Many seem to have little respect for God or His Word. How often do I hear people claim to quote God, when they know very well that God said no such thing?

Many of my readers in the United States will be familiar with a roadside billboard campaign that has been in place since 1998 that posts signs along busy roadways that claim to give statements made by God. Each sign has a quotation, followed by the signature, “-God,” as if God has made the statement. The quotations given range anywhere from funny, “That ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ thing…I meant that,” to sweet, “Tell the kids I love them,” to promising, “Need a marriage counselor? I’m available,” to threatening, “Keep using my name in vain, I’ll make rush hour longer.”

No doubt those who came up with this billboard campaign thought they were doing God a service. Many have no doubt spent large sums of money to keep these billboards up and posted along major freeways. A web site connected to the billboards (www.godspeaks.com) tries to answer people’s questions, like “Who is God?” and “Is God relevant to my life?” This campaign is trying to get people interested and thinking about God. Yet one truth remains, and that is that God said none of the “clever” sayings that these billboards are attributing to Him. Not only that, but what kind of picture of God are they really promoting? Whether or not it’s meant to be funny, would God really make rush hour longer because someone used His name in vain? The view of God suggested by this quotation is that of a petty, vengeful God Who seeks to “get” people for things He considers wrongs against Himself. It is entirely out of accord with the current dispensation of grace, and the way God really behaves towards men today, giving love and favor to the undeserving.

There can be no doubt but that these “God” billboards are NOT truly the Word of God. And whether or not they meant it this way, the authors of these signs, and those who support their use, have claimed to speak God’s words when they had no right to do so. They fall fully under the condemnation of Deuteronomy 18:20 having presumed “to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak.

I wonder what any one of my readers would think if someone should start posting billboards around the country bearing quotes supposedly from you that you had never said? No matter how clever these quotes might be, or whether or not you agreed with them, would it not be annoying to you, and wouldn’t you think it was outright wrong, that someone would put their own words on a billboard and then attach your name to them as if you had said them? No human being would enjoy having such a thing done to him, even if there was nothing wrong with the quotations erroneously attributed to him. Moreover, most people would be more careful than to make such claims without a person’s knowledge or consent. I suppose there are those who misquote others all the time, but few there are who will post such misquotations in large letters for everyone, including the person misquoted, to see.

Yet how strange, how sad, how unfortunate that people who consider themselves as belonging to God would treat Him this way! To make up quotes out of your own heart and head, and then apply them to the living God, as if He had said them…this is just not right. It does not matter if they are clever. It does not matter if they are right or wrong. It does not even matter if they get people thinking about God, which seems to be the intent of those who authored and posted the billboards. These quotations are NOT God’s words, and they are a misrepresentation, pure and simple. Those who wrote them, those who paid for and posted them, prove themselves to be false prophets, not holding God’s words with respect.

If my readers have read my ideas on faith, you will know that I teach just what Romans 10:17 tells us, that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” When God has spoken a word and we believe it, then that is faith in God’s sight. True faith can take several different forms. Some things we just believe and catalogue as facts, such as that David’s father was Jesse, as the Bible says in places such as I Samuel 16:19. This fact makes no other claim on us than that we believe it. Other facts might require us to change our minds if we are to believe them. For example, if I believed that the universe came about at random through a big bang billions of years ago, and then I read in Genesis 1:1 that God created the heavens and the earth, then I will have to change my way of thinking if I am to believe God’s word in Genesis 1:1. I can no longer believe what I believed before, as I must now believe that the universe was created by God, not by chance. But faith can also require a change of behavior. For example, suppose I was in the habit of getting drunk every Friday night, and then I read Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” In order to believe this passage, I would have to stop getting drunk. Faith would require a change of behavior. Yet ultimately, any time I believe a word from God and respond to it correctly, I am displaying faith.

Now consider what happens when someone claims that a message is from God when He never spoke it. What if someone displays faith in such a statement? Suppose, for example, that someone read the sign I quoted above about God making rush hour longer if you use His name in vain. This person believes this quote, and stops swearing, which is what the authors of the sign are clearly referring to. Then, however, rush hour does not get shorter, but stays the same. Or suppose he swears a blue streak, and then finds that rush hour stays the same as it always was, or perhaps he gets lucky and rush hour is shorter that day than usual. What light does this cast the word of God in?

When we understand how important, how crucial, the word of God is to our faith, we can see how critically wrong it is to make up quotations and attribute them to God when He never said them. Most of my readers have probably never posted billboards bearing quotations supposedly by God that He never spoke along major highways. Yet I think that we too can be guilty of not respecting the word of God as much as we ought. Often I hear believers say things like, “God told me” something, or “God called me to” do something. And I cannot help but wonder, did God really do this? Did God really speak to those who say that God told them something? Or did they just get a thought in their heads, and decide to attribute that thought to God? Did God really call them to something? Or did they just decide to do that, or get a good feeling about doing that, and then attributed that to a calling from God? Because remember, if it really was a word from God, then it was an act of faith to follow it, and it would be an act of disobedience not to. Yet if it wasn’t a word from God, to claim that it was would be becoming a false prophet. And according to Deuteronomy 18:20, false prophets deserve to die!

It does not matter how well we think we know God, or how in tune with Him we imagine we are. Imagine a husband, even one who had been married to his wife for many years, who went around telling people what his wife thought about certain things that he had never discussed with her, or expressing things that he says are her desires when she never said anything about wanting them. Even though she was his wife, would he have any right to do this? Probably he would be right in most cases if he really knew his wife, but even then it would be best for him to say something like, “Knowing her, this is what she would want,” rather than acting like he had talked to her about it and knew what she wanted when really he didn’t know. But when it comes to God, we seem to think that just anyone can guess what He thinks and wants and be right, at least as long as that person is a “Christian.” Yet I think most Christians do not know God anywhere close to the level someone would know a marriage partner after many years together! Why do we not protest, then, when people who barely even know God take it upon themselves to speak for Him?

Of course, the one exception to this is if I have a true word from God in the Scriptures that I can point to to back my claims. If I tell someone God loves him, I know this is true because I can find that in the Scriptures. The one I tell this to is a sinner, and I know that while we are yet sinners, God manifests His love towards us in that Christ died for us, to paraphrase Romans 5:8. For me to tell him this is right. So to claim something about God that I have Scriptural backing for is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is to claim something that is just not true, like the idea that God ever said, “That ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ thing…I meant that.” You know God never said that, and I know God never said it. So it is a most grievous sin, and unjustifiable, to claim it.

In the dispensation of grace, God does not punish those who claim to speak a word from Him when He did not speak. Yet I do not think that that means that God takes this sin lightly. How many believers constantly are asserting things that God did and said in their lives when they really don’t know if He really did or said them or not? This is just not right. There is no reason for us to listen to those who make such claims. And we certainly should never make such claims ourselves.

Some might think I’m being overly picky by saying this. These signs are no big deal, they might say. Those who are posting them are trying to do good, so who am I to say they are wrong? Saying that God speaks to us is just trying to figure out His will. There really isn’t that big a problem here. To any who would say or think such a thing, I would say that you need to re-examine your own mind and heart regarding the words of God. For to think this, I believe that you are not holding the Word of God in the kind of respect that it deserves. Consider the verses I quoted at the beginning of this message. Do you really view God’s Word as highly as these verses suggest you should? Do things like “Need a marriage counselor? I’m available,” really qualify as deserving the high praise that these verses give the Word of God?

I pray that the Lord will help us all to have a higher respect and a deeper regard for His words. Let us not treat them as if some person’s clever line could have the same value. Rather, let us view them as far purer than man’s words could ever be, far higher than our thoughts could ever go. This is the kind of respect the Word of God deserves. Let us never make it to be no better than the wise sayings of a man.

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