The God Who Speaks
THE GOD WHO SPEAKS
A Midweek Lesson
By Pastor Brian Wilbur
Date: January 17, 2019
Note: Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
When we turn to the first page of the Bible, we learn that God is One who speaks:
“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”” (Genesis 1:3)
“And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.” (Genesis 1:14-15)
God speaks, and His speaking is powerful and effective to accomplish its purpose – so powerful, in fact, that His speaking creates things that hitherto didn’t exist. Paul told us that God “calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (Romans 4:17) “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” (Psalm 33:6) The reason that there is this universe instead of no universe is because God willed to speak it into existence.
Further, God’s word not only created the universe, but also upholds the universe: “He [God’s Son] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3) Of course, God’s word, God’s revelation, God’s communication, is fundamentally and ultimately embodied in His Son: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) The reason that this universe is held together and doesn’t collapse into ruin is because God’s Son holds it together: “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)
So far we have reflected on God’s word in relation to the whole universe – and we must understand that God’s sovereign voice has created and continues to uphold all things. But the main point that I want us to consider in our short time together this evening is that the speaking God speaks to us.
In the weeks ahead it is my intention to take my midweek lessons from what I am learning as I prepare for and lead my Sunday School class through “The Ten Commandments.” I am reading various books as part of my study – and one of them is Words from the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments, written by Albert Mohler. In the “Introduction” he offers a profound reflection on the fact that God actually speaks to human creatures. Exodus 20:1 says this before the ten commandments are spoken: “And God spoke all these words” (Exodus 20:1). God spoke! God has spoken! This is God speaking to Israel and, by extension, to us. Deuteronomy 4 reflects back on the giving of the law and asks this question: “Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live?” (Deuteronomy 4:33)
PART 1: IF GOD HADN’T SPOKEN
But what if God hadn’t spoken? What if God had made the universe and created man and woman to live upon the earth, but chose not to communicate with us, not to reveal Himself or His ways to us, not to speak to us? Then what? The answer is darkness, that’s what. Remember what John told us about the Word who “was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2): “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) Take away the Word, take away the revelation, take away the divine speech, and the result is darkness. Albert Mohler writes:
“What if God had not spoken? If God had not spoken, the seminary I lead would not exist, at least not along the same lines. If God had not spoken, we might still have a school of religion…
"… Just visit some of the more liberal divinity schools, theological seminaries, and universities. There you will hear the kind of philosophical discourse, teaching, and worldview that would emerge everywhere if God had not spoken…
"… If God has not spoken, then there is no one who is right, and there is no one who is wrong. If God has not spoken, then all you have the end game of postmodernism–nihilism without knowledge.”
Darkness, cluelessness, foolishness, everyone’s guess, and lawlessness in speech and behavior, would prevail if God hadn’t spoken.
Do you remember Luke 8? The stormy sea would not have been stilled, if Jesus hadn’t spoken. The demon-possessed man would not have been healed, if Jesus hadn’t spoken. The dead twelve-year-old girl would not have been restored to life, if Jesus hadn’t spoken. Jesus speaks, and there is life and health and peace. If Jesus allowed His creation to remain in existence but, if it were possible, He completely and totally withdrew His powerful word from it, then what remained would be chaos, distortion, and graveyards.
And the same Jesus who commands the weather patterns, evil spirits, and dead persons, also commands us. Are we listening with attentive and obedient hearts? Let us not be fools who live our lives as if He hasn’t spoken, who neglect the wonderful treasure that He has given to us.
PART 2: PAYING ATTENTION TO THE GOD WHO HAS SPOKEN
Do we understand and feel how needful it is for us to hear and internalize and be shaped by the word that God has spoken to us? The point is not to be learners-who-are-well-informed but learners-who-are-well-transformed by God’s gracious word. It is easy to point the finger and imagine what other people or situations would be like if God hadn’t spoken, but what would I be like if God hadn’t spoken. Years ago I learned through a protracted and painful season of darkness that if the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t hold me together then, spiritually speaking, I go south, and fast. It is good to learn our weakness, so that it is not just a theological affirmation but a felt spiritual reality.
What we encounter is the Psalms is felt spiritual reality.
“Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:8-9)
Christians are repentant sinners, but we are still sinners – and we’re to be humble, not defensive, about it. We want the Lord to pour the riches of His word into us poor sinners, so that we can learn “his way” and walk in it.
Consider this prayer from the psalms:
“My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!” (Psalm 119:25-32)
This man is a man who truly desires to follow the Lord: “I have chosen the way of faithfulness.” But he is not self-smart or self-enlightening or self-empowering. He understands his own weakness and vulnerability: he is no stranger to being laid low in “the dust,” he is no stranger to “sorrow,” he is no stranger to the temptation and lure of “false ways,” and he is no stranger to the weakness of his own heart. Therefore he needs the Lord to strengthen him, give him life, and “graciously teach [him]”. And it is clear that the Lord’s word is central to his growth in spiritual vitality: “your word!,” “your statutes!,” “your precepts,” “your law!,” “your rules,” “your testimonies,” and “your commandments.” If you seek to grow in spiritual health apart from God’s word, then you might pass for a New Ager or a religious zealot (depending on which route you take), but you will not be following Jesus. To follow Jesus involves cherishing His words: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26)
Revisiting Psalm 119, I also want you to notice that the written Word, in and of itself, is not enough to renew and transform our hearts. Yes, we need the written Word, we need the Word that God has spoken and that has been inscripturated in the pages of the Bible, we need this holy book and its sacred contents. But if all we have is a book (or a preacher) in front of us, and our own hearts, what will happen? Nothing – nothing that is ultimately good. The God who has spoken must also give us understanding of what He has spoken. The psalmist has the Lord’s word in front of him, but He is praying “teach me” and “[make] me understand.” Earlier he had prayed: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) And later: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:37)
At the end of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45) And Paul prayed for his fellow Christians “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know…” (Ephesians 1:17-18)
We are not talking about two paths of knowledge here, as if you have the Bible on the one hand and God’s work in your heart on the other. This is not either-or but both-and. This is one path: the objective Word and the sovereign Spirit working together – the Word that God has spoken is read and taught and proclaimed, and the God who has spoken this Word sends forth His Spirit to enable His people to understand it and obey it.
And so it is that we are who are sinful and tempted by “false ways” and ‘prone to wander’ and overwhelmed by sorrow and far too dull in our understanding of things, are invited to come and hear – to come and hear the God who speaks, to hear and understand, to understand and obey, to obey and bear fruit for God’s glory.
PART 3: TRUE SALVATION LEADS TO LEARNING AND GROWING
But as we heed this invitation, we must remember that it is not our learning and growing that saves us. We are saved because the Word who created all things was, by sovereign decree, silenced on the holy tree outside of Jerusalem. The living Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, experienced what it was like to have the Father’s life-giving word withdrawn. What happens when the life-giving word is taken away: slaughter, and death. But it was all according to the word: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). He atoned for our iniquities; He paid the purchase price for our redemption; and by His death we have been reconciled to God. By faith and faith alone this gift is received, and those who receive it stand as sons and daughters in the family of God. And was any word ever more powerfully spoken than when the silenced Word rose again in the ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ of everlasting triumph? Yes, He was “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25)!
So, it is not our learning and growing that saves us, but true salvation always leads to learning and growing. Paul told Titus: “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” (Titus 2:15) The implication is that we who hear Titus or other faithful teachers must receive the instruction, exhortation, and rebuke that is given to us. In other words, we must learn and grow by receiving into our hearts the words of the speaking God!
Right before Paul told Titus to “[declare] these things,” he said: “… our great God and Savior Jesus Christ… gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:13-14)
So as those who have been redeemed and purified by the grace of Christ, let us continually pay attention to the God who speaks, to the God who gives understanding, to the God who transforms, to the God who leads His people further along on the path of holy living, to the God who holds together the whole universe and even our very lives by the power of His word.
 R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Words from the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009: p. 11-24.
 Ibid., p. 16, where Mohler asks the profound question: “What if God had not spoken?”
 Ibid., p. 16.
 This phrase comes from the hymn entitled “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”