With regard to the divine authority of the ancient scriptures, nothing is more plainly marked than God's displeasure at dishonour to His word, and the blessing that has accompanied obedience. The notice of a few instances will suffice to confirm this.
It was by one man's disobedience that sin entered into the world, with all its consequences of sorrow, death, and judgment. Later on, when God's judgment of fire and brimstone was about to overtake the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot with his wife and daughters were rescued from it, they were commanded to "look not behind;" but one of the party thought it wiser to follow her own reasoning than the word of the messenger of God from heaven, and disobeyed. We are told that then God's hand overtook her in judgment; for Lot's wife "looked back . . . . and she became a pillar of salt" ― a standing monument of God's displeasure. (Gen. 19:17, 26.) How awful it is to go contrary to God's word!
The children of Israel who came out of Egypt to the number of six hundred thousand men, never entered the land, except Caleb and Joshua, because they did not believe God; and long after they had had the benefit of God's ordinances and prophets for a series of years, they rebelled against Him, refused His word, despised His prophets, and became worse than the heathen; so that both Israel and Judah were given into captivity. How true it is that God cannot look on disobedience to His word with any allowance!
Again, at the famine of Samaria, Jehovah's servant, Elisha, prophesied. His testimony was, "Thus saith Jehovah, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel in the gate of Samaria." But a man of high standing there unbelievingly replied, "If Jehovah would make windows in heaven might this thing be?" This was despising Jehovah's word. So the prophet said unto him, "Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof." And so the words of Jehovah were fulfilled; for the next day there was plenty in the famished city, and this great, but unbelieving man, who despised God's word, saw the plentiful supply of food, but instead of tasting it, "the people trod upon him in the gate, and he died." Another appalling instance of the terribleness of refusing, through unbelief, God's word!
Take another case, not that of an unbeliever, but of the failure of a man of faith ― David, a man after God's own heart. He attempted to bring up the ark from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem; but in so doing, God struck Uzzah dead on his touching the ark when the oxen stumbled, and David was deeply distressed. And why was this marked displeasure of the Lord? He afterward found out it was because he had acted according to his own reasonings, and that of others, instead of referring to the written word and acting on it in faith. Oxen, cart, and all were the mere inventions of David and his captains; so that when he knew this he was not surprised at the "breach." From the book of Numbers he learnt that, None ought to carry the ark but the Levites. He now takes the written word as his guide, acts on it, and we know with what blessed result. O that all God's people would search the scriptures to know His mind, and seek grace and strength from Him to carry it out!
Before closing this part of our subject, let us briefly glance at king Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 36. The prophet had written in a roll what Jehovah had told him about the king and people, and it was read to the king, when he took a knife, cut the roll into pieces, and burnt it in the fire. What followed? We are told that the prophet wrote "another roll," and added to it; and, as a mark of God's displeasure, said, "Thus saith Jehovah of Jehoiakim king of Judah, He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David; and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost." (Vers. 21-32.) How true are the words of Jehovah, "They that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
Let us now briefly turn to a few examples of such as honoured God in receiving His written word, and acting on it, in days too, much like the present, when the traditions and opinions of men have set aside, or corrupted almost everything that God has made known for present guidance and blessing.
Passing by some who had evidently prospered in keeping God's statutes and commandments, "as it is written in the law of Moses," we find it recorded that king Jehoshaphat sought to the Lord God of his fathers, and walked in His commandments. He sent also teachers who taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of Jehovah with them. Present blessing was with him so connected with obedience to the written word, that in the battle field he said, "Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, believe in Jehovah your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper." We know how remarkably God's blessing was with him. (2 Chron. 17:4, 9; 20:20, 30.)
After this, in a time of abounding evil, we find that Jehoiada, after breaking down the house of Baal with its altars and images, appointed the offices of the house of Jehovah, etc., as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and singing, as it was ordained by David. (2 Chron. 23:17, 18.)
In Hezekiah's reign, there was remarkable blessing on their turning to the authority of the sacred writings. They soon discovered that they had not kept the solemn and important feast of the passover, "for a long time in such sort as it is written." We are told, therefore, that the men of Judah had given them by God one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes by the word of Jehovah. Moreover, Hezekiah appointed morning and evening burnt-offerings, and the burnt-offerings for the sabbaths and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of Moses. They kept the passover and the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness, and then kept other seven days with gladness," and offered sacrifices; "so there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel [nearly 300 years], there was not the like in Jerusalem." (2 Chron. 30:2, 5, 15-26.)
The wonderful revival in the reign of Josiah, king of Judah, may also be traced to the practical acknowledgment of the divine authority of the holy scriptures. It was brought about by Hilkiah, the priest, finding in the house of Jehovah "a book of the law of Jehovah given by Moses. And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of Jehovah . . . . And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass when the king heard the words of the law that he rent his clothes." The reason was that he learnt from these writings that they were justly exposed to divine wrath, and the curses written in the book, because of their sins in having forsaken Jehovah their God, and having burnt incense to other gods. They, therefore, bowed at once to the authority of the sacred writings, and kept the passover according to the ordinance, "as it is written in the book of Moses," and it was accompanied with God's abundant blessing. They were so exercised by the authority of scripture about it, that we read that the king's commandment was, "kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the word of Jehovah by the hand of Moses." We are further told that the evil, and "abominations that were spied in the land of Judah, and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of Jehovah. And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to Jehovah with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses, neither after him arose there any like him." We are told also, "there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet." (2 Chron. 34:14-19, 24; 35:6, 12, 18; 2 Kings 23:24, 25.)
The return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon was also strikingly marked by their submission to the authority of the written law of Jehovah. So truly did Ezra recognise the divine authenticity of the scriptures, that we are told that "Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." We read also, that when they were gathered together as one man in Jerusalem, they "builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God . . . . they kept also the feast of tabernacles as it is written." Again, when the temple was finished, they dedicated the house of God with joy, they offered a sin-offering according to the twelve tribes of Israel, "and they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God which is at Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses." They also found it written in the law, that the feast of tabernacles should be kept. "And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths; for since the days of Jeshua, the son of Nun, unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness." (Ezra 3:2; 6:15-18; 7:6, 10; Neh. 8.)
Do not all these examples warn us most solemnly against disobedience to the written word, as well as encourage us to bow to its divine authority? Surely, "to obey is better than sacrifice," and to honour God is always the path of blessing. It is well also to notice, that in Israel's history, reviving and restoration began in individual exercise before God, and personal cleaving to His word as demanding willing subjection; and, from individual turning to God in this way collective blessing followed. No doubt it is the same now. Wherever souls turn to God in earnest prayer and supplication, and therefore bow to His word with the hearty desire to carry it out, there will always be found the marked blessing of God. Nothing less is the path of faith. Every other way is the fruit of unbelief, and cannot please God. Wherever true faith in God is in exercise, there will be constant appeal to what is written for our instruction, and its authority will be always final and conclusive. Surely to such the scriptures are "the oracles of God."
"I love the sacred book of God,
No other can its place supply;
It points me to the saints' abode,
It gives me wings, and bids me fly.
Sweet book! in thee my eyes discern
The image of my absent Lord;
From thine illumined page I learn
The joys His presence will afford.
In thee I read my title clear
To mansions never to decay;
My Lord! O when wilt Thou appear,
And take Thy prisoner far away?"
Before closing our remarks on "the Old Testament," it may be well to look at some samples of its alleged inaccuracies