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March 12, 2011

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Q: Is the Old Testament reliable?

A: The Old Testament writers believed their message was God-breathed and, therefore, utterly reliable. More than 400 times from Exodus 4:22 to Malachi 1:4, they declared, in just three Hebrew words, “Thus says the Lord.”

To emphasize this divine authority many of the prophets received God’s message through a powerful experience. For example, the prophet Jeremiah recorded that at the beginning of his ministry, “The Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth’” (Jeremiah 1:9).

The prophets so identified themselves as God’s spokesmen that they frequently spoke as though God Himself were speaking. In Isaiah 5:1–2 the prophet spoke of God in the third person—He—but in verses 3–6 Isaiah spoke for God in the first person—I. Isaiah had become the actual spokesperson for God. No wonder King David spoke of the word of the Lord as “perfect” (2 Samuel 22:31; see also Proverbs 30:5. The NIV translates this word as “flawless”).

The New Testament writers did not doubt that the Old Testament prophets spoke for God. Peter and John saw the words of David in Psalm 2, not as the opinion of a king in Israel, but as the Word of God: “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David” (Acts 4:25, NIV). Similarly, Paul accepted Isaiah’s words as God speaking to men: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers” (Acts 28:25).


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