The Canon: Why These Sixty-Six Books - Part 2

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  February 15, 2004
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Well, we're discussing the issue of the canon of Scripture; that is, why these 66 books have been included and others have not. I'm sure you've read, if you've read at all in Christianity, that there're always people claiming to speak for God. In our day there've been groups of people calling themselves prophets, who literally say that they, (much in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament prophets, although, as we'll see, Lord willing next week, there's a great difference between the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament gift of prophecy.), but they claim to speak for God. They claim that God is speaking through them.

Unfortunately, that same attitude sort of permeates throughout Christianity, even down to those who don't claim in some official sense to speak for God. It's become very common among Christians to hear them say, well, God told me to do this, or, God said this. In a sense, that statement is claiming the same thing as those prophets are, and that is that God is giving me some type of continuing revelation. The question is, how are we to distinguish between those who actually have spoken for God and those who claim, then and now, to speak for Him? That is the key question that we're discussing. Let me just back up and give you the big picture. We're examining, really, four issues concerning the canon.

The first of those is the meaning of canon. What exactly does that mean?

Secondly, (And we looked at these two last week.) the official church recognition of the canon; how did that happen?

And then thirdly, last time we began to look at the true biblical criteria for examining what books should be included in the inspired canon of Scripture.

And then finally, next week, well, I say next week. We're going to be a little shorter this week because of some other things that are going on this evening, but it may be a couple of weeks before we get to the closing of the canon; that is, how do we know that after these books were there, none others have been added that should be included?

So, let me just review briefly. The meaning of "canon". Basically, the word "canon" comes to us through the Latin from the original Greek text, and it's used to refer to several things. It's used to refer to "a straight rod or rule by which something is measured," its straightness is measured. Then it became "a rule" or "a standard." And finally, the word came to be used of "a series or list." Just as a rule or ruler is often marked off into a series of inches or centimeters, even so it came to speak of a series or list of things. When we talk about the canon of Scripture, we're basically talking about two things.

First of all, the list of books acknowledged to be inspired, the list of books acknowledged to be inspired.

And secondly, we're talking about the rule or standard of belief or practice.

Once we've discerned that list of inspired books, then those books become the standard against which we measure what we believe and how we live: belief and practice. So, that's what we're talking about when we're talking about canon.

We looked briefly at how the church has officially recognized the canon through the years last week. And I'm not going to go through all the historical things, but let me just give you the criteria that the church, the early church, used up to about four hundred to discern what books should be included in the canon.

First of all, apostolicity. That is, was it written by an Apostle or someone close to an Apostle?

Secondly, antiquity. That is, is it old enough to be written around the time of the Apostles?

Orthodoxy. That is, how does its doctrine compare to those books that we know are from God?

And then, catholicity. By that they simple meant, has it had a wide acceptance in the church at large? I'm not talking about the Roman Catholic church here. It's a term that means the church universal, the broad-the broadest sense of the church having received the text of Scripture.

And then lection. Not e-lection, but "lection". It means, has the book been used in the reading of the public worship? Has it been used in the worship of the church?

And then finally, (and this is sort of a vague one) does it have the qualities of inspiration? Does it appear to be inspired? Does it have the same qualities as other books we know to be inspired?

So those are sort of the criteria, those are the criteria that the church used to recognize the books that are part of the canon. And I won't go through the history of that again. We did last time. (I-for next week, I'll have copies of these overheads along with that historical one in the back so you can pick them up.)

We began last time to look at the biblical criteria. Let's get beyond the church's recognition of the books and let's ask ourselves, does the Scripture itself lay down certain criteria by which we can evaluate whether or not a book is from God? And we said yes, it does. We began to look at the Old Testament. We realized that the Jewish canon of the Old Testament is exactly the same as the 39 books that we have in our Bible. They were grouped differently. There weren't 39 of them, but the content was exactly the same.

When you look at the Hebrew Old Testament, it's broken into three parts: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. And we looked in detail at what those parts-what books make up those parts, and we saw that Christ actually recognized and endorsed this canon. You remember in Luke 24, Christ says, He refers to these three groups as the Scripture: the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Which is a shorthand way, the Psalms were a shorthand way in Christ's day to refer to the Writings. And so, Christ embraced all that belongs to the Jewish canon (to the Hebrew Old Testament) and said, that is the Scripture.

So, we learned also, that even before Christ the canon was settled; in fact, Josephus argues that the canon was settled four hundred before Christ. In other words, four hundred years before Christ came, people gave the same identical list for those books that should be incorporated into the Old Testament, those books that were inspired of God that make up the Old Testament. And the question we really began to ask last time is: how? How did that happen? How is it that four hundred years before Christ there was a consensus about what books belonged in the Old Testament?

So, that's where I want to pick up tonight. How was the Old Testament universally accepted? How exactly did that happen? We began to look at this last time. Our first hint, as I mentioned, is that Jewish theologians distinguish what is authoritative from that which is not by the words "Did it come from Sinai?" In other words, does its authority emanate from Sinai? That's our first hint. And we began, because of that, to look at Moses, and this is where we ended last time. Moses was unmistakably and undeniably validated as God's mouthpiece. We looked at Exodus 19. You remember how God brought the people around the mountain there as He brought them out of Egypt, and He spoke from the mountain. He actually spoke the Ten Commandments in the hearing of all the people.

There were so many indications that God was present: from the glowing of a trumpet, to earthquakes, to smoke ascending up from the mountain, to thick darkness and clouds. There was no question in anybody's mind that God was there. And God called Moses up, and God made Moses His mouthpiece. We saw it again in Numbers 12. You remember where Miriam and Aaron decided that they deserved a little bit of the recognition, they needed more authority. And so, they say to Moses, we think you're taking too much on yourself, and they use the petty excuse of his marriage to Zipporah. And as a result of that, God calls the three of them out (you remember to the Tent of Meeting), and there He says to Miriam and Aaron, who do you think you're dealing with? If I'm going to speak through a prophet, if I'm going to speak to a prophet, I'll do so through dreams and visions; but not so My servant Moses, I speak to him as a man speaks to his friend. So, God established unequivocally that Moses was His spokesman.

Moses then often writes, and he writes at the beckon of God. Let me show you a couple of these texts. We won't look at all of them, but turn to Exodus 17. Exodus 17:14: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly block out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.'" So, God commands Moses to write. Notice again in Exodus 24:4. As the people are affirming their covenant with God, verse 3,

… Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!" [Now watch what Moses does:] "Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. [ And he makes this covenant. He sprinkles the blood and affirms the covenant in verse 6,] … He sprinkled [it] on the altar. [And then] verse 7, He took the book of the covenant [That is, what he'd just written at the beck of God.] and he read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do … we'll be obedient!"

And then Moses confirmed the covenant with Israel by sprinkling the other half of the blood on the people. It was a covenant they made to keep the law. But notice, Moses, at God's requirement, wrote it down.

You see it again in Exodus 34, Exodus 34:27.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." So, he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

So, God is constantly giving Moses the requirement to write. Here's the important point: the people were first-hand witnesses that Moses was God's man and that Moses wrote these things, that he wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. Notice Numbers 33, as we hear about the wilderness wanderings and the forty years there. Numbers 33:2, let's start at verse 1.

These are the [journeyings] … of the sons of Israel, by which they came out from the land of Egypt by their armies, under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the LORD, and these are their journeys according to their starting places.

And then you have it detailed there. Moses is writing, and he's writing at the command of God. Turn to Deuteronomy 31. You see this several times in this chapter. Near the end of Moses' life, his last counsel to the children of Israel, verse 9: "So Moses wrote this law and he gave it the priests, and the sons of Levi who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel." Verse 22: "So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel." But notice verses 24 and following of Deuteronomy 31:

It came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, "Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you."

So, here's the picture. God affirms Moses as His spokesperson. God says this man is My man, and He made it crystal clear. No one in Israel doubted that Moses was God's mouthpiece. Then God commands this same man, Moses, whom He's authenticated beyond question, and He tells him to write, write these words. The people know that Moses is doing the writing, that's he's recording it. And Moses even records that in the books that he's written, so that it's clear for the entire future to read.

You see this, by the way, throughout the Old Testament. There's constant testimony that these first five books came from the pen of Moses, who was merely an instrument in the hand of God. We won't turn there, but you can see it in Joshua 1:7; Joshua 8:31 and 32; Joshua 22:5; Joshua 23:6; and so forth. Throughout the Old Testament you see it affirmed that the book of the Law (which was those first five books) were penned by Moses, the authenticated messenger from God; and that what he wrote was exactly what God wanted written. So, Moses was universally accepted as God's mouthpiece, and what he wrote, the Pentateuch, was accepted as the literal words of God to the people. So, there was no question about the canonicity of Genesis to Deuteronomy in the minds of the people of Israel. Two million people were very confident that those were in fact the words of God.

Now before Moses death, he wrote that others would arise to carry on his work. He predicted that God would continue to raise up men like himself who would speak for God. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 18. This is very important. Before his death, Moses says there're going to be others like me who will come, others who speak for God to you. Notice verse 14, verse 15 rather: "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet…." No, let's do start at verse 14. That sets a little bit of the foundation.

"For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners…." [In other words, you're going to displace these nations, and their revelation comes through certain kinds of people.] "… but as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do so." [Instead (verse 15 turns the corner), instead, here's what's going to happen for you: you're not to listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners.] "but as for you ... "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die."

You remember when we were looking at Exodus 19, how the people said, Moses, don't let God speak to us anymore? We're afraid we're going to be consumed. We're terrified. Instead, you go, let God tell you, and then you come and tell us. Moses says, that was your request, and God has decided that's a good thing. And so, from this point on, God will raise up a prophet like me from among you. And you will listen to him, just as you asked (verse 16). Verse 17: "The Lord said to me, 'They have spoken well.'" This is a good thing. Verse 18:

"I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen, like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and shall speak to them all that I command them. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he will speak in My name, I, Myself, will require it of him."

There it is. Moses, the authenticated messenger of God, says there're going to be others like him who will come. Now obviously, part of this prophecy is talking about the Messiah who's to come, about Christ. So, he's implying that, but Moses is also speaking of more. It's clear that Moses was describing an institution of prophets. One, frankly, that was already active in Moses' day. You can see that in Numbers 11:29. And this institution of prophets would continue.

Now, what will distinguish these prophets that God will raise up like Moses? Well, God Himself tells us with the pen of Moses. Hold your finger there in Deuteronomy 18, and flip back to Numbers 12 again, we looked at last week. What distinguishes a prophet? Numbers 12, God says this to Aaron and Miriam, just to sort of set them straight. Verse 6, Numbers 12:6: "[God] … said, 'Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him….'" There we go. That is a distinguishing characteristic of a prophet: God speaks to the prophet. He'll do it in a vision, He'll do it in a dream, unlike Moses whom He sees and speaks with face to face. But the distinguishing characteristic of a prophet is someone to whom God speaks to and through.

You see this in Exodus 7. Again, keep your finger in Deuteronomy, and flip back to Exodus 7. I won't take a lot of time here, because I've pointed this out to you before, but I just want to do it in this context. Look at Exodus 7:1:

Then the Lord said to Moses, "See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet." [All right now, God's drawing up a comparison. He's saying, OK Moses, you're going to be in the place of God to Pharaoh, and Aaron's going to be your prophet.] Verse 2, "You shall speak [as God in this scenario] all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land."

You see what God is saying? For Aaron to be Moses' prophet, two things had to be true. He could not speak for himself; instead, he was to simply speak what Moses told him through-from God. And two, he had to speak only on behalf of Moses who was in the place of God to him. So, his content and when he spoke was driven by Moses, who was in the place of God to him in that context. So, a true prophet was one to whom God spoke, and he was one who did not speak out of his own heart but rather as an appointed messenger for God. In short, the prophet was solely and only God's messenger.

You see this in Jeremiah. You remember when God called Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5? He says, "I have appointed you a prophet." And in verse 9 he says and "I have"—what? "[I've] put My words in your mouth." That's the role of a prophet. I've appointed you a prophet, and here's what it means: I'm going to put My words in your mouth.

The prophet's message, when we come to Old Testament prophets, the prophet's message may include prediction of the future; but primarily the prophet's role is not foretelling, but forthtelling, not prediction, but preaching. The books of the prophets consist primarily of sermons and history rather than predictions. There are many predictions in the Old Testament, but they do not constitute the prophet's primary role. We won't take time to turn there, but there are two interesting passages you can look at your own: Jeremiah 18:18; and Ezekiel 7:26. You put them together, and you have a list of all of the offices in Israel at the time of the exile, Jeremiah and Ezekiel's time. Here are the offices. There's a king, and there's a prince, and there were elders (that's a council of leading men of the nation). That constitutes the civil authority. There were priests, and their job according to Deuteronomy 31 was to teach the Word. And then there was the sage or the wise man. His job (his job description, if you will) is detailed at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 12:9-11). And then finally there was the prophet. The prophet, unlike all of those other guys, while they had important roles, the prophet was the only one who spoke for God. He was the only one who was a mouthpiece for God.

Perhaps this is nowhere better illustrated than in 1 Kings 22, 1 Kings 22. And I'm just going to head through this as quickly as I can, because I want you to see this.

At this point, verse 2 says, [It's] … the third year [of] Jehoshaphat ... king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. [That is, Ahab. So, you have this possible confederacy going on between the southern two tribes and the northern ten tribes and their kings: Jehoshaphat of Judah, and Ahab of Israel.] Now the king of Israel said to his servants, "Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and … [we're] still doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?" And [so,] he [says] … to Jehoshaphat, his fellow king down in Judah, "Will you go with me to battle…?" [Will you help me take this land back?] And Jehoshaphat … [says oh sure, "[I'm] … as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses." [That means yes; just so you know.] Verse 5,

Moreover Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, "Please inquire first for the word of the Lord." [Uh oh, here's the sticking point. Jehoshaphat said, well, before we do this, before we seal the deal and the ink is dry, let's check with the Lord.] Verse 6, Then the king of Israel [Ahab] gather[s] … the prophets together, about four hundred … [of them. And he says …] to them, "Shall I go … [up] against Ramoth-gilead to battle or shall I refrain?" And they said, "Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king." [(chuckle) I don't know exactly how Jehoshaphat knew this, but notice what he says.] Verse 7, … "Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?" [You know, there're four hundred guys standing there; He says is there not yet a prophet of the Lord here? The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, well, OK, yes,] "There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord." [Isn't it interesting that even the enemies of this prophet, Ahab, himself, recognizes that, in fact, this man is a genuine-the genuine article? Verse 8, Yeah, there's still this guy] "… we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah." But Jehoshaphat said, [what the—don't say that.] Verse 9, Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, [OK], "Bring … Micaiah [to me. And so they] … were sitting each on … [their] throne, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance … [to] the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were … [here are these four hundred guys telling him go-go-go, it's going to be a success. They were all] prophesying, (verse 12) saying, … "Go up to Ramoth-gilead and prosper, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king." [But notice verse 13.]

Then the messenger that Ahab had sent to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, [now listen, let me just give you a little protocol. You're coming into the court of the king; here's something to know.] "Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king." [In other words, we got four hundred on board here, don't spoil the deal.] "Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably." [Watch Micaiah's response, verse 14: "… As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I shall speak." [Here's a prophet, and here's the indication that prophets speak the Word of the LORD, even in the face of incredible pressure and incredible odds. So,]

When he came to the king, the king said to him, "Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?" And … [Micaiah] answered him, "Go up and succeed, and the LORD will give it into the hand of the king." Then the king said to him, [OK, stop kidding.] "How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?" [You see, he knew Micaiah was speaking sort of tongue-in-cheek, he was being sarcastic, he was going along as he'd been encouraged to. Verse 17: So he said, "I saw all Israel.…" [Here's the true prophecy.] "I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, Like sheep which have no shepherd. And the LORD said, '[They] … have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.'" [chuckle] I love verse 18. Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "[Didn't] I tell you that he [wouldn't] prophesy good concerning me, but evil?"

I told you this is what would happen. You bring this guy here, and we got this good thing going (these four hundred guys on board), and here's one that's out of touch with reality. I knew he wouldn't do it.

Notice verse 26, Then the king of Israel said, "Take Micaiah and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son; and say, 'Thus says the king, "Put this man in prison and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely.'" [(chuckle) In other words, if his prophecy's right and I don't come back because the master (verse 17) is killed, then don't let him out. Verse 28, even under that pressure,] Micaiah said, "If you indeed return safely the LORD has not spoken by me.'"

Micaiah makes it crystal clear the role of the Old Testament prophet. What a wonderful example, too. I mean, what an amazing example to any of us who claim to teach the Word of God. We ought to live by the standard of "As the Lord lives, I will tell you only what God has said." That's the role of a prophet.

Now, so Moses predicted that other prophets like him would continue to speak for God. Next, (and this is important) in addition, Moses provided two criteria by which future prophets must be judged. How do you know whether Micaiah's speaking the truth, or whether the other four hundred are speaking the truth? They're both claim, they're all claiming to be prophets. How do you know? Well, now you can turn back to Deuteronomy 18. I took you, it took a while to get back there, but we are going back there. God provides two criteria. Here's how you can know whether it's a true prophet or a false prophet. Deuteronomy 18:20: "But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." Verse 21: "You may say in your heart, [well] 'How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?'" In other words, OK, we're going to put to death somebody who doesn't speak what you want him to speak, but how do we know that? Verse 22: "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." And you shall kill him. So, the prophet, the first criteria is this: the true prophet's predictions will always come true. (chuckle) It's a good thing the Lord doesn't still judge by this standard those who claim to be His prophets today.

It's also a good thing the Lord doesn't knock them down and judge them for violating the second criteria, which is found in Deuteronomy 13. "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you [verse 1 says] and gives you a sign or a wonder." So, in other words, he's even got something going that looks like miracles. "And the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you've not known) and let us serve them.'"

In other words, here's a guy, he comes along, he's claiming to be a prophet of the Lord. He even has something that seems to attest that maybe he has some miraculous power. And he says, let's go after other gods, let's worship Baal as well as Yahweh, Yahweh doesn't mind, it's OK. Verse 3,

… you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. "You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him, and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the Land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk, so you shall purge the evil from among you."

Here's the second criteria of a genuine prophet. Not only do his predictions always come true, but secondly, the true prophet's message will always be (get this in capital letters in your notes) the true prophet's message will always be in complete doctrinal agreement with previous revelation. The true prophet, his doctrine, his teaching, will always agree with what God has commanded elsewhere.

Again, it's a good thing that God doesn't strike down those who claim to be His prophets today who violate this principle. These are the two criteria. Moses said listen, I'm going to die; you know I speak for God; here's what I'm telling you in the books I have written as God has commanded me to write. God is going to bring along more prophets, and here's how you know who they really are: their predictions will always come true, and their messages will always agree with previous revelation.

In addition, Moses seemed to indicate that God would often authenticate true prophets with miracles. Look at Exodus 4. Not always, not every prophet does miracles, but there seems to be an indication that God would sometimes use miracles to authenticate these messengers as well. Notice Exodus 4. This is, of course, the interchange between Moses and Yahweh at the burning bush, and Moses is still struggling with this call he's getting from God.

"Then Moses said (verse 1) [well, OK, but] 'What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?' [I go to God's people, I tell them I'm here to speak for You, and they say, yeah, so what?] [Or] … they may say, "The Lord … [hasn't] appeared to you." [We don't believe that.]

You really think we believe God showed up in a burning bush in some far-off desert, Midian?

The LORD said to him, [Here's the Lord's answer.] "[What's] that in your hand?" ... He said, "A staff." [And] … He said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. (chuckle) But the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail"—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—[verse 5] "that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."

And then God gives him another sign as well. And then verse 8, He says,

"If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall ..."

And then He gives them yet another sign to indicate that he's from God. So, there seems to be some indication that the true prophet may have, at God's determination, the ability to do miracles as we see with some of the Prophets: Elijah and Elisha, of course, the two most obvious in the Old Testament.

Because of these things (And this a key point.) the true prophet's word was immediately accepted. During his lifetime, God spoke through that man in a way that the people affirmed. He met the criteria just like Moses, although maybe not as dramatically. The people acknowledged that he spoke for God during his lifetime. As Laird Harris says in his book (Which I recommended to you last week.), the Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scripture, He says this,

Kings were humbled by their messages. Battles were won or lost at their word. The temple was not built by David but by his son Solomon, and rebuilt by Zerubbabel, all at the Word of the Lord through the prophet. The people were rebuked for their sins or encouraged through the prophets. But the prophets spoke undeniably, unquestionably, just as Moses did, for God.

This is a very important point in terms of canonicity. You'll see where we're going in a moment because the prophets, these men that God brought along in the place of Moses, that Moses promised would come, that met the criteria that Moses established, these prophets not only prophesied to the people verbally, but they wrote books. This is the way the Old Testament was constructed. You have Moses. Moses writes everything, as we saw already in Deuteronomy 31, that God tells him in a book. That book is the Word of the Lord. What happened to that book, that scroll, that Moses wrote with the first five books of our Old Testament? Where did He tell him to put it? In the Ark, next to the Ark as a witness against them.

Now watch what happens when Moses dies and Joshua comes on the scene. Turn to Joshua 24. Joshua now is toward the end of his life, and he has led the people into the land. He's helped them conquer. And there's great conquest, although it's not completely. The people of Canaan are not completely routed. But there has been essential victory. And at the end of his ministry to them, Joshua does this. Verse 26, "Joshua wrote these words [where?] in the book of the law of God." You see what Joshua's doing? Here's this book that Moses has deposited in the Ark of the Covenant. When it's Joshua time, he takes the book of the Law, and he writes the words which God has commanded him to write in it (That's our book of Joshua.): probably the end of the Pentateuch (that is, the description of Moses' death) and then the book of Joshua.

So, Joshua takes the same scroll, and he adds to it. Now that's pretty remarkable when you consider what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 4:2. He said if you add to this book, then the curses that are written in it will be added to you. So, Joshua had to be pretty certain that this is what God wanted him to do. Was there any question in the people's mind that Joshua was God's man and spoke for God? No. First of all, he'd been with Moses through all of that time while Moses was in the wilderness. But also, God appeared to Joshua, didn't He, and spoke to him.

Remember what the distinguishing mark of a prophet was? God appears and speaks to him, and then speaks through him. And that's exactly what you have with Joshua. Joshua, toward the end of his ministry, takes the book of Law, and he writes under the direction of God, and he adds to the book of the Law.

Same thing happens with Samuel. Turn to 1 Samuel 10, 1 Samuel 10:25. "Then Samuel told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and [he] wrote them in the book and placed it before the Lord." You see what's happening? These men who were authenticated messengers of God by the standard set down by Moses, the clearly authenticated messenger of God, these men are taking the book of the Law, and they're adding at the direction of God to the book.

We won't take time to look at every one of these references, but this is true especially in the Chronicles. Let's just look at a couple of them. Turn to 1 Chronicles 29:29. "Now the acts of king David, from [the] first to the last, are written in the chronicles of Samuel the seer, and the chronicles of Nathan the prophet and in the chronicles of Gad the seer." You turn to 2 Chronicles, 9:29, "Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, from first to last, are they not written in the records of Nathan the prophet, and ... the prophecy of Ahijah ... and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Joab, the son of Nebat?" You have this throughout, and we won't look at all of them, but you see this throughout 2 Chronicles, all the way through chapter 33. Let's do turn to chapter 33 of 2 Chronicles, and notice verse 19. And the end of the verse says all of these things "are written in the records of ... Hozai." (Or Hozai (different pronunciation), whichever you like.)

Here's the point: these Scriptures I've given you constitute a list of the chain of writing prophets from before David to virtually the end of the kingdom of Judah. You have the writing prophets laid out for you in the book in order from Moses through all of the prophets that wrote; and then, of course, you have in conjunction with that what we call the major and the minor prophets.

Here is the important point I want you to remember as we close this evening. The prophets wrote, and what they wrote was immediately accepted by the people as the Word of God, even if they hated them and even if they hated their message, because the messenger met the criteria that Moses had laid down for the true prophets. They knew they were God's man speaking for God. Moses was accepted because he was God's messenger.

In the same way, those prophets that followed him, once they were authenticated to be God's true prophets, their message was immediately accepted. Joshua's message was accepted by the people. He added to the book. And you have this throughout the Old Testament. And I won't give you all the details I even have here in my notes, but let me just remind you of how the New Testament commonly refers to the Old Testament.

You know, one of the most common references to the Old Testament is the Law and the Prophets: Moses and all those prophets that followed him, who stood in the line of Moses. It's because of the authority of Moses and of the divinely appointed, recognized prophets that followed him that the Old testament as we know it was essentially, universally accepted four hundred years before Christ, because the people knew who the prophet was because Moses had laid out the criteria. That raises the question, well, what about those books that are commonly called the Apocrypha and other books that aren't in that list? And we will talk about that next week, and then we'll get to the New Testament as well.

Well, we have a treat this evening, and that is, in November of last year in association with "On Board Ministries", Countryside sent a mission team to Mombasa, Kenya. And this video that we're about to see is a report of that trip and should serve as an encouragement to you: an encouragement of the ministry that was accomplished, and also an encouragement to those of you who might be considering going on a short-term mission trip to see exactly what the Lord accomplishes. Before we see the video, let's just take a moment to pray.

Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for the clarity with which it lays out the rules of those who speak for You. We thank You for these men that You have used in the flow of Old Testament history to authenticate Your message. Lord, thank You, that we have a sure Word, that we can be absolutely confident of it.

And Lord, I pray that You would give us a renewed zeal to study it, to know it, to obey it, to delight in it, and to meditate in it day and night even as the Psalm urges us to.

Lord, thank You, for the fact that we can enjoy now some of what You have accomplished through the ministry of this church. I pray that You would encourage our hearts. And Lord, I ask that You would use even this to direct some of our congregation, some of the folks of this church who have not yet participated in missions, to begin to have a heart to do just that.

We pray in Jesus name, Amen.