We prayerfully cite Psalm 68:11: “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.” How does this verse emerge with purpose considering the psalm within which it is woven? Let us first note the psalm written by the sweet singer of Israel, King David.
Background of Psalm 68
Although we are not told the time or occasion that prompted the writing of this psalm, several rabbinical writings place it at the time when David removed the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the prepared tent on Mount Zion. Others have suggested that the psalm celebrated the final victory in the Ammonite war and the capture of Rabbah (2 Samuel 12). Nonetheless, no one can be dogmatic concerning the prompting of this psalm. However, it is evident that some great victory was associated with the writing of it. It is interesting to note that this psalm was a favorite of the Huguenots (French Protestants); they called it the “Song of the Battles.”
Psalm 68 commences by giving God praise in dealing with His enemies. As this psalm continues to unfold, we read of praise to God for His doings at Sinai and in the wilderness; and then of praise to God for the conquest of Canaan and a series of victories culminating in the full establishment of David as king over Israel. Within this context of praise, we read, “The Lord gave the word.” The understanding is that He gave the watchword, the word of promised victory, a word that initiated the period to do battle with the enemy. And, “great was the company of those that published it [that word].” This verse announces that there were those who went from house to house heralding the watchword of the Lord. These were the damsels calling the men to battle, declaring confidence in the Lord in their going to battle, because the word of surety had been given by God.
Thus, for this article we have lifted this passage from this classic psalm to present the battle of God for His people. God’s people are to rise and do battle because the Lord has given the Word. While the majority of the Book of Psalms deals with conflict and military battles, it is evident that the psalmist saw these conflicts and battles ultimately in the spirit realm. In more recent decades the Methodists have taken out of their hymnbooks the witness of the “blood” of Christ for our redemption; but equally sad, the Fundamentalists have taken the “militancy” out of their hymns. The psalms truly declare praise to God in battles and in the conflicts of His people.
The Lord Has Given the Word!
Yes, the Lord has given the Word! But what is this Word the Lord has given? It is the Word that has always existed, eternal as God Himself; it is His Word. We must initially acknowledge that the Lord has given the Living Word. God gave His only begotten Son, Who took on flesh and dwelt among us. From the moment the Son took on flesh, He forever became the Son incarnate; He is forever the God-Man. The two natures of God and Man came together into one hypostatic union.
But God has also given the pre-existent written Word, called the “Scripture of Truth” (Dan. 10:21). This Word took on flesh as a written Word on earth and dwelt among us. As the Holy Ghost overshadowed the Virgin Mary, the Holy Ghost breathed upon holy men and brought His pre-existent Word into human language. Just as “The Living Word” coming into human flesh did not lose one iota of His deity, so the Word of God coming into the flesh of human language did not lose one iota of its eternal power and reality.
But how did God give such a written Word to us? God gave the written Word by divine inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21), with every word and every letter in the autographs (the original writings) being breathed by God upon holy men. The miracle is that when the Eternal Scripture of heaven entered the human language of earth, it did not lose any power or reality of what it was. The Scripture maintained both its eternality and its truth though coming into time. Here was truly a hypostatic union of God and man, with both united in the writing, but every word guarded by the Spirit. This Book is not simply a religious literary product of man; this Word was the product of the Spirit of God moving upon certain men. Let us remember! God gave the Word!
God’s Word is infallible, meaning it does not contain any errors. God’s Word is also inerrant, meaning it has been brought down to our time without being compromised or corrupted.
God Has Also Preserved His Word
As Christians we must also believe in the Word’s preservation. The Bible was written a long time ago. Moses wrote around 1500 BC; the Book of Job is 600 years older than Moses. For thousands of years the Bible has been copied, both by hand, and later by the printing press. God promised that He would preserve or keep His Word. Yes, “The Lord gave the Word!” But He has also preserved His Word!
Over the course of history, God did use certain individuals or groups of individuals to play vital, providential roles in fulfilling this promise of God. Great was the company of them that published it, that declared it, and that preserved it! Yes, God has had His Hand on the preservation of the Word that He gave, and God has used men through history for that preservation.
The Tares: Corrupters of the Word
Just as God has used men in the preservation of His Word, the Devil has had his children, the tares, who have worked tirelessly to corrupt and distort that Word. Not everyone who has copied the Bible (by hand or printing press) has produced reliable manuscripts. Some ancient manuscripts of the Bible are more trustworthy than others; false doctrines and poor copying practices have adversely affected some manuscripts, causing verses to be both deleted and completely altered. This should be no surprise to us, for Satan has always attacked the Word of God in this manner.
In the aftermath of God’s declaring His Word to Adam concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:16, 17), there was an obvious tampering with that Word. Adam told Eve those words from the Lord. This is when the corrupting took place. Satan communicated through the serpent to Eve in the Garden of Eden and cast doubt upon what God had told Adam. When the serpent asked, “Yea, hath God said” (Gen. 3:1), Eve in quoting what God had said left out the word freely (2:16). And then added, “neither shall ye touch it” (3:2, 3). Eve took the original words given to her and both added to and deleted from them. The “original” word was given to Adam by God. Did Adam “corrupt” the Word given to him, or was Eve the first to corrupt the transmission of it? It is difficult for us to believe that Adam corrupted that word as he transmitted it from God to his wife. Therefore, we need to ask the sobering question, “What was in the heart of Eve to change that Word and delete from it?” Were there thoughts that entered her mind when her husband gave the inerrant revelation, thoughts of God being too hard on them? Or perhaps there were thoughts that God was withholding something precious from them? We do not know what her motive was to both think the change and then to utter the change of God’s Word. But it proved that the Word in transmission could be corrupted even from one person to another, if the heart was not true in its motive of preserving God’s Word. We dare not say that Eve “forgot” or accidentally “misquoted,” for she was in the purest hour of created humanity by God. The mind and memory were perfect and certainly in a greater heightened sensitivity of remembrance than is common today. It is evident that the Devil laid hold of her in the corrupting of that word and convinced her to go against God because of that word. Though it is true that Satan will always be attacking God’s Word, we must ever remember that God has promised that He will always preserve His Word.
God’s Power in Preserving His Word
One such promise is found in Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, and Luke 21:33: “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” “The Lord gave the Word,” and the Lord has preserved His Word through history! But how has He performed this promise? He has chosen through the multiplicity of tributaries the streams through which He has directed His Word. Yet, amidst the unique streams down through history, He Himself has preserved His Word to this hour. The Lord gave His Word over a time span of eleven hundred years for the Old Testament and some fifty years for the New Testament. God’s people have been called upon to earnestly contend for this faith, God’s Word which was once delivered unto the saints. And God also has through His providence used His saints to preserve that Word through history. And great has been the company of those, the preachers, who have published or preached this Word.
But why has there been an intentional deception of that Word down through history? Why the tampering with the Word of God? Why would individuals do such a thing? Because the world hates God and thus it hates His Word. The world hated Christ, the Living Word, when He came to this earth two thousand years ago, and equally has hated the Written Word, for it is the infallible testimony of the Living Word, and it is the Word for the living of God’s people. No other book has been so despised, attacked, discredited, and abused as the Bible. From the time of the writing of the books of Scripture, unholy men have done all they could to destroy and discredit these writings! Yet, God has continued to preserve His precious, written Word!
Satan’s Physical Attack upon God’s Word
There have been three diabolical approaches in Satan’s arsenal to destroy God’s Word. The first has been through actual physical destruction of the Scriptures. One of the most noted efforts of such destruction of the Scriptures is recorded in Jeremiah 36. Jehoiakim, the self-indulgent and vindictive king of Judah was displeased with the prophecies of Jeremiah, which at that time covered a period of twenty-three years. These prophecies had been spoken by Jeremiah at the command of the Lord and recorded by his amanuensis Baruch. Angered and frightened when he heard of the writing, Jehoiakim ordered the book brought and read to him. Then the king mutilated the scroll with a knife and burned it in the fire. He thought such a destructive act to the scroll would put an end to the prophecy of Jeremiah, but such an attack did not make null and void God’s Word of prophecy. For the Lord directed His prophet Jeremiah to write all the words again. And the prophet did so once again under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the same words as the first writing; but there were added besides unto them many other words. The original manuscript of Jeremiah was verbally inspired; its second writing was with equal inspiration. So instead of destroying the Word, the wicked king only caused God’s Word to be increased, for Jeremiah included in the second writing the account of Jehoiakim’s evil act.
Another contemptible man who attacked God, His Word, and His people was Antiochus Epiphanes, the mad Syrian ruler of the second century BC. When Antiochus ascended the throne in 175 BC, the land of Judea lay prostrate and bleeding under the cruel Syrian heel of his wickedness and hatred. Without regard for the sensitivities of the Jews and their Hebrew culture, or the depth of Jewish faith, the evil Antiochus set about to eradicate Judaism and replace it with Hellenism (Greek culture) and the religion of the Greeks. The desolation of Judea reached its limit in the years 168–167 BC. Not content to destroy the Jewish people and their lifestyle, Antiochus set his energies against their God, their temple, and most of all against their sacred books. He ordered everything characteristic of Jewish worship to be destroyed. An occupying army of 20,000 men were ordered to pollute the temple and burn the holy books. Blood was splattered on the walls of the temple. The scrolls of the law were mutilated and heaped up for burning. As a master stroke of pollution and insult, a sow was slaughtered on the altar of God; the filthy broth of its fat and blood was poured over the sacred books. When the torch was put to them, the books went up in smoke of great stench. This horrific persecution was finally met by the resistance of Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers, who led a band of Jewish patriots in guerrilla warfare against the invaders. They triumphed through the providence of God, and Antiochus died a terrible death of a mad man.
Another historical incident of men physically destroying the Scriptures is found with Diocletian, the worst of the emperors of Rome. Unlike his predecessors, Diocletian seemed to be aware that the Scriptures were a principal cohesive force holding the Christians together. He believed that the Church would not be destroyed until its sacred books were also destroyed. Beginning on February 23, 303, he declared four edicts to wipe out the Christian faith, with one declaring that all the copies of the Bible or any portions of it were to be burned. Diocletian killed so many Christians and burned so many copies of the Bible that he thought he had put an end to the Christian faith and its sacred Scriptures. He even ordered a medal to be struck bearing the inscription: “The Christian religion is destroyed and the worship of the gods restored.” After Diocletian was dead and Constantine had legalized Christianity, the latter emperor issued a call for any Bibles that survived the edict of Diocletian to be placed in the churches of the new capital city Byzantium (Constantinople). Within twenty-four hours, fifty copies were delivered to him. The Word of God had survived another attack unleashed against it.
Satan’s Philosophical Attacks Against God’s Word
The second form of attack against the Bible has been the assault in ridicule and cunning sophistry of unbelievers. The Frenchman Voltaire stepped forward in the 1700s and became guilty of raw attacks of hatred against the Bible.
In his derision of the Bible, Voltaire predicted that within one hundred years the Bible would pass from common use and be found only as a curiosity in museums. During the century that followed his death (1778), it is estimated that the number of Bibles in the world increased from 200 million to 500 million. Before the century ended the very house in which this skeptic had lived was obtained by the Geneva Bible Society and was filled with Bibles. More strangely, the very press Voltaire had used to print his atheistic literature was used to print portions of God’s Word.
But Voltaire was not the only one. Thomas Paine arose in his hatred for God and gave to young America his books Common Sense and The Rights of Man. His strongest anti-Christian work was entitled The Age of Reason. Paine declared, “I have gone through the Bible as a man would go through a wood [forest] with an axe to fell the trees. Here they lie; they will never live again.” Yet, Paine is the one who died and went to a drunkard’s grave in 1809.
History is replete with the Bible haters continuing to pervade the 1700s through the 1800s: Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher; Robert Ingersoll, the American lecturer who threatened to put the Bible in the morgue; Karl Marx, a mastermind of Communism, along with Friedrich Engels; and many others who have marred history with their hearts of darkness. Yes, the list of malicious haters of God’s Word became a marching army against the Lord and His Word. At one time in history, the Bible was attacked by isolated individuals; now whole systems of government and ideology (including America) are bent on the Bible’s destruction.
Satan’s Attack Through Form Criticism and Liberalism
But perhaps the greatest and most subtle attack against the Scriptures has been by those who are supposed to be the Bible’s friends, within the very sanctuary of God. Such attacks have come in the name of “objective” scholarship under the guise of Form Criticism, including Higher and Lower Criticism, also called Textual (Higher Criticism) and Introduction (Lower Criticism). Within Higher Criticism many theologians and preachers have discredited the Bible by denying its accuracy, rejecting its genuineness, denouncing its divine inspiration, and disputing even its relevancy for us today. Higher Criticism is an investigation into the dates, sources, and manuscripts. It does not assume the genuineness of any book of Scripture, but rather subjects it to severe doubt and suspicion.
Among such subtle, serpentine attacks has been the overwhelming reception of the corrupt manuscripts that arose during the 1800s. These have brought the greatest confusion to Christianity of what is the text. Men believed that these manuscripts found in a trash can of a monastery and in the Vatican archives were greater than the Preserved Word, the Received Text of God’s providence. These mysterious manuscripts (brought to the forefront by the Liberals and Modernists collectively becoming the Alexandrian Text) denounced what God’s providence had preserved. These manuscripts truly brought confusion within the Body of Christ as to “What Is the Word of God.” And thus, what is to be believed. This has been the worst of attacks, because it has come from within the professing church.
Sad to acknowledge, Christianity is the only religion in the world that now denies the inerrancy and infallibility of its sacred writings. The Bible is not believed in both its text and its message. The public Church of Christendom no longer believes that the Bible is the singular, written revelation given from God to man. Many that may claim to believe the autographs are from God still do not believe that God has preserved His Word through history. With nearly six hundred English translations, revisions, and paraphrases on the commercial market today, there is no concern for the Bible’s integrity of inerrancy being preserved. For them the purpose of the Bible is to seek the “implied” thought of God. And how often, the translators are the ones who dictate what that thought is to be. Form Criticism and its promotion of certain manuscripts have become perhaps the greatest weapon of Satan in leading the world away from the truth of Scriptures.
May we ever remember that “The Lord gave the Word”! And He has preserved His Word through history! God has called us to publish His Word, to proclaim it, to preach it, and to teach it. He has not called upon us to criticize it, to question it, to rewrite it by adding or deleting from it, or to denounce it. The critics of history have only died in their own despair, while the Bible continues to triumph in its eternal existence.
Before the second coming of the Lord, may the Holy Spirit raise up “believing” preachers and teachers in these final days to publish and preach God’s own Word. It is the only truth and revelation from God we have in this darkest hour of global apostasy. It is the “more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19).