By Johnie Edwards
Many today are crying for the same kind of things that Israel of old asked for when it was said of the Lord’s people, “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa. 30:10). Who would have ever thought that God’s own chosen people would have had such an attitude as this toward God and his word? In essence they were saying don’t tell us the truth, we don’t want to hear it. Things haven’t changed much, have they? What was the problem then and what is the problem today?
They Were Rebellious
Isaiah called them a rebellious people. “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord” (Isa. 30:9). The Lord referred to them as “rebellious children” (Isa. 30:1). Stephen was stoned when he referred to the children of these people in these words: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51). When folks want to rebel against the Lord’s will, they will demand smooth things to be taught! We are seeing that being done today among a lot of brethren.
Did Not Take Counsel Of God
In commenting on his people, God said, “. . . that take counsel, but not of me” (Isa. 30:1). Hosea declared that Israel failed to consult God on spiritual matters. “My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them . . .” (Hos. 4:12). Instead of asking God, these people asked a piece of wood, their stocks and staffs! Can you imagine God’s people talking to a stick instead of God? Perhaps their stocks declared smooth things to them!
They Rejected Knowledge
Those who demanded smooth things also rejected God’s knowledge. Hosea penned, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos. 4:6). These people simply did not want to hear what God had to say. They were like those Paul mentioned, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Rom. 1:28). Those today who desire to hear smooth things do not want to hear the whole counsel of God preached! And this is sad.
They Set Up Kings, But Not By God
At one time God’s form of government for his people was that of judges. The Lord’s people grew tired of judges and cried, “Give us a king to judge us . . .” (1 Sam. 8:6). They no longer wanted to hear what God had to say. Their desire was to hear smooth things. So, they said, “. . . now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5). They were saying, we want to be like those around us and we want to hear what they are hearing. Sound familiar? A lot of churches of Christ are crying the same cry, “we want to be like those around us.” So, speak unto us smooth things. Give us human organizations to do the work that the local church needs to be doing in evangelism, edification and benevolence. We do not want to hear sermons on the “organization and work of the New Testament church,” is the cry of many in churches of Christ. We are told these are sermons of the ’50s and we are living in the ’90s!” Brethren, this just means that we need to get back to basics and get to preaching on such things as the work and organization of the church.
Turn Aside Out Of The Path
Israel of old said, “Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Isa. 30:11). These people were so set on hearing smooth things that they wanted nothing to do with God.
I weep with God’s weeping prophet Jeremiah as he faced the same attitude in his day. “Thus said the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jer. 6:16). Many today do not want to hear sermons on the “straight and narrow way” (Matt. 7:13-14), but sermons on smooth things — things that make them leave feeling good and comfort- able with a feeling that all things are well, when they may not be! I am not opposed to preaching sermons that cause people to leave feeling good about themselves when they have been obedient to God’s will. But, when people who are living in sin, leave feeling good about themselves, it is past time to examine our preaching.
They Despised God’s Word
God’s people did not respect God’s word. In fact. they despised his word. “Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon . . . (Isa. 30:12). Their failure to listen to God’s word brought destruction upon them (Isa. 30:13-14). When people despise what God has to say, they will demand smooth things be taught. After Paul had instructed the young gospel preacher, Timothy, to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2), he then said, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Tim. 4:3). What these folks were really saying was: “. . . speak unto us smooth things” (Isa. 30:10).
Today, some brethren only want to hear “positive- preaching.” I am not opposed to preaching positive sermons. In fact, I do a lot of that. While at the same time, there needs to be some, “reproving, and rebuking” (2 Tim. 4:2), there must be some “shalt nots” as well with some “shalls.” By the preaching of some today in churches of Christ, you would think that all the false teachers have quit preaching false doctrines and everybody is preaching the truth. We hear such statements, “my righteousness is not based upon my personal righteousness but upon God’s grace” and, “I urge you to get hold of Chuck Swindoll’s book, Grace Awakening.” If you want to hear some smooth things, read Swindoll’s book. When we are told that our main focus ought to be on positive, grace-filled things with much love, joy, and excitement as it was in the New Testament, it is time to get back to some basic preaching which includes having, “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).