By Mike Willis
The psalmist wrote, “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psa. 119:126). The Hebrew word parar in the Hiphil means “to break, frustrate” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, p. 830). It is used to refer to “Making ineffectual, breaking or violating.” Wicked men, in the psalmist’s day, were making God’s word void; they were breaking God’s law, violating it, and making it of none effect.
Men are still making God’s law void today in a number of different ways. I would like for you to consider how men are making God’s law void today.
1. By lawless conduct. This is probably the primary meaning of the psalmist. The wicked men of his day made the law void by their obstinate and willful refusal to live by its precepts. If such conduct made the law void then, it also makes the law void today. We are certainly living in an age in which men have a little concern when setting aside God’s law.
What God said about marriage, divorce and remarriage is being set aside by our lawless society (Matt. 19:1-12). Whereas God allowed one reason for a divorce which allowed the innocent party to remarry, men have set aside God’s law to grant divorces for any reason. We have simply legalized adultery. What God has said regarding homosexuality is being set aside (cf. Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Homosexuals are wanting to be treated as if their immorality was not disrespectful, in spite of their sinful, lawless conduct. Pornography is present in every quick stop market and on our television sets.
Even those things which are still considered to be crimes receive very little punishment. A man can commit a crime which has tens of years of punishment and be on the streets in a matter of months on shock probation. Ungodly, lawless men make our streets unsafe in many sections of the country. Our women are raped and left for dead. Our elderly people have become prisoners in their own houses because of the lawlessness which characterizes our society. There are no teeth left in the law; our government acts as if it is afraid to wield the sword in punishment against the evil doer.
The social do-gooders who have been in control of our courts and government have nearly destroyed us. Their concepts regarding sin have not been effective. The idea that sin can be controlled by a better environment, more education, and money has only resulted in criminals who are richer, more educated, and living in better facilities. Thugs who robbed banks have been replaced by thieves who rob through computers. We have not cured sin by our social programs. Rather, we have left sin unpunished and allowed crime to grow at rampant rates. “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psa. 119:126).
2. By denying its inspiration. Another group of men have made void the word of God in another way. They have denied that the Bible is inspired. The result is that the word of God is reduced to the mere words of men. The authority which resides in the word of God is, thereby, removed.
I shall never forget some of the classroom experiences I have had under infidel professors who were preachers in denominational seminaries. I have heard nearly every miracle which we studied denied, re-interpreted, and demythologized. I have witnessed men undermine the commandments of God by treating the inspired revelation as if it were the misguided opinions of a given man who only reflected the social conditions of his time. Paul’s statements regarding the subordination of women is one example. He is supposed to have been a writer who only reflected the social milieu of his day.
By denying the inspiration of the Bible, every word becomes suspect. What is considered right by one man is considered wrong and uninspired by someone else. Rather than being obedient to the law, man becomes a judge of the law (Jas. 4:11). The modernist goes through the Bible with his scissors and excises those parts with which he disagrees, denying that they are truth. He goes through the gospel accounts of the life of Christ and eliminates everything which is contrary to his personal mental image of Jesus, denying the historicity of those accounts. The rest of the life of Christ he accepts and eulogizes. The result is that he has created Jesus in his own image!
The modernists who deny the verbal inspiration of the Bible have made the word of God void. They need to learn what the psalmist wrote, “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false away” (Psa. 119:128). Unfortunately, our land is permeated with modernism. Modernists fill many of the pulpits, control most of the denominational seminaries, control most of the media, and control most of the secular centers of learning. “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psa. 119:126).
3. By skepticism. Skepticism means “the philosophical doctrine that the truth of all knowledge must always be in question.” This position states that man can never know anything positively. What is true is true for today but may very well be false for tomorrow. Whatever absolute truth might exist cannot be certainly known.
Anyone can see how this undermines God’s word. The Bible plainly teaches that there is a truth and that truth has been revealed to man in the Bible. The psalmist said, “Thou art near, O Lord; and all they commandments are truth” (Psa. 119:151). Again, he wrote, “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth” (Psa. 119:142). Our Savior stated the same thing when lie said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (Jn. 17:17). Any position which teaches that there is no absolute truth is contrary to God’s word.
The Bible also teaches that this truth can be understood. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). Notice that one can know the truth; that truth is known through continuing in Christ’s word; that truth which is known through continuing in Christ’s word frees man from sin. In another passage, the apostle Paul wrote, “. . . wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Man has the ability to understand the Lord’s will.
Hence, the Scriptures reveal the truth of God and man can understand it. The position held by skeptics is contrary to God’s revelation. Their denial of an absolute truth and denial of man’s ability to know truth effectively negates God’s revelation. What God has spoken is dismissed as being relative or unable to be understood. The effect of this is that God gave His law without benefit to man. “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psa. 119:126).
4. By tradition. Another manner in which God’s law is set aside by man is through human tradition. What God has said is replaced by man’s wisdom and opinions. The best passage to illustrate this is Matthew 15 (cf. the parallel account in Mk. 7). God had spoken in the Ten Commandments; one of the commandments said, “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Ex. 20:12). This commandment placed a greater responsibility upon children than merely to show respect for age; it placed the responsibility to provide financially for one’s parents upon the children (cf. 1 Tim. 5:1-16). However, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had a tradition that one was relieved of his responsibility to care for his aged parents if he put that money in the Temple treasury. Jesus spoke of this tradition when He said, “But God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition” (Matt. 15:4-6).
What was true of human traditions in Jesus’ day remains true of human tradition today. What God commanded about baptism has been made of none effect by traditions of men. Jesus commanded that men be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins. Human tradition, among most denominations, has stated that sprinkling or pouring are acceptable “modes” of baptism. The result is that the majority of denominations practice sprinkling or pouring rather than baptism (immersion in water). What God said has been set aside by human tradition; He might as well not have spoken on the subject because human tradition has set it aside.
In a similar fashion, God’s revelation concerning the Lord’s supper is negated by the traditions of men. Our Bibles reveal that the early church continued steadfastly in the observance of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42 “breaking of bread”). They observed this memorial to the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection on the first day of every week (Acts 20:7). This was God’s pattern for the observance of the Lord’s supper – upon the first day of every week. However, God’s revelation has been set aside by the traditions of men which teach that the Lord’s supper should be observed monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.
Multitudes of God’s commandments have been set aside by the traditions of men. What God has spoken regarding the organization of the church, the work of the church, the names of the church, the worship of the church, the moral standards of God’s people, and many other items are presently being set aside by the religious leaders of our day on no higher authority than human tradition, man’s own opinions! “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psa. 119:126).
5. By indifference. The reason for God giving a revelation is also made of none effect by indifference. God spoke to give mankind a standard by which to live. The man who is indifferent to what God has spoken, choosing to live as if God had not spoken, has the same practical effect as the man who openly and defiantly refuses to live by God’s word. The word was given to save mankind from sin (Rom. 1:16). If men treat the word as if it were not given, God might as well not have spoken so far as the practical effect is concerned.
Indifference toward God’s word is certainly a mark of the American society. Americans are more interested in television, recreation, eating at some fancy restaurant, sporting events, and a multitude of other things than they are the word of God. For all practical purposes, God might as well not have spoken because men have made the word of God of no effect in their lives by their indifferene toward it. “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psa. 119:126).
Whereas it is true that the vast majority of our society has set aside the word of God in one way or another, not every person has refused to abide in compliance with God’s revelation. There are thousands of saints seeking to obey the word of God. They honor every word which has proceeded from the mouth of God; they are humbly bowing before God’s throne in submission to Him. Each of these men is distraught over the immorality, anarchy, and neglect of God’s law which he sees in our society. We are like David who said, “I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word” (Psa. 119:158). We recognize that there is grace to wash away every sin which a man commits, even as God’s grace has forgiven each of us of our sins. Yet God’s word is spurned and refused. “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psa. 119:126).
Guardian of Truth XXV: 10, pp. 147-149
March 5, 1981