Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 20, 1967
NUMBER 49, PAGE 5b-6a

"The Waters Of Shiloah"

Hoyt H. Houchen

The book of Isaiah is an interesting and fascinating study. It aptly describes the condition of God's people in the prophet Isaiah's day, it foretells in beautiful language the coming of the Messiah, and it holds for us many practical applications that can be made to our modern day problems.

Isaiah lived in about 740-701 B. C. and prophesied during the reign of Uzziah (Azariah), king of Judah, and continued to prophesy during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Isaiah experienced perilous times. He saw the northern kingdom (Israel) collapse with the capture of Samaria, its capital city, in 722 B.C. by the Assyrians, and he saw his own nation of Judah twice invaded by the Assyrian army. These disasters had come about as a result of both Israel's and Judah's sins. Isaiah reproved his own nation of its sins (Isa. 1:4) and exhorted his people to put away their evil and seek and serve God (Isa. 1:16-18). The prophet gave good advice to Hezekiah, king of Judah, and through his counsel, religious reforms were promoted.

Characteristic of the many practical lessons to be found in the book of Isaiah is the one in chapter 8, verse 5: "Forasmuch as this people have refused the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son..." What was the sin of Judah here? God's people had refused the waters of Shiloah. A confederacy had been formed by Syria and Israel to invade Judah but there were some in Judah who were discontent with God's ways and they were refusing to hear the voice of the prophets. Rather, they were in sympathy with Syria and Israel. Their own waters, the waters of Shiloah, were insufficient for them, they were too quiet, and they desired the larger and more powerful waters of the Euphrates. Instead of relying upon God who had blessed them, they were turning to their enemies and applauding them. They refused God and his prophets - they refused the waters, Isaiah said, "Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks; And he shall pass through Judah; it shall overflow and pass through; it shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of its wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, 0 Immanuel." (8:7,8). The lesson is a simple one. Some of God's own people in Judah were not placing confidence in Jehovah to deliver them, but rather were turning to their enemies; therefore, God said that they would be absorbed by their enemies in whom they trusted. They wanted bigger waters and those were the waters that would overflow their land.

Every apostasy has resulted from a discontentment with God's arrangements and a desire upon the part of man to improve upon them. When God ruled His people through judges, the people became discontented and they raised their voices for a king "like all the nations." (I Sam. 8:5). God gave them kings and the people were for the most part swallowed up by the idolatrous practices of the nations that they tried to imitate. Later, as is depicted in the book of Isaiah, God's people were swallowed up by the "waters" of surrounding nations that they wanted to be like.

It requires little effort to see that history is repeating itself today. Brethren have become discontent with God's arrangement for the church, that each local church is sufficient to do the work that God has assigned it to do, that local churches are not authorized to establish and maintain human institutions by which to do their work. The first apostasy that took place after the establishment of the church resulted from the effort to do something on a larger and more spectacular scale than God's arrangement of elders in each church to oversee the church in which they were made elders and not to oversee another church or the work of another church. Paul predicted that a falling away would begin among the elders. He said to the Ephesian elders: "from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." (Acts 20:30). History teaches that diocesan elderships were the seed bed from which Roman Catholicism emerged.

Slightly more than a century ago, brethren became tired of the quiet "waters of Shiloah." They longed for the larger and more impressive waters that flowed in the land of denominationalism, so they established the American Christian Missionary Society, a board through which churches did their "mission" work. Later, mechanical instruments of music were embraced in the worship and brethren who had admired the larger waters were drowned in them and the present day Christian Church with her instruments of music, choirs, special day observances, and all her other rebellious actions to the sacred word of God stands as evidence of that fact.

We have witnessed in our generation what in principle took place before and resulted in full-scale apostasies. The Herald of Truth, "brain child" of James W. Nichols and James D. Williford, has swept hundreds of churches into digression because such efforts as "The Catholic Hour," "The Baptist Hour," and "The Lutheran Hour", cooperative arrangements of the surrounding "nations" have enticed our brethren to have something like them. It was not enough for each church to do its own radio or television preaching, but it must be done by a big centralized effort like the denominations have, promoted and steam rollered without regard to the convictions of those who oppose it. The Herald of Truth, church support of human institutions, and the social gospel ("fellowship" halls, "fellowship" gatherings, recreational activities, and youth camps, all promoted and supported by churches) have no basis in God's word. They are the bigger waters of other "nations" and a rebellion to the "waters of Shiloah." The brethren who have admired, applauded, and followed the arrangements, and losing their identity as the peculiar people of God, they now speak the "language of Ashdod." It is no wonder that some in that group are now claiming that the Holy Spirit directs them, separate and apart from the word, and even claiming to speak in "tongues." This comes as no great surprise when we consider that we are absorbed by what we depend upon. When brethren seek the "waters" of the denominations, the flood gate is lifted and the mighty waters of the denominations roll in like a gigantic tide.

God's word is the complete guide for the work, organization, life, and worship of God's people. Its teaching is lucid upon these matters. God's way can -not be improved upon or substituted by man. They are the "waters of Shiloah." Naaman thought that the Abanah and Pharpar rivers, the waters of Damascus, were better than all the waters of Israel and that he could wash in them and be cleansed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:12). He was looking for something more glamorous and more spectacular than what God had provided. This is the seat of the whole problem in the church today. It is rebellion to God's authority. May we ever be content with the "waters of Shiloah" by seeking God and His will and humbly submitting to it.