Note:this is another post in a series exploring how the Bible impacts the KJVO Debate. For all of the posts to date, click here.
As we pick up this series, again, let me review where we are and how we got here. This is a series dealing with how the Bible directly impacts the KJV Only debate. We started by giving a review of how KJV Onlyists often claim their position is supported by the Bible. We then moved on to discuss what the Bible says about inspiration briefly, and moved on to the topic of preservation. That is where the series has bogged down.
There is not much exegetical discussion out there on the passages often cited by KJV Onlyists as teaching perfect preservation (the view that each word of the original Bible text is preserved perfectly down to today in a generally accessible form to most believers). So I have been trying to take pains to be very clear as to what the text is actually saying, and how exactly it applies to a doctrine of preservation. So far we have concluded that a few verses seem to teach a basic doctrine of preservation, but the doctrine has not been specifically expressed or explained much yet. This post will deal just with Is. 59:21. There will be two more posts on passages which touch on the doctrine of preservation. Then we will bring all the passages together and discuss the Scriptural doctrine of preservation before moving on to some additional posts on this topic (which I am really excited about).
“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.”
This verse often gets overlooked in discussions about preservation. It is somewhat obscure, so perhaps that is why. The verse closes a dark chapter with a hope filled promise. The chapter starts by detailing Israel’s sins and God’s anger over them. However, in God’s dealing with the sin of His people, he causes them to fear Him (v. 19). And he promises a Redeemer will come for those who turn from their evil (v. 20).
Who is the person or group addressed as “you” in this verse? It could be Isaiah, the prophet. But is God promising something specific about his own personal offspring? For this and other reasons, most conservative scholars conclude that the “you” refers either to the Messiah (the “Servant” so often addressed in this part of Isaiah) or to the godly remnant of Israel (and by extension God’s people in all ages).
In favor of the view that the Christ is in view, it is mentioned that God’s words were put in “his” mouth. This phrase hearkens back to Is. 51:16. Both at that verse and with regard to our text, J. Alec Motyer makes a convincing case that the “Servant” (or the Messiah) is in view . If it is the remnant of Israel, why is the Spirit mentioned as being upon them in 59:21? Also, a parallel can be seen with Is. 61:1ff. where the Spirit is upon the Messiah and the Messiah is given a message to preach.
The covenant or promise is made with “them”. This evidently is the godly remnant of Israel. Keil & Delitzsch point out
In the words, “And I, this is my covenant with them,” we have a renewal of the words of God to Abram in Gen 17:4 , “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee.” 
I have read some dispensational commentaries which try to force this verse to apply only to Israel and not to the church. Most commentaries I read don’t do that, however. The seed of the Messiah, points back to the seed of the woman in Gen. 3:15. And in Gal. 3 all believers are Christ’s seed and thus heirs of Abraham. It seems fairly obvious this is a promise for God’s people, however it may be yet future from Isaiah’s perspective — as in once the Messiah arrives on the scene, the promise will be fulfilled.
What is meant by “my words that I have put in your mouth”? To help me finish this post I’m going to survey the landscape here. I will provide some quotes from other commentaries on what they think “words” refers to. I will pick up the discussion on the other end of the quotes.
…the Lord will assist his Church, and will take care of it, so as never to allow it to be deprived of doctrine… for we must be supported and upheld by the word and the Spirit, of which the Lord declares that we shall never be left destitute. \”” John Calvin
The Targum interprets this of the words of prophecy; and the Talmud of the law not departing from the disciples of wise men; but it is best to understand it of the Gospel not departing from the disciples of Christ, and the seed of the church. \”” John Gill
…it seems… to refer to the truth of God in general which he had revealed for the guidance and instruction of his church. \”” Albert Barnes
The same doctrines which Jesus preached, all his faithful ministers preach; and his seed \””genuine Christians, who are all born of God , believe; and they shall continue, and the doctrines remain in the seed’s seed through all generations-for ever and ever. \”” Adam Clarke
The Spirit will be accompanied with certain “words” which will be put into the Church\’s mouth; and these words will remain unchanged and pass on from mouth to mouth, age after age, for ever. The “words” intended are probably those of the entire Bible \”” “all God\’s revelations\’\’ (Cheyne) \”” which the Church will maintain as inspired truth through all ages. \”” Pulpit Commentary (Exposition section)
The word of Christ shall always continue in the mouths of the faithful… The word shall never depart out of the mouth of the church; for there shall still be a seed to speak Christ’s holy language and profess his holy religion. \”” Matthew Henry 
We must acknowledge that “words” can refer to something other than the words of Scripture. I made the point in this post, that we need to establish from the context clearly whether “word” or “words” refers to Scripture or not. This is especially true today, when most Christians read Scripture any time they read “word”. Seeing the parallel with Is. 61:1ff., “words” could very well refer to a specific message Christ was given to declare. As John Gill said above, it could refer to the Gospel message, which Christ first brought, and which his disciples have disseminated throughout the world in the years following Christ’s advent.
As you can see above, others have taken this phrase to refer to doctrines or truth in general. And certainly God has promised that his church would remain with the truth to all ages. Others have taken it to refer to the words of the whole Bible. That may well be, as well.
Before we draw a conclusion, let us ponder what it means for the words to be “in your mouth”. Again, let me provide some quotes in discussing this.
The word in the mouth may suggest personal reading (cf. Josh 1:8), for completely silent reading is a product of a more sophisticated society; or it could suggest that the word given and appropriated is now to be proclaimed. \”” Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Isaiah (Geoffery W. Grogan) 
“Shall not depart out of thy mouth.” This phrase probably means, that the truth of God would be the subject of perpetual meditation and conversation. \”” Albert Barnes
…the comforting saving words of God are not only the blessed treasure of its heart, but the confession of its mouth which spreads salvation all around. \”” Keil & Delitzsch (Matthew Henry likewise draws a parallel with Rom. 10:9 and words being in the mouth) 
Whatever else this verse teaches, it clearly promises that God’s people will be preserved through all generations. It declares that they will possess God’s Spirit and God’s words. Clearly this would be the Gospel message and the truth of Christianity which will consistently be in the mouth of God’s people. John Calvin captures what I am trying to express here, well: “Hence we infer that this is a most valuable treasure of the Church, that he has chosen for himself a habitation in it, to dwell in the hearts of believers by his Spirit, and next to preserve among them the doctrine of his gospel.”
Since the Gospel is contained in specific words, and depends upon the authority of Scripture, and since “words” is the term used here, I think it would be reasonable to infer that a promise of preservation for the words of Scripture is in view here. As in previous passages, however, the preservation promised is not expounded upon. We are not told how this promise will come about. We are not told where to look to find the written words. The promise specifically applies to words on your mouth, not necessarily on paper. Further, does the phrase “my words”, necessarily imply “all my words”?
The text is not specific enough to warrant a dogmatic conclusion that each and every word of God must be on the tongue of each and every child of God throughout all time. Given the nature of the verse and the prophecy in Isaiah, there are a variety of possible interpretations of it. The main point seems to be very clear, God promises His word will be present among His people and that they will always exist as His people. The finer points of the textual debate are not addressed by this passage.
 Below is a quote on Is. 59:21.
The situation, however, is parallel to the covenant references, equally unheralded, in 42:6; 49:8; 54:10; 55:3. All these are directly related to the Servant and his work. According to 49:8 and 54:10, it is through the Servant that the people of Jacob/Zion enter into the blessings of restoration and peace; according to 42:6 and 55:3, blessings are covenanted world-wide through the Servant. The singular you thus stands in a Servant position. Divine action has secured a world-wide reverential people and a company of penitents in Jacob, and there is a person whom we may call the Anointed One, for the Lord\’s Spirit is upon him, through whom their relationship with the Lord is eternally secure. Like the Servant (53:10), those to whom he secures these covenant blessings are his \”˜seed\’.
\”” J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary(Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1993), the electronic version (copyright 1996 by J.A. Motyer), accessed at biblecentre.net (March 30, 2007).
See also his discussion at 51:16, where he states: “This verse describes the equipment, security, and task of the Servant.”
 Keil & Delitzsch\’s commentary on Isaiah, accessed at biblecentre.net (March 30, 2007).
 All these commentaries were accessed online at biblecentre.net (March 30, 2007).
 Geoffrey W. Gohan, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Isaiah, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan) online version, accessed at biblecentre.net (March 30, 2007).
 Commentaries accessed online at biblecentre.net (March 30, 2007).