– Hard to Understand-
One of the most encouraging passages in the Bible is in 2 Peter 3:15-16. There Peter talks about Paul’s writings and admits that some of it is hard to understand. To be honest, sometimes I read something in the Bible and I am like huh? What was that?! Have you ever felt like that?
If so, its okay, so did Peter.
I read one author who looked at the story of the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6. He reacts in the same way most of us might react… with shock!
“They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it- men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.”
How could God have commanded that, how could a good God have commanded that?
God was with Joshua when he slaughtered men, women and children?
Is that God?
What does a person do with something like that?
The way I see it you have a couple of options:
1) Deny that the Bible is God’s Word
2) Humble yourself and try understand it, even though it may be difficult
3) Say that the Bible is kind of God’s word except for the parts that I don’t like and are too hard to figure out
4) Hide under your bed and recite the Greek alphabet
I remember years ago I had a third-person computer game called ‘Blade Runner’, in this game you are a detective and you have to try to figure out what is going on in the story, and as you figure stuff out and put it into action you move on. On day I got to a place where I just didn’t know what to do anymore… I must have spent three hours walking around the same place. I got so frustrated, I turned the game off to play a more mindless game, one where I just run and shoot (I wouldn’t have had to do this if some of my friends had finished it and could have told me what to do).
Many people are like that when it comes to their Bible, they read Joshua 6 and get a shock, cause all their life they have read bumper stickers that say ‘Jesus loves you’. Now God sends in armies to attack and destroy…. So they throw in the towel and jump to an easy out conclusion.
Ah, the folly of bumper sticker theology.
Reading the Bible is really important to understand it, I mean really reading, not just remembering flagellum. Before Joshua goes out In Leviticus 18:25 God speaks about the kind of people that live in the land the Israelites are about to invade, it seems from the rest of the chapter there was the worship of Molech, this involved sacrificing a child into the fiery arms of a steel idol, furthermore homosexuality and bestiality were rife. All these things being loathsome before God.
God was visiting judgment upon them!
This leads to a whole load of other questions, and that is not all there is to it, but the real question you have to stop and ask is, am I willing to keep looking and searching, or should I cop out now?
In Peter chapter 3 Peter goes on, he says that because some of what Paul writes is hard to understand, other men who are untaught and unstable twist what he says as they do with the rest of Scripture.
A favorite one which is twisted is in 1 Corinthians 7:12. Here Paul says, “But to the rest I, not the Lord, says…”
Oh, so this is not inspired right, this is just Paul’s opinion!
Well if you read the few verses before (v10-11) and you have been reading widely in your Bible, maybe places like Mark 10:6-10, you would see that Paul had just been quoting Christ Himself. And so now, to end his quotation he uses the words ‘I, not the Lord, in case you are thinking I’m still quoting Mark’.
Anyway, wasn’t Paul’s opinion inspired when he wrote Scripture?
I though men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit? Oh, how the bumper-sticker theology has made so many unstable and untaught teachers.
Have you ever looked at Christianity and thought, wow, so many denominations?
I have, all the disunity is quiet a problem. Let’s boil it down a little…
Most of these denominations exist because of a difference in interpreting the Bible. What we want to know then is what influences how we interpret the Bible:
1) What is the Bible
2) Rules of interpretation
Those are the two major influences on how we interpret the Bible.
Islam, is relatively unified because they all see the Koran as being Allah’s word so they just obey it, Hindus, don’t really care, nor do Buddhists. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses all see the Bible Joseph Smith and Charles Taze Russel want them to, so that’s pretty unified. The average catholic doesn’t care, they just do what they got to do to get into heaven.
Let me say it like this, how much value you place on the Bible will determine how you understand it, and it will determine if it will bring you the life it is supposed to.
I believe that the Bible is God’s perfect revelation of Himself to man, that all of the Scripture is God-breathed, and flawless, and that it contains all things the man of God may need to be fully equipped for very good work.
Tell me, does democracy mean that I can say or do anything I want to?
Does freedom of expression mean that I can kill someone to express myself?
Have people done that before?
Does that mean that anytime someone argues a point from their democratic right and from their right to freedom of expression that they are being crazy?
Exactly, it doesn’t.
Now even though someone may try to use the Bible to defend something that’s wrong, and that the Bible doesn’t say, that doesn’t mean that whenever someone uses the Bible to defend a point, that they are wrong.
Peter points out that people can twist things, but God in His wisdom placed the Bible in a context, in actually history with actual words that have actual meanings.
So, guess what, people can not make the Bible say whatever they want it to say.
There is only one interpretation of every verse, one. But people twist what it says to make it mean what it does not say…. Why? Two reasons
1) They have a low view of the Bible
2) They don’t know who to interpret the Bible
Times are crazy. When I go out to share the gospel, I often encourage people to find a good ‘bible-preaching’ church.
What does that mean?
Does that mean that the pastor must quote verses?
Must the preacher have verses to back up his point?
Should the preacher only say stuff I can imagine God would say?
Lets compare this to a professor of medicine who is about to graduate and next month will be doing his first open heart surgery…. On you!
Does that mean the professor must quote parts of the textbook?
Must the professor recite sentences from the textbook to back up his point?
Should the professor only say stuff that you would imagine could help during open heart surgery?
No, I want him to teach medicine, what does the textbook say, line by line, tell him how to do everything properly.
“Oh, yes, I remember the professor saying I should use a scalpel, then he spoke about the nice patterns one can make with it, hmmm yes”
What really helped me to grasp this was to see how Jesus interpreted and used the Old Testament. Jesus Himself said that he did not come to do away with the Law or the Prophets, but rather to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).
Lev 19:18 tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, that’s pretty simple, but the Pharisees had messed it up by Jesus’ time so he simply restates it for the people in Matthew 5:43-44 and corrects the wrong rabbinical interpretation, that’s why Jesus says, ‘you have heard it said’ so often, they had heard it from rabbias who were making their own self-serving interpretations on God’s word.
The Bible is the best interpreter of itself, why do I say that?
Well, who is my Neighbor? In Luke 10:30-37 Jesus answered that exact questions when he told the story of the good Samaritan.
Well, how do I put this into action day to day? If you read the book of Leviticus there are hundreds of day to day principles for loving your neighbor, from keeping him safe when he is in your house to making him feel welcome and giving him refreshments (lets not forget 6 of the Ten Commandments)
Well, what kind of love should I have, who defines that love? Jesus did in the rest of Matthew 5:43-48.
The Bible is a closed book, and its perfect. Yes we need to interpret it, but we are not alone, we have most importantly the Holy Spirit, and we have common sense.
Words have meaning, contexts give color, and surroundings writings give added and deeper meaning.
Did you understand what I just wrote? Did the words mean something? Did you know I was talking about the Bible not a Superman comic cause of context? When you read the next chapter I hope you will have some added meaning to have I have just written.
Guess what? I mean everything I just said, and there is only one way to understand what I said, you may make a mistake and miss-read me, I hope not though. In the same way the Bile has meaning, and if one is fair to it, one can see it, it will be meaningful and applicable to life.