Thursday, July 5, 2012

Careful Interpretation

Bible Pictures

Recently there have been several instances that underscored to me the importance of careful interpretation of God’s Word.  We really need do need to be careful.  It is dangerous to say, “This verse means _________ to me”, or “I think God meant ___________.”  In the end it’s not about what we think.  It’s about what God meantGod’s standard is absolute.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He is not going to be lenient on us in judgment just because we operated on what we thought He meant in His Word.

:: In our Revival meetings at church the evangelist taught on 2 Corinthians 12, and Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  He looked carefully at the verbs and the words, and made the case for the fact that Paul’s “thorn” could very well have been a person, rather than a circumstance {like physical infirmities}.  Why?  Because the word used for messenger is never used of an inanimate object in other scriptures or uses.

:: A friend posted about child discipline, and using a verse from Proverbs she said, “To me the rod is gentle discipline.”  Well – that’s nice, but what did God mean the rod to be?  What word did He use?  Is it open to interpretation or able to be applied in many ways?  Or is it a specific word, with a specific meaning and application?

This is where James 1:22-25  comes in:

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

The word “looketh” means this in the original Greek: to stoop to a thing in order to look at it 2) to look at with head bowed forward 3) to look into with the body bent 4) to stoop and look into.  It brings the idea of careful inspection – digging, detecting, searching – of God’s Word.  I always think of Sherlock Holmes – searching for the little clue to solve the mystery.  Attention to detail.  Context is very important in this search – we cannot just lift a verse out of it’s context and make it to mean what we want it to mean.

God’s Word is recorded for us in Hebrew for the Old Testament, and Greek for the New Testament.  These were specific languages with very great word pictures and meanings.  Some of that is lost in translation.  While each of us may not be Hebrew or Greek scholars, we definitely have a wide array of study helps and tools from those who know the ancient languages intricately.

Certainly some passages have multiple applications.  Certainly we can apply principles from stories or others’ lives {in the Bible} to ourselves.  Some Scriptures were written specifically to the Jewish people.  But we can draw an application for our own lives {in some cases}.  But let us be careful in our Bible study – not just reading, marking off a list, or scanning a summary.  Let us dig deep and understand what God meant in the passage.

John closes his Book of the Revelation with a strong warning to any who would add to or take away from the words that he had penned {specifically, the book of Revelation} under inspiration:

Revelation 22:18-19  For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:  19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

I think it illustrates that God takes His Word seriously.  Let us be careful to interpret God’s Word correctly!

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