Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
I woke up not long ago after a nap which featured a cool dream and I don’t want to go into specifics, but during the dream, this other guy (in the dream his name was Lance) and I talked Bible. I was yammering on about Noah’s Ark and he was talking about Matthew 2. After waking up, I pondered on this and wondered what the two have in common- I’m still not totally sure. But God, through the Holy Spirit, did remind me of something we should always remember: God might not always call you to what you are skilled at/willing to do.
Take Noah for example, he was a farmer by trade, we know this because Genesis 9:20 says, “Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard.” He had a skill and interest plants and gardens. But Genesis 6:13-14 has God speaking to Noah about something totally different,
So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.
This task was completely out of Noah’s skill zone. However, God gave Noah what he needed and Genesis 6:22 says that “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” So by listening to God, even though he wasn’t a boat builder, Noah saved a line of humans and every kind of animal.
Or look at Moses, he had been a prince-turned-murderer-turned-shepherd and while enjoying his peaceful new life, God said in Exodus 3:10, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Right away in verse 11, Moses tells God how uncomfortable he is with this idea, “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” After this, Moses continues to question the Lord’s logic, but God always gives him what he needs. Moses is still making excuses even in the next chapter,
Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue (Exodus 4:10).
And that’s not all, Moses tries to completely back out in Exodus 4:13, “But Moses said, ‘O Lord, please send someone else to do it.’” But obviously (as I think almost everyone has seen “The Ten Commandments”) God refuses to send someone else. Instead, we read;
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and if you were God to him (Exodus 4:14-16).
Notice that he said he would send Aaron to help, but the mission still belongs to Moses. We know that in the end, Moses turned out to be one of the most amazing people in the Bible, even though he didn’t know it’d turn out that way when God called him.
Gideon’s story isn’t as popular as those of Noah and Moses, but it is certainly interesting. Judges 6:1-2 explains,
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves, and strongholds.
As it turns out, Midian was very good at being oppressive, so much so that after a few years of this oppression, the Lord called Gideon to save Israel;
The Lord turned to him and said, “God in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15).
We see that once again, God’s chosen hero is kind of a coward. Not particularly skilled/ interested in being a hero. However, not only did he save Israel (and with only a handful of men at that), but the people considered Gideon a super hero and tried to make him king in Judges 8:22, which says , “The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us- you, your son and your grandson- because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.” Pretty good for a guy who didn’t think he was the right person for the job, right?
David, the greatest king of Israel, was totally not fit to be king by human standards. He writes of himself in his last words;
The oracle of David son of Jesse,
The oracle of the man exalted by the Most High,
The man anointed by the God of Jacob,
Israel’s singer of songs (2 Samuel 23:1).
Notice that in his resume, he says that he was lifted and anointed by God. And his part in all of this: “Israel’s Singer of Songs.” Indeed he was skilled in music, as he wrote many of our favorite psalms. In fact, David’s songs even caused demons to leave King Saul when he was being terrorized by them. We can read about it in 1 Samuel 16:23,
Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
This was not David’s only skill, besides making music; he also watched his family’s sheep. In fact, on the day that Samuel is sent to anoint the new king (who would be David); he was nowhere to be found. Samuel is led to his family’s house, but nobody seems to fit what God wants,
So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives” (1 Samuel 16:11).
There you have it, Israel’s greatest king: a kid who watches sheep and plays music. David did not come from a royal background, even Solomon warns against this in Ecclesiastes 10:16-17,
Woe to you, O land whose king was a servant and whose princes feast in the morning.
Blessed are you, O land whose king is of noble birth and whose princes eat at a proper time- for strength and not for drunkenness.
But God doesn’t think like us. In 1 Samuel 16:7, the Lord explains why one of David’s brothers is not his choice, even though the Prophet Samuel felt he’d be a fine king;
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things a man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
And so the kid who liked sheep and singing became the greatest king in the whole Bible.
Imagine you are a very young woman, about to get married. You’ve never even slept with your fiancé and suddenly you’re told that you’re going to mother the Son of God. That is exactly what the angel told the wholly unprepared Mary in Luke 1:30-33,
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord god will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Or guys imagine finding out that your gal, whom you have not slept with, turns up pregnant. We read about this in Matthew 1:18-19,
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
We know that Joseph didn’t divorce Mary, but c’mon! Not even a honeymoon! But God doesn’t always call you when you’re ready.
Sometimes, God calls somebody who has absolutely no business doing what he has been called to do. Paul explains his background to an angry Jewish mob in Acts 22:3-5,
I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
Paul was a hardcore Christian-hating Jew totally in love with the Law. But Jesus called him,
Then he said: “The god of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15).
Mr. Anti-Jesus turns out to be called by the Risen Lord himself and told to preach the name of our Savior, Christ. And we know that most of the New Testament is actually written by Paul, so even though he wasn’t even on the right side at the time of his calling, God’s will was done.
So what does this mean to us? It means that God may call us out of our comfort/skill zone, so we shouldn’t limit ourselves, because whatever he has called us to do, certainly he will not leave us unequipped. Paul writes in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” So trust God, and be ready for anything.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).