Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Note: I actually wrote this more than a year ago, and since opening the blog it has continually weighed on my heart. I have tried to avoid posting it due to the language in it and the imagery presented in the words. If you are easily offended, by all means pass this article by as it deals with sensitive subject matter rather directly.
“You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I had been reading in the genealogies of 1 Chronicles and as I read through these lists of names that are seemingly endless, I often wonder to myself, “Why is this in here?” When I first read through the Bible I just assumed that it was some old Jewish thing that I didn’t understand, realizing that Paul himself warns us, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9) and he writes in 1 Timothy 1:3-4,
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work- which is by faith.
So with this in mind, I always tried to take the long genealogical records of the Hebrews with a grain of salt, trying not to meditate too long on them as they were something that was far beyond my time. However, I suspect that Paul really is more talking about people who are wasting time tracing their own history back to whenever they can rather than the genealogies found in the scriptures, I suspect this because as we all know, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). This means that no word in the Bible is wasted. But surely, it’s hard to understand what can it help me to read (just as an example),
The sons of Kenaz:
Othniel and Seraiah.
The sons of Thniel:
Hathath and Meonothai. Meonthai was the father of Orphrah.
Seriah was the father of Joab,
The father of Ge Harashim. It was called this because its people were craftsmen.
The sons of Caleb son of Jephunneh:
Iru, Elah and Naam.
The son of Elah:
The sons of Jehallelel:
Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria and Asarel.
The sons of Ezrah:
Jether, Mered, Epher and Jalon. One of Mered’s wives gave birth to Miriam, Shammai and Ishbah the father of Eshtemoa (1 Chronicles 4:13-17).
There are many more names but I think the point can be made clearly about what reading the genealogies is like- it is almost painful to work ones way through all of these names, totally unaware of why they are in the Bible as any Christian may assume that only the family line of Jesus has any value. I’ve been praying though trying to crack this nut open with the help of the Holy Spirit. On the first day of reading I read I realized that we are all related, (and the implications thereof is something I’ll discuss further later). But I found this to be a bit unsatisfactory, as again, only a few names are really required after Noah to confirm all of humanity’s relation to each other. So I kept praying for the Lord to help me understand this rather puzzling part of the Bible.
On a Sunday (while I was still in the genealogies), as I sat down for church, a thought bolted across my mind and this was followed by an immense wave of emotion that brought me to tears (not a common occurrence). The Holy Spirit flooded my mind with images and thoughts that all connected me to why God would put nine chapters worth of names and small stories here and there in the Bible, surely such a huge amount signaled something important. It is important. It is so very important.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
The names are a reminder of humanity. I’ve learned from shows like “Criminal Minds” and varied crime movies that in the situation of a kidnapping, it is best for the media to repeat the abducted person’s name over and over in order to remind the abductors that they are in possession of a human life. But this practice shouldn’t only be for kidnappers and serial killers, but for us too. The Lord realizes this and for that very reason we are faced with walls and walls of names in our Bibles. Often times, people with the same names are differentiated by their parentage just to make sure that a reader realizes that they are different, separate people.
Right now there are maybe millions of women and children, and some men too in modern-day slavery. And we as a society distance ourselves from this problem a bit with the language that we use, in fact, we often do not refer to the victims as singular (certainly there are countless and addressing them as a mass is not out-of-order, though very cold) but instead present the problem instead of the people. Sometimes it’ll come up in the news, “Human trafficking ring under investigation” or something like that. But the problem is not a ring or traffic. These are humans- no, an official term doesn’t do it justice -these are people, people’s sons and daughters, people’s brothers and sisters. They are our sons, daughters, grandchildren, brothers, and sisters. And so God has put lists of names-
The sons of Lotan:
Hori and Homam. Timna was Lotan’s sister.
The sons of Shobal:
Alvan, Mannahath, Ebal, Shepo and Onam.
The sons of Zibeon:
Aiah and Anah. This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs in the desert while he was grazing the donkeys of his father Zibeon (Genesis 36:22-24)
-all over the bible. Why? So we wake up and realize that every person is important to God. You are important to God, in fact, you are so important that He bent heaven and earth to reach out to you and save you and make sure that you spend eternity with him. Does this make you more important to God than anyone else? Not at all, because we all trace back our ancestry to one man, Noah, the son of Lamech,
The son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
The son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
The son of Kenan, the son of Enosh,
The son of Seth, the son of Adam,
The son of God (Luke 3:37-38).
We are all children of God, even those who are unaware of it. One would think that this would motivate people to fight for each other and be kind to one another, but most Christians are asking, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” These are the same words Cain said after he murdered his brother, and it is the same thought often that crosses our heads as we hear about the tragedies being exacted on our brothers and sisters around the world. But it is our responsibility to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Sure, if somebody chooses a life of sin and refuses to come to the Lord even after people have tried, then so be it. But the people in bondage today do not have that luxury. The only life they know is unwanted sex and repeated abuse. These daughters and sons are treated worse than animals, starved and without water, drugged until they can’t see, raped until their life purpose is little more than a series of holes to be penetrated, sold like property, beaten until even laying down is an impossible exercise in pain, and are eventually either killed and dumped like garbage or so warped that they end up helping their captors (who are still abusing them) to spread the net wider over our world. I am purposely using words intended to shock you, as that is what the Holy Spirit did to my heart to wake me up to this issue.
Paul writes, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). He writes this as a saved Christian, going to heaven and fighting his own personal struggles, as we all do. But what about a young girl, sad and confused because she knows that she has to do something bad but has no power to stop it. Having to repeat it over and over, watching her dreams melt away with every awful encounter. And what makes it worse, is that the death that she hopes for every day will be one eternally in torture away from the Lord, not for anything that she’s done, but because she’s never even had the chance to know her savior, and in fact likely has been brainwashed through cages, rape, starvation, nakedness, severe physical abuse, and staggering psychological abuse to believe that there is nobody who cares about her enough to save her. She thinks because of the evil she has had a hand in that even her own mommy and daddy would disown her, and throw her out like the garbage she has come to embody.
As we talk about human trafficking rings, we lose the people behind them. We lose the girls and boys, men and women who are forced to give themselves to others, to be injected with chemicals and other fluids, often in front of a camera and used as stimulation for people around the world. God doesn’t lose track of a single one of them though. Hebrews 4:13 states,
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.
Our acts and our lives are bare before the Lord. We can make excuses and try to take the Cain defense of “am I my brother’s keeper” but the fact is that it is our responsibility to take a stand and save the stolen sons and daughters around the world. James writes, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:17). Pray if you can’t do anything else, but if you have any resources, if you’re in the government or police force, if you can do something, DO IT! Get the word out so that we can stamp out the continued physical and sexual abuse of our neighbor’s children. As Christians we often think that by focusing on bettering ourselves or by trying to attack the sin itself, we’re doing something big. We’re fighting a war but we’re not realizing how many people are being lost to it. Preachers and public figures drop bombs of “porn is bad, “ “prostitution needs to end,” “adultery is wrong,” and they are not mistaken doing so; but what they’re not saying is that we’re flushing young men and women, and many children down the toilet with these sins. Our mission shouldn’t just be to stop these evils; it should be to save these people, because by doing that, we’ll end up destroying the rings anyway. We can’t just wait for this problem to go away; at least tell others about it so that Christians who aren’t in a position to do anything can pray for those who are.
We can hide behind scriptures like,
If anyone is to go into captivity,
Into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
With the sword he will be killed.
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints (Revelation 13:10).
Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy (Revelation 22:11).
However, to do so is cowardly and selfishness. It is true, the Lord has designated what will happened, so even though some people are accounted to go into captivity, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be saved by us. Our patience and endurance should be with our own personal problems, not in laziness to the world’s issues. If somebody chooses to reject Jesus, fine, but at least he or she has had the chance to! The Lord says to us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). And in Revelation, Jesus repeatedly says “to him who overcomes.” For example, he says,
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 3:21-22).
We are not to endure evil, but overcome it! Stand up and fight for your brothers and your sisters! Fight for your children!
One life is so important; Jesus once allowed an entire herd of pigs (likely the local town’s entire economy) to be killed to save one man. Christians know that the only way to be saved is to reach out to Jesus, acknowledge him to be their savior, and confess it with their mouths. But what about these women, men, and children? Sure, you can say the old line in Romans 1:20,
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities –his eternal power and divine nature –have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
But what about sons and daughters to whom no sign of freedom has been given? Sure, maybe they can see a sunset and think “there must be a God out there” but how many of them know that there is also a savior waiting to take them home? If nobody is saving them from their constant torture of life, then how can they even fathom the importance of being saved from the eternal torture of a death away from the Lord? Do you honestly think that a little boy, beaten, drugged, and used as a dump for bodily fluids and having his shame spread across the internet has a chance to find his salvation in Christ? We need to save these people, because even though as Christians we might not be able to fix the scars from their lives on earth, we can give them the faith that salvation exists, that God cares, and that they can look forward to an eternity of happiness. Paul writes in Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” And what is Christ’s word to us?
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
This is our mission as Christians, to save people. Some people we can save just by talking to them, some we have to save from physical bondage. Every soul has a name. Just like you and I have been purchased from the fire, so we are called to get our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters out of bondage.
“You were bought at a price.”