Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Many, if not most Christians (myself included) often lose sight while trying to read the Word of God. We end up looking for things like rules, regulations, or standards; things that are solid and constant. After all, the Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). To that end, when we see miracles or promises in the Bible, we often hunt around the passage looking for the trigger said promise. We see a promise and thinking, “Ok, what do I have to do to get me some of this promise action?” Or we see a miracle that we’d like in our life and we try to figure out how the person who got it either prayed or approached Jesus. Or what happens very often is that instead of opening our hearts to what the Holy Spirit has to tell us, we start looking for things that support our version of doctrine. When we hit something that seems to conflict with it, we gloss over and when we find something that supports how we think, we underline and highlight it. If this has never happened to you, then I don’t know what to say, because the Spirit’s caught me doing all of the above at one time or another.
But there is a problem in all of this: God is not us. He even notes this when he says of himself,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways my ways,”
Declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are my ways higher than your ways
And my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
While trying to fit the Lord into my box of what I thought he was and who he was, the Holy Spirit reminded me of this very fact. God is beyond what I know of him, and he doesn’t think the way I think. Before continuing on what happened, let me give you a little background: God has given me an amazing ability to interpret passages out of the Law of God through the help of the Holy Spirit. I’m great with legalities and doctrinal points now. But on the whole, the Gospels baffle me. Jesus shows up on the scene and performs miracles and makes declarations and says stuff that hardly makes sense as he tells people not to talk about it and then he dies for our sins. I can follow the story for the story, but there are a lot of little things that confuse me or come into conflict with what I have become comfortable with in my legal little world. Because of this I feel deficient when reading up on our Christ so I prayed about this and asked God to open up my mind (which apparently I had closed accidentally). So, the Holy Spirit taught me about his (God’s [Father-Son-Holy Spirit]) character.
During his journeys, Jesus encountered many sick people and he healed them, we’ve read the stories hundreds of times in church and any time we’re feeling down until they start to sorta skim by as we read. However, the Spirit lit up a particular miracle in order to show me more about our Lord’s personality. We read in Matthew 20:29-31,
As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
Now, when I read this I realized that the crowd actually tried to dissuade these guys from talking to Jesus. Why would they do that? It occurred to me that there was probably a reason (since likely most of the crowd had been healed by Jesus at some time or another). So I take this passage as a note about non-Christians, who have no interest in actually following the Lord selfishly calling out to God’s Son because they’ve run out of other options. Therefore, the believing crowd tells these guys to back off- after all, Jesus is for the saved, correct? I mean keep in mind; these guys didn’t seek Jesus out or even approach him like the woman who had been bleeding for many years. No no, they heard him walking by and said, “Hey, let’s give this Jesus dude a try.” However, just like every time it happens in the Gospels: while I sat in my judgment seat as a teacher of the Law, Jesus flipped my world over. For Scripture records,
Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him (Matthew 20:32-34).
Take note here of the order of this story. These guys (presumably non-believers) decided to give this Jesus a try in order to alleviate their blindness. Jesus is for the saved, right? Apparently Jesus is for everyone, because he healed them. None of this, “Your faith has made you well” stuff either. Just, bam, healed, done. It was after this happened that they became followers of Christ (I mean, how could they not after being healed?).
Now if I were Jesus, I don’t know if I would have healed them like that. Sure, God is merciful so it makes sense, but maybe I’d give them some lecture about following the Lord or make sure I stuck God’s name into some sort of showy prayer for them. Or at least, you know, make them prove their faith in some way. But God isn’t me. Paul reminds us (or at least me),
For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
And I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Romans 9:15-16).
Frequently we get so wrapped up in the church’s view that we always need to do our best that we forget how God actually thinks. If something isn’t going my way I pray…and then I try to not sin so much for a while or maybe give to charity- y’know, just to show God I really mean it. Or maybe you start praying for something like mad, over and over, every chance you get you keep praying for it hoping that maybe God will get fed up with listening to you and just give you what you want. But that’s not how our Lord and Savior works. No, as we can see, anyone who cries out to God will be heard. It’s funny too because most Christians can recite Matthew 7:7-8 without even thinking,
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
God doesn’t operate like us. He doesn’t require us to fit into his box when we ask him for something- instead, he listens, answers, and then through his Spirit changes our hearts with his mercy and grace. Thoughts higher than my thoughts? Ways higher than my ways? You better believe it. Rock on God!