Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
The early chapters of 1 Chronicles are the genealogical records for the children of Israel. Basically it’s a huge list of names spanning some nine chapters. For the Lord, each and every name is special, just like everyone alive today is special and known by God. However, for us it can be annoying and almost painful to read these chapters. Actually, I once heard a very well-known evangelist preface a sermon by saying that the Holy Spirit was pushing him to read a section of the Bible he usually skips, which were the genealogies of 1 Chronicles.
It is understandable how people can get frustrated and be tempted to skip over this section. I mean here, check this out,
The son of Ulam:
These were the sons of Gilead son of Makir, the son of Manasseh. His sister Hammolekth gave birth to Ishhod, Abiezer and Mahlah.
The sons of Shemida were:
Ahian, Shechem, Likhi and Aniam (1 Chronicles 7:17-19).
Who are these people? Ok, so Manasseh was Joseph’s son, and Gilead appears later as a town name, but after that these are all people who have not gotten any ink outside of genealogies. Of course, there are some people that we do know though. 1 Chronicles 7:25-27 has a familiar face,
Rephah was his son, Reheph his son,
Telah his son, Tahan his son,
Ladan his son, Ammihud his son,
Elishama his son, Nun his son,
And Joshua his son.
That’s cool, I guess now I know Joshua’s line. Never mind that I’ll forget it in two minutes. But the genealogical records are fair; everyone gets counted because God cares about everyone. Heck, God even tells us about people we’ve never heard of out outside the genealogies. The Lord tells us about the daughter of Beriah (a man whose name means misfortune according to my NIV Bible), “His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah” (1 Chronicles 7:24). It’s hard to know what to do with all of these names. I’ve tried memorizing them and then when they show up in other parts I can finally put a story to the name, but since most of these records are rather long, many of these people don’t show up anywhere else.
Like I said, everyone is counted by God and so everyone is listed fairly. However, some of these people don’t really contribute anything by their existence. Through these passages, the Holy Spirit explained to me that we can look at these walls of names and remember that the church is full of people like this. That is to say, there are a lot of mediocre Christians out there. These are folks that are saved…and that’s about it. You know the type; not really backslidden into sin, not really on fire for God. They might come to church, they believe in Jesus, but that’s about as far as it goes. On Monday they’re back in the world, not necessarily sinning, but not leaning on God either.
Now it’s not my place to point blame or to even suggest why or how a person can be given salvation and then storta stagnate in their Christianity; it happens to people. Heck, it could be happening to you and you just didn’t realize it. I know that the temptation to level out a little bit in my walk with Christ has certainly come and I can’t say that I have the same level of hardcore-ness that I did when I first came to Jesus. However, I will say this; there is a Biblical reply to Christian mediocrity. While addressing a few of the important churches of John’s time, Jesus made some notes to the Church in Laodicea. Now, before I keep going, make sure to note that all of the churches mentioned in the early chapters of Revelation were just that, churches. Therefore, as members of the body of Christ, the saved should take especial note of what Jesus has to say. Anyway, back to Laodicea: Jesus (speaking to John) says,
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm- neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:14-16).
I’m not sure anyone really knows what being spit out of Jesus’ mouth translates into for our lives but the Lord makes the point clear: mediocrity isn’t cool. Jesus would rather a Christian be totally re-entrapped in sin and away from him than to be just there with no direction. One can only speculate, but this is probably because a backslidden Christian will usually experience something big that’ll rocket them back to God (since they already know in their hearts that they’re doing wrong) whereas a lukewarm follower thinks they’re doing well even though they’re not active in Christendom. Jesus actually notes this mindset, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Jesus is telling us that at least a backslidden, sinful Christian knows they’re in the wrong. But a “just sorta there” Christian doesn’t realize that while they are living in blessing now, they are probably sinning more than they think, undernourished by the Word of God, not building up treasures in heaven, not being led by the spirit, and not wrapping themselves in God’s great power. Such a person’s name may be in the Book of Life, but it’s about as interesting as reading about Bedan the son of Ulam. –Who’s that? Exactly. He was the first person in the first quote, likely though you’ve already forgotten (I had).
So how do we overcome mediocrity? Jesus has an answer for that. He tells us,
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes so that you can see (Revelation 3:18).
First God says to buy gold refined in the fire from Jesus. That is to say that we need to pray to our Risen Lord for direction in life. If you ask Christ to give you a mission, he will. But be ready, this is gold refined in fire, so you might be called to do things that aren’t convenient. However, as you do good and are led by the Holy Spirit, you will be building up great treasures for yourself in heaven. For we’re told,
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
Therefore, Jesus tells us that we should focus on heaven and the wealth that living in obedience can lead to there. Secondly, Jesus tells us to get from him white clothes. Now this one is confusing, since we’re told that through salvation, we’re given white clothes to wear- which is true. But since the letter from Jesus is to the church, this means that repentance is in order. Christ already said he was about to spit the lukewarm Christians out. Since one of the errors of the mediocre Christian is that they don’t think they’re in the wrong, Jesus says that one of the first steps to becoming a more interesting name in his book is to repent of this way of thinking. A so-so follower of Christ is just as off-track as a backslidden one, so repent and get that part healed by Jesus! Third, our Lord tells us to put salve on our eyes. We see a lot of junk all day long that has an impact on us even if we don’t know. Daily we should be cleaning our eyes and our hearts from all the gunk that builds up. How do we do this? “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8:20). Using the example of mediums, Isaiah reminds us that we should weigh everything against the Law and the Testimony- that is, the Bible. And we do this by reading the Bible daily. I know a lot of people are resistant to this, but from experience I will tell you, it makes all the difference in the world. Even if it’s just a little bit at first, maybe a chapter or a psalm or something, read the Bible every day. Don’t be freaked out if you don’t understand most of it- I’m the guy who gets confused during the Gospels (which are generally the easiest part to read). If you get stuck, ask the Holy Spirit to help you, our Lord loves to teach from his Word. Give it a try and you’ll see changes in your life and maybe even reflections of your experiences in the pages of the Bible.
If the Holy Spirit (or maybe God directly through getting you to this article) is calling you out for getting lax in your devotion to Christ, don’t get offended. I’ve gotten convicted by him plenty of times even though (Pharisee that I am) I think I’m doing better than quite a few people. Jesus reminds us in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” Jesus wants to be closer to us, so he pushes us in our faith. How close does he want to be? Check this out, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Our Lord and Savior wants to fellowship with us to the point of even having lunch with us. God wants to be in our lives all the time. With him there all the time, think of how awesome things could get! But there’s more! Those who can overcome mediocrity in their lives as Christians and get a least a bit more on fire for God have great rewards waiting. Jesus concludes in Revelation 3:21 with, “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.” If the Lord is letting you know that you’ve gotten out of step with him, don’t fret, because this is a grand opportunity! By getting back on track, you’ll be given great power in heaven and can actually sit on Jesus’ throne (and maybe take a picture if they exist in heaven)! Trust in our Lord and follow his will, my friend; and through change you will find even greater rewards than you are currently experiencing. Watch the Lord change your life!