Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
While discussing molds and rashes, the Lord inserts an interesting point that is easy to skim past. In Leviticus 14:33-35 we read,
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your possession, and I put a spreading mildew in a house in that land, the owner of the house must go and tell the priest, ‘I have seen something that looks like mildew in my house.’”
Did you catch it? God says that he brings the mold. Through this, the Holy Spirit reminded me that we ought not to forget that the Lord is the source of all things.
It’s easy to live our lives without thinking about God. We can see things just sort of happening and ignore our God’s divine presence and movement. Heck, atheists make a whole religion out of doing that. This is not really a good sign, because the Bible tells us,
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forgot that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water by water (2 Peter 3:3-5).
As the end of all things approaches, we’ll work harder and harder to ignore the Lord’s work in our lives; we’ll write off everything miraculous as either coincidence or hallucination. But we must remember that everything in this world comes and came from the Lord our God. Paul reminds us,
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).
And God himself adds,
I form the light and create the darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things (Isaiah 45:7).
The Lord came first, he created all things and even as time ticks away he continues to create, work, move, and hold everything together. It’s he, the Lord, who does all these things.
God is in all things, both in good things and “bad” things. Sometimes when God works, it is in judgment. Check out how he totally takes credit for all the bad things that might happen to wicked people,
The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed (Deuteronomy 28:20-24).
There’s a whole long chapter of this stuff and throughout it, the Lord makes no bones about it that he’s the source of all the bad stuff that’ll happen to Israel should they disobey him. What’s shocking is just how much power the Lord has at his fingertips. Check out how he speaks of the leader of Babylon, a pagan country which eventually captured Israel:
Give them a message for their masters and say, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says, ‘Tell this to your masters: With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him’” (Jeremiah 27:4-6).
Keep in mind that Nebuchadnezzar didn’t give a crap about God. But the Lord referred to him as “my servant,” meaning that even though Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a believer; God had control over his actions. But that’s how God works; one doesn’t need to believe in God to be moved by him. Check out what happened when the prophet Habakkuk tried to talk to the Lord about wickedness. He complains,
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
There is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
And justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
So that justice is perverted (Habakkuk 1:3-4).
This is a pretty basic complaint you’ll find from a Christian (well, except for the poetry part of it). “This world is full of things that suck, people do whatever they want, and I’m trying to do good but sin is being crammed down my throat; O God, what am I to do?” In fact, I think I prayed something akin to this just this morning- which is apparently dangerous, because check out God’s response:
I am raising up the Babylonians,
That ruthless and impetuous people,
Who sweep across the whole earth
To seize dwelling places not their own.
They are a feared and dreaded people;
They are a law to themselves
And promote their own honor (Habakkuk 1:6-7).
The Lord responds to Habakkuk’s prayer by saying, “Ok, don’t worry, I’ll send the evilest country in the world to kill everyone.” Wait, what? Habakkuk responds in kind,
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
You cannot tolerate wrong.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
Swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:13).
This is a nice way of saying, “Are you kidding me? Babylon?! They’re more evil than we are! How can you do that?” To which God answers by prophesying about Babylon,
Because you have plundered many nations,
The peoples who are left will plunder you.
For you have shed man’s blood;
You have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them (Habakkuk 2:8).
By turning his wrath to Babylon in the second chapter, God is letting Habakkuk know that even though he’s coming down hard on Israel via Babylon, Babylon will get theirs too when the time comes. So God can play both sides. “I’ll punish you, and then I’ll punish the people I punished you with.” Which sounds wholly messed up and unfair until you consider…
…That God always has a reason or a goal in all that he does. This is exemplified best in the Lord’s actual wrath through Babylon. Eventually, God sent Babylon to Israel; they burned all of Jerusalem to the ground and killed or kidnapped everyone there. The entire population of Judah was deported to Babylon and the land formerly owned by Israel sat idle. But even in this there was a plan. For you see, in the Law, the Lord taught the people how to keep the land productive:
For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest (Leviticus 25:3-5).
However, since the people stopped listening to God by then, they’d stopped actually following this command and sought profit by continually farming their land without any breaks. This left the land worthless so that when Babylon took over, they didn’t even touch it because it wasn’t useful for anything. However, through their exile from the land, the Lord was working a miracle for his people. History records, “The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah” (2 Chronicles 36:21). When the people (now very repentant after 70 years away from the Promised Land) returned, they found that the land of Israel was once more good and plentiful and they were once again able to enjoy the fruit of the land. So even in their punishment the Lord was working things for their good. This comes up in the New Testament as well. Paul initially wrote a very strong letter to the people of Corinth (1 Corinthians) in which he berated the people for a lack of unity and for being too accepting of unrepentant sinners. However, in his second letter he explained why he brought the hammer down,
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it- I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while- yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:8-11).
Paul notes that his intended goal was not to make the Corinthians feel like crap, it was to produce a change in their lives. This is how God works, even when he brings the hammer down, it has a righteous and awesome goal for believers. Paul himself wrote “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God always has a believer’s best interests at heart. So when something bad or uncomfortable happens, just remember that “This too is from God” and relax, knowing that the Lord will bring it to a good end. I do this every day when something I don’t like comes up, and sure enough, whatever seemed uncomfortable at the moment ended up being for my better down the line.
However, if you aren’t repentant or totally go against God, your storm clouds might not produce beautiful flowers. If a person refuses to accept the Lord, even when he sends trouble, then stuff could get very bad very quickly. God writes after listing some curses, “If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over” (Leviticus 26:18). And a few curses later, “If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve” (Leviticus 26:21). And a few curses after that,
If in spite of all these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over. (Leviticus 26:23-24).
…And so on and so on until you’re either destroyed or finally repent and find everything suddenly coming up roses. And apparently that’s the goal. Because Jesus says, “No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Salvation is only found through Jesus and God will push a person until they either end up running to church for salvation through Christ Jesus or fight against God until the day they die. Keep note here too, reader, that God throws people towards Jesus, not just blind repentance, but to Jesus the Son of God. For salvation is only found through Jesus Christ, and not through any other means. The Lord sees sin not as you just stretching your legs or simply avoiding the rules, but as a complete rejection of him (even when a believer sins). So when you’re doing stuff you shouldn’t God comes down hard not to punish you but to get you to stop whatever you’re doing and get your head back in the game (or in the game if you’re an unbeliever). The Bible tells us,
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).
As you can see, God’s design is never to make your life suck period. It’s always to cause some sort of positive change either within you (“Godly sorrow” as Paul outlined for the Corinthians) or outside of you (such as the land’s Sabbath rests).
God has a good plan for your life, but if you deny Christ and live as the world lives, you will miss out. If, however, you trust in Jesus and live in a godly manner, then when difficulty comes you need not worry; for God is working toward your good. David wrote,
A righteous man may have many troubles,
But the Lord delivers him from them all;
He protects all his bones,
Not one of them will be broken (Psalms 34:19-20).
God is always looking out for the good of his children and will take care of those who call on the name of Christ Jesus for help, even when it seems like things are falling apart. Solomon in his wisdom wrote,
Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man’s house,
Do not raid his dwelling place;
For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again,
But the wicked are brought down by calamity (Proverbs 24:15-16).
A follower of Christ may face tough days, but they’ll turn around for his or her benefit when all is said and done; whereas those who are without Christ will find the same situations to be their ruin. Trust in Christ Jesus and God, his Father, who holds in his hands all of creation and guides the universe along- by doing so, you’ll find that even when everything falls apart, it’ll soon be rearranged in a way for your benefit; because God is the source of all things and always works to help those who come to him.
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
He injures, but his hands also heal.
From six calamities he will rescue you;
In seven no harm will befall you.
In famine he will ransom you from death,
And in battle from the stroke of the sword.
You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
And need not fear when destruction comes.
You will laugh at destruction and famine,
And need not fear the bests of the earth.
For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
And the wild animals will be at peace with you.
You will know that your tent is secure;
You will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
You will know that your children will be many,
And your descendants like the grass of the earth.
You will come to the grave in full vigor,
Like sheaves gathered in season.
We have examined this, and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself.
-Eliphaz (Job 5:18-27)
Rock on God!