Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
This is a follow-up to the previous article, “The Heart of the Matter,” if you haven’t read it yet, you should probably do that first.
Ok, so God is #1, how does that apply to my life? Well, you need to understand that everything God does he does for his glory. For example, saved believers are for his glory:
I will say to the north, “Give them up!”
And to the south, “Do not hold them back.”
Bring my sons from afar
And my daughters from the ends of the earth-
Everyone who is called by my name,
Whom I created for my glory,
Whom I formed and made (Isaiah 43:6-7).
Also, the spreading of the gospel is for God’s glory:
I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations- to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations (Isaiah 66:19).
Oh, and answered prayers? Yeah, that’s for God’s glory too; because Jesus told his disciples, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (John 14:13). If you haven’t noticed, the Lord is fairly focused on his glory. I mean, check out his almost rant-like statement in Isaiah 48:11,
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another.
So not only are we to be focused on God, but apparently so is he.
The Holy Spirit gave me a practical application for all of this. As already noted, answered prayer is for God’s glory. -But wait, I thought it was to help people who need it! -This is true, the Lord answers prayer to help people…for his glory. This is best shown in the story of the man born blind. History records,
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:1-3).
Now, we could probably spend some time unpacking all of what Jesus’ response might entail (like whether the man’s condition was divinely pre-planned or if Jesus was thinking of the future), but I don’t want to get off track. So this guy is born blind, and Jesus claims that rather than being punished, God is setting him up to make the Lord look better. The story continues,
Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing (John 9:6-7).
This is one of the grosser healings in the Bible, but it seems to have a fairly one-sided result: The man has been given sight and Jesus…is still Jesus. But wait, there’s more, after the man went home seeing, people started to take notice and began to ask him how he got his eyes sight,
“How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see” (John 9:10-11).
The man born blind started telling everyone that it was Jesus who healed him. So indeed, being healed brought glory to God through the spreading of his good works. This is why answered prayer brings the Lord glory.
It is because of this concept of prayer bringing God glory that James says,
You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:2-3).
So wait, I can’t ask God for stuff I want? No, you can most definitely ask God for the things you want; but it is your intention in that want that matters. The Lord wants believers in him to prosper. Check it out: Jesus taught, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Now, in this Jesus is probably talking about the fruits of the Spirit (holiness, kindness, love, etc) but the lesson also applies to worldly wealth as given by the Lord. We know this because the Bible records,
Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:27-32).
Therefore we see that blessings will naturally follow those who follow the Lord- because it brings him glory.
So…the application is that we should pray more cleverly? No! God’s not stupid. Jesus even taught on this,
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8).
Rather, the application is to get your thinking straight and put God at the center of your life just as the sun is the center of our solar system. We revolve around God, not the other way around. Jesus taught,
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean (Matthew 24:25-26).
If your heart is clean and your thoughts pointed in the right direction, you intentions will be too. So by serving God with all of your heart you will gain all that you need and even more than that. The Lord even said to his servant David,
I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more (2 Samuel 12:8).
Our God is not tightfisted, but actively wants to bless those of his servants who follow him wholeheartedly. For when the Lord blesses those who trust fully in him and put him first in their lives, they praise him and give glory to him in front of all;
Since ancient times no one has heard,
No ear has perceived,
No eye has seen any God beside you,
Who acts on behalf of those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4).
The Lord rewards those who put their trust in him and work for his glory because it helps to spread his name around in a positive manner. And as we’ve already learned, God is all about his own glory.
Therefore, we must understand true wisdom, as taught to us by Psalms 112:1-4,
Praise the Lord.
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
Who finds great delight in his commands.
His children will be mighty in the land;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
And his righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
For the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.
When you follow Jesus Christ wholeheartedly, good will follow you. For it is written, “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4). By living a God-first life you’ll be bringing on yourself blessings unimaginable and you’ll find that you’re prayers (now powered by the Holy Spirit working through you) are getting answered quite a bit, even for seemingly trivial things.
Rock on God!