Understanding the Bible

From as early as I can remember, I’ve had questions. This goes all the way back to sitting in a pew when I was probably five and wondering why God was so mean. I was taught, like most seem to be, to bury these questions and just believe what I was being told. There was a lot that I did believe, but some major things that didn’t quite make any sense. For the past 17 months, I’ve been away from institutional Christianity to try to figure out just what I believe and what the Bible actually says. Even before that, I was trying to piece disjointed concepts together into something that would make sense. For me, being away has removed a lot of the external blockage to allow this process to work much faster.
So, why am I describing this?
I desire first and foremost to have a real relationship with Father, through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. That is my primary goal (Matt 22:37-38). Secondly, I want to be able to extend that relationship to others (Matt 22:39). As of now, I’m still primarily on step one. Seventeen months should have been plenty, but God is still revealing things to me. Sometimes it takes days or weeks to process, and in that time, other questions stop. Once I can somewhat process the new epiphany, another question is presented, and I begin another round of Bible research and prayer to find out why God had the Bible commissioned to say what it does, in the manner it does. This has been a major driving force is studying the Bible along with wanting to know Father’s heart more intimately. I firmly believe that everything therein is what God wants us to know, not to be followed as a rule book necessarily, but to discover the story he has unfolded.
Over the past 17 months, and even a little before that, my outlook on the entirety of the Bible has drastically changed. Some may call it blasphemy or heresy, but I’m no longer affected by such attempts at manipulation and guilt as I once was. For me, I have to approach the Bible with the attitude of seeing what God wants to say and letting the words therein first speak directly to the situations they were addressing. I believe this is the most significant step in honest exegesis, primarily and especially of prophecy. Often we try to retrofit a prophetic meaning to our current day and situation while completely ignoring, and often annulling, the original purpose of the passage. Yes, a passage might have some similarities to our current world, but we must first understand why the words were directed to the people they were originally directed to before we try to form doctrines from scripture that wasn’t written about us.
So what’s so wrong with us applying the full meaning to ourselves today? Couldn’t passages have double, triple, etc…meanings?
Some scripture may have this meaning. The primary problem comes about when viewing prophecy in this manner. We can make it out to say whatever we want it to say for whatever our goal in doing so would be. Any current event that has a resemblance is instantly touted as a message that “the sky is falling!” This becomes the true danger in trying to force a meaning on scripture that wasn’t its original intent—manipulation through misappropriated scriptural fear tactics.
Could there be similarities to Biblical events in today’s world? Absolutely, as there has been when history repeats itself. If anything, this may be a large part of the lesson of the Bible—don’t do it like they did!
For example, the Jewish nation insisted they were right(eous) in their ways of following God while denouncing anyone who wasn’t conforming to their expectations. Many rejected Jesus’ teachings because of this. Likewise, today Christianity is insistent in its righteousness while condemning others who won’t conform. Meanwhile, this approach largely ignores Jesus’ command to love our enemies. The love that is shown is a backhand, “love the sinner, hate the sin”, methodology that only alienates those same people by assigning a label (sinner) without entering into a relationship with them. Meanwhile, internal sins are rationalized and comparative righteousness is upheld. “I’m better than those sinners” is often the attitude that develops (Luke 18:11). Stubbornness ensues and we see a rejection of the religious establishments as blame is shifted to anywhere else but us. All of this happened with Israel but that is only a similarity. I wouldn’t go so far as to assume anything else past that point. Yet, we end up assigning prophetic condemnation on the rest of the world, just as they did, when it was the nation of Israel to whom the punishment fell, in part because they weren’t being the salt and light they were called to be. We repeat the same mistakes yet blame others for the results.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself here as this post is getting long, and I’m getting into another subject—that is, who were the prophecies written to and about? God willing, I will touch on this in my next post.
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