Archives For Interpretation

We are living in a time in world history when multitudes are concerned about having sufficient food and drink for them and their families. Two key passages provide vital revelation about how God has promised to certain people that He will provide the food and drink that they need.

Food and Drink Promised in Matthew 6:31-33

Matthew 6:31-33 is a premier passage in the Bible about what people are to do so that they will have the food and drink that they need to survive:

Matthew 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

With these words, Jesus taught that people who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness will have what they are to eat and to drink added to them.

Food and Drink Promised in Isaiah 33:13-16

Compare the teaching of Matthew 6:31-33 with what Isaiah 33:13-16 says:

Isaiah 33:13 Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. 14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? 15 He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; 16 He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

This passage ends with a promise that bread and water will be provided to certain people, just as Matthew 6:31-33 does! Because God promises to provide the same things at the end of both passages, we know that what He teaches as the requirements for obtaining those promises in both passages are directly related.

Application

From the comparison presented above, we learn that seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness includes doing all the things that Isaiah 33:15 specifies: walking righteously, speaking uprightly, despising gaining by oppressions, rejecting bribes, stopping our ears from hearing about blood, and shutting our eyes from seeing evil. To have sufficient food and drink, we must be careful to do all these things in our seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Probably every believer who has been a believer for any length of time has encountered teaching about the main point or big idea of the following passage:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Most have been taught that this passage is “about” the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His apostles. Probably no one has ever thought or said that the main point or big idea of this passage is to teach us about the Holy Spirit.

A careful examination of nearly every sound work on systematic theology or NT theology would likely reveal, however, that this is an important passage for one’s formulating a proper understanding of what the Scripture teaches us about pneumatology. Any person who does not treat what this passage reveals about the Spirit in formulating their theology of the Spirit is a person who does not profit fully from revelation that God has intended him to profit from theologically.

As this brief but clear example shows, it is a faulty approach to hermeneutics and exegesis to insist that the main point/big idea of a passage is all that matters. Truth that God has revealed about a subject in a passage that does not have that subject as its main point or big idea is nonetheless truth that God wants us to profit from fully.

In one of his attempts to tempt Christ to sin, the devil made a remarkable declaration concerning his authority over all the kingdoms of the world:

Luke 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

Making this statement, the devil proclaimed that he had authority over all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He also made known that authority was delivered to him at some prior point and that he could give it to whomever he willed to give it.

When, why, and how was power over all the kingdoms of the world and their glory delivered over to the devil?

How should this truth illumine our understanding of world affairs?

Exodus 5:1 reveals what Moses and Aaron said to Pharaoh when they first met with him:

Exodus 5:1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.

When, however, we examine all the preceding statements in Exodus 3-4 about what God told them to say to Pharaoh, we do not find anything about His telling them to tell Pharaoh about their celebrating a feast to the Lord in the wilderness:

Exodus 3:18 And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.

Exodus 4:22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: 23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

How, then, do we explain what Moses and Aaron said to Pharaoh about celebrating a feast to Him in the wilderness?

Any song that God has inspired to be in Scripture is a perfect song. Scripture reveals that God has provided us with a song that is a perfect love song!

“A Song of Loves”

The Spirit inspired Psalm 45 to begin with an explicit statement that it is a love song:

Psalm 45:1 <To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, for the sons of Korah, Maschil, A Song of loves.> My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

From this divine love song, we learn many striking lessons that God intends us to profit from greatly. This post will only treat a few selected truths from the song. The post is by no mean an exhaustive treatment of the valuable lessons that this song provides.

The Subject of This Perfect Love Song

From the beginning of the song, we learn that the subject of this perfect love song is a king (Ps. 45:1). New Testament use of Psalm 45:6-7 teaches us that the ultimate Subject of this perfect love song is God’s own anointed King, the divine Messiah:

Psalm 45:6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. 7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Hebrews 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Fearful Activity Revealed in This Perfect Love Song

Second, the Spirit teaches us that this divine King is a mighty Warrior (Ps. 45:3-4) who will engage in fearful activity:

Psalm 45:5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.

Strikingly, this perfect love song speaks explicitly of the King’s destroying His enemies in battle! We thus learn that far from being inappropriate content in a love song, fearful activity by the divine King as the Messianic Judge who judges evil people is fitting content to include in such a song!

The Glorious Character of the Subject of This Perfect Love Song

Third, this perfect love song highlights two key aspects of the glorious character of its Subject (Ps. 45:7). The first key aspect of the glorious character of the King is that He loves righteousness. The Spirit thus teaches us that extolling someone who loves what is right and loves doing right is fitting content for a perfect love song.

The second key aspect of the glorious character of the King is that He hates wickedness. Saying this, the Spirit teaches us that extolling someone who hates what is wicked and hates evildoing is also fitting content for a perfect love song.

Application

Psalm 45 is a perfect love song because God inspired it to be in Scripture. The lessons treated above teach us that speaking about the Messianic Judge as the divine King who renders divine judgment on wicked people is fitting content for a perfect love song!

Moreover, extolling the glorious character of the One who loves righteousness and hates wickedness is fitting content for a perfect love song!

We must sing songs of love that include this glorious content.

the danger of misspeaking about God when counselingMisspeaking about God is a very serious matter. In a shocking way, the book of Job instructs us to beware of doing so.

Misspeaking about God without intending to do so

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were good friends of Job who cared enough to come to visit him in his affliction. They were true believers in God. They desired to minister truth about God to Job that they thought would help him deal with his grave troubles.

To that end, these three friends discoursed at great length with Job about his situation. They seem to have had the best of intentions in what they said in their conversations with Job.

Shockingly, however, after they had finished talking to Job, God sternly reproved them for misspeaking about Him:

Job 42:7 And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. 8 Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the LORD commanded them: the LORD also accepted Job.

God said that they had not spoken of Him what was right. He warned them that they had kindled His wrath because of what they had misspoken about Him!

God commanded them to offer burnt offerings because of their sinful speech about Him. Moreover, He ordered them to seek intercessory prayer from Job in order to deal properly with their sins.

We learn from God’s dealing with these men that they had misspoken about Him without intending to do so.

Application

Believers must exercise great care in what they say about God when counseling others so that they do not become guilty of misspeaking about God. Having good intentions is not enough—we must speak only what is right about God!

 

Whether or not Ezekiel 40-48 is revelation about national Israel, the Church, or something else is an important theological and interpretational issue. I recently posted the following series of comments (with some minor edits here) on a thread on Sharper Iron that shows why Ezekiel 40-48 refers to national Israel and not to the Church or to something else.

Length of the passage

To take the passage figuratively, 260 verses in 9 chapters would have to be treated consistently in a manner that is defensible. Trying to treat such a lengthy passage as figurative language and doing so consistently creates such serious problems that I believe it cannot be done legitimately.

To whom was the passage originally directed?

To interpret Ezekiel 40-48 properly, we must allow the text itself to determine the answer to a question of primary importance—to whom was the passage originally directed?

At least three verses in the passage pertain directly to answering this question:

Ezekiel 40:4 And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.

Ezekiel 43:10 Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.

Ezekiel 44:6 And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations,

All three statements show that the passage was originally directed to the house of Israel. To determine who the house of Israel that God was commanding Ezekiel to make all this revelation known to was, we must carefully examine these statements within their original context.

The opening verses of Ezekiel 40-48

Ezekiel 40-48 opens this way:

Ezekiel 40:1 In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day the hand of the LORD was upon me, and brought me thither. 2 In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain, by which was as the frame of a city on the south. 3 And he brought me thither, and, behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood in the gate. 4 And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.

These opening verses reveal that whoever the house of Israel refers to in its original context in Ezekiel 40-48 has to be established by noting the divine directive that everything Ezekiel was shown in this vision had to be declared to it/them. The house of Israel, therefore, in its context were the original recipients of this revelation who were alive at that time in history and were in exile in Babylon for their sinfulness. They were people to whom all the details of the entire vision were divinely directed.

Any attempt to make Ezekiel 40-48 figurative language must explain how the entire vision and not just selected parts are relevant to whoever the house of Israel is asserted to be in this passage.

Who the “house of Israel” is in Ezekiel 40-48

In the next occurrence of “house of Israel” in Ezekiel 40-48, God states who these people were to whom Ezekiel was commanded to declare and write all that he was shown:

Ezekiel 43:7 And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places. 8 In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. 9 Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.

The house of Israel in this passage were people who had defiled God’s holy name in the specific ways that God states here. Because they had done so, He had consumed them in His anger. In and through all the detailed revelation in Ezekiel 40-48, God was confronting the Israelites about their sins against Him and demanding them to repent and get right with Him.

To take the house of Israel in this passage as the Church would require holding that God is confronting the Church about its having defiled His holy name by committing the specific sins that He denounces here. Such a handling of the passage is plainly untenable because the Church has never committed these sins.

Furthermore, God directly confronts the kings of the house of Israel who had defiled His holy name. Again, to take this revelation as being figurative language for the Church does not make any sense because the Church never has had any kings, etc.

A proper handling of Ezekiel 43:7-9 shows that it is impossible to legitimately take Ezekiel 40-48 as figurative language for the Church. We must take the passage to be about those people whom God explicitly states it is about—national Israel who was in exile at that specific time for her wickedness in the ways that God specifies in this passage.

Explicit divine emphases on details and their purposes

In Ezekiel 40-48, God specifies that the details of the visions about the Temple had to be given to the house of Israel for very specific purposes:

Ezekiel 43:10 Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. 11 And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them. 12 This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.

This passage profoundly emphasizes that all the details in this vision matter and were vital for the purpose of causing the Israelites to be ashamed of all their iniquities! Ezekiel had to show them all the following: “the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof.” God explicitly asserts that every detail of the vision was significant and had to be shown to them!

Moreover, God commanded not just that the house of Israel be shown these things, but also that they had to measure the pattern of them, keep the entirety of what was shown, and do all the ordinances of it!

This passage thus has a profound explicit divine emphasis on all the details of the vision being vital in accomplishing two vital purposes for the house of Israel: (1) they would be ashamed of all their iniquities; and (2) they would fully obey everything that is commanded to them in the entire vision.

A Bible reader must allow what God explicitly says to determine what he is going to do with a passage. This passage shows that any attempt to take Ezekiel 40-48 figuratively as revelation about the Church must account for all the details of the passage in that handling. Moreover, the purposes of such figurative handling of all the details must be for the purposes of bringing the Church to repent of all the iniquities specified in the passage and to obey all the specific things commanded in the passage.

It is impossible to apply consistently a legitimate figurative handling of all the details of the passage and its stated purposes. To pick and choose what is literal and what is figurative would be to go against explicit, repeated divine statements in the passage that all the details matter.

We must allow the passage itself to direct us in how we are to interpret Ezekiel 40-48.

Not an extended metaphor!

In addition to what the previous passages have shown, Ezekiel 44:5-6 reiterates why Ezekiel 40-48 is not an extended metaphor:

Ezekiel 44:5 And the LORD said unto me, Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the LORD, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the housewith every going forth of the sanctuary. 6 And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations

This is the third passage in Ezekiel 40-48 that explicitly stresses that everything that God showed Ezekiel was important—all the details matter! Taking these 9 chapters as an extended metaphor for the Church or something else is directly contrary to the explicit divine emphasis on all the details that God declares repeatedly in these chapters.

Furthermore, what God says explicitly here again shows that a key purpose of these chapters was to bring the house of Israel to repent and turn from all their abominations. A legitimate figurative handling of these chapters would have to show how all the details pertain to the Church and would have to show how the Church is supposed to turn from all its abominations as a result of its receiving this revelation.

Finally, a legitimate figurative handling of these chapters would have to show specifically how the Church is supposed to obey all the specific directives given in the passage.

There are even more aspects of these chapters that show the impossibility of legitimately taking them as figurative language for the Church or something else. For the careful Bible reader, what the passages that I have already treated provide should be more than enough basis to reject any attempt to make the passage figurative language for the Church or something else.

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:1-43 records a song that is of profound musical importance for many reasons:

1. The song is one of the longest songs in the Bible: 43 verses

2. God appeared to Moses and gave him all the words of the song directly—none of it is at all of human composition

Deuteronomy 31:15 And the LORD appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle. 16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? 18 And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods. 19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.

3. The song instructs us of the stress that God has placed on warning His people about idolatry

Deuteronomy 31:16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? 18 And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods. 19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. 20 For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.

Deuteronomy 32:16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.

4. The song witnesses for God against the sinfulness of His own people

Deuteronomy 31:19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.

5. The song begins with a call for all the universe to hear the words of this song

Deuteronomy 32:1 Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

6. The song warns of human beings sacrificing to demons

Deuteronomy 32:16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. 17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.

7. NT use of the song reveals that bringing about musical worship of God was and is a premier goal of the mission of Christ as the Servant

Deuteronomy 32:43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

Romans 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.

8. NT use of the song reveals that the song ends with a command to the nations that concerns how the Gentiles are to glorify God for His mercy

Deuteronomy 32:43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

Romans 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.

Because of the profound musical importance of this song, God’s people must give special attention to profiting fully from it.

 

In the NT, the Holy Spirit profoundly highlights the importance of the resurrection appearances of Christ. Part I of this series treats some aspects of that importance in the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles.

The Gospels

All four Gospels testify that Christ appeared to His disciples after He rose from the dead (Matt. 28; Mk. 16; Luke 24; John 20-21). Because the Spirit inspired every writer of the Gospels to include the appearances, we know that such testimony is vital.

John emphasizes the importance of the appearances by writing in detail about several of them. He highlights that Thomas did not believe that He rose until He showed Himself to them personally (John 20:24-31).

Acts

The book of Acts highlights in several ways that Christ appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. Acts reveals that Christ over a 40-day period after His Passion “showed Himself alive” to His apostles “by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3).

Moreover, Acts reveals that Peter declared in his gospel message that God showed the risen Christ only to people that He chose (Acts 10:41a). He also said that those who were His witnesses ate and drank with Him after He rose (Acts 10:41b).

Similarly, Luke records that when Paul preached the gospel in Antioch of Pisida, he testified about those who saw Christ after He rose (Acts 13:31). Furthermore, Luke reveals that Paul’s mission was that he had to be His witness to all men of what he had seen and heard (Acts 22:15). Because what he had seen and heard was “that just One” and “the voice of His mouth” (Acts 22:14), we know that testifying to Christ’s appearing to Paul was an essential part of Paul’s mission.

The Epistles

First Corinthians 15 underscores the appearances of Christ after His resurrection in a profound way. Paul says that the gospel that he preached in Corinth included testimony to four key events concerning Christ: His death, burial, resurrection, and appearances (1 Cor. 15:3-8). Because he testified to those same four elements in Antioch as well, we know that the appearances were a vital part of his gospel message.

Application

We must allow the Spirit to to teach us from the NT just how much the resurrection appearances matter! In particular, we should learn from Him to follow Paul in evangelism by testifying to the appearances when we witness to lost people.

People in our day dispute whether unborn babies who die before birth are humans. Scripture provides important revelation that decisively answers that question.

Unborn Babies Who Die Before Birth

In the midst of his grievous trials, Job bemoaned God’s bringing him alive out of the womb by saying,

Job 10:18 Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb? Oh that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me! 19 I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.

To interpret these words properly, we must keep in mind that Job was not a Jew. We must understand that he was not following the Mosaic Law. We must also consider that he was the most righteous and godliest person alive in his day.

Godly Job, therefore, rightly believed that people should carry those who die before birth from the womb to the grave. Because Job believed that people should bury them after their death—just as they bury other humans after they die— he believed that the unborn are humans!

From Job, we thus learn that we must not discard those who die before birth as merely being “tissue” but not humans. Rather, he teaches us that unborn babies who die before birth are humans, and we must provide a proper end of their life by burying them.