Not To Us, But For Us- A Look at How We Read the Apply the Word of God

This post is part of the teaching series Truth Un-Mixed.  If you are new to this series I encourage you to start from the beginning and read all the way through as the teachings build one upon the other.  To Find all the posts in the series click here for the Table of Contents.  May you be blessed by His Truth alone!

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Once you begin to dive into the whole of scripture it doesn’t take long to realize that it can be confusing! Books like Leviticus, Numbers, and Hosea, can bring your bible study to a screeching halt because you are contextually lost. Most people just skip over stuff in the bible they don’t understand or they run to grab a commentary from someone smart to make sense of it for them. And while there is nothing wrong with seeking out additional study materials, I submit to you that this problem in lack of understanding of the whole of scriptures is much larger and more simple than not being scholarly enough to understand His words. In fact He tells us in 1 Corinthians that He uses the simple things to shame the wise. So our lack of understanding of the scriptures can not be due to brain power, or scholarly prowess but instead it is tied to our perspective and approach. We assume a lot of things about the bible and we have ways of reading it that can blind us to the truths contained there in. Lets look at a few of these common assumptions about biblical text and how they affect our understanding of the scriptures as whole.

For us, but not to us: The biggest misconception we, in western cultures have, is that the bible was written to us, and it wasn’t. The word of God is written FOR us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), but it wasn’t written TO us. Both the Old and New Testaments were written by Hebrew people, to a primarily Hebrew audience.  The text was written and understood both within the context of the Hebrew culture, containing Hebrew expressions, thought patterns, and cultural contexts. You may say, but what about the New Testament wasn’t it written in Greek? Yes, the New Testament was written in Greek, but it was written primarily by Jewish Hebrews to various messianic jews who had been scattered throughout the nations due to their rebellion in the Torah. That is why the Gospel was and has always been first to the Jew and then to the Gentile (or the nations). Not only is this a sequence of how the gospel was intended to go forth but is also a biblically established order of understanding. If you read and understand the bible in the wrong order, i.e.- through a gentile mindset first and then try to apply those gentile thoughts to the understanding of the Jewishness of the bible you will be led astray through misinterpretation.

This can be a sensitive topic because we, being gentiles, are asked here to willingly define ourselves as second and quite frankly we would prefer to be first.  But in His divine order we are the “younger brother” if you will.  It isn’t that we aren’t equally loved and accepted, because we are, in fact in Jesus we are united or grafted into our “big brother” as one new man, and a spotless bride for Him to return unto.   Each of us in the Kingdom of God just has his own order and roles that complete this oneness in Jesus.  It is similar to a husband and wife relationship, being that neither is considered better than the other, but the clearly defined roles each have, aid in the oneness and correct function of the relationship.  We can like this or hate it, accept it or reject it, follow His ordained order or not, but what we do with it doesn’t change it.

This was His choice. He chose Abraham, Issac, and Jacob to covenant with, He chose the Hebrew people to be His bride, He chose the land of Israel to be His possession and the place from which to establish both His first and second comings upon. His plans are perfect and, as we established previously, He never changes. And what is even more important about this distinction is that we realize that by our rejecting this order of understanding we only blind ourselves further to the purposes and plans of God. It is like only seeing the sunset once the sun has sunk behind the horizon. You see part of it, but you don’t experience it in its fullness, you miss the process and the beauty that viewing it in it’s intended order brings.

Our Consumer Approach: The second misconception we have about scripture is tied to how we approach it. We come to His word like a drive through. We are looking for the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to meet our needs. We want scriptures plucked out and put into topical order. We shop the pages for the best deal we can find, searching for what will cost us the least. We come to the pages looking for self-help, answers to questions, and for what we need, when we need it. And then… we put it back on the shelf.

It’s like the bible is our dollar store of wisdom and there is one thing that every item at the dollar store has in common, it is a cheaply made version of the real thing. It will give you a quick way to get immediate gratification, but it won’t last long. It will break and once again you will be back trying to meet your need again.  If you are dollar storing your bible you will never know Him, you will never be truly changed by Him, and you will eternally be lost without Him. It is one book, with one story, because it was meant to be understood, studied, and sought out as a whole, not in bit’s and pieces.

Copies of Him: Let’s dig a little deeper to the root of this consumer bible shopping perspective to find our third misconception about His word. The root at work here is selfishness. We don’t really want to study His word, we just want it to serve us. We don’t really want to know the whole story, just the parts that will directly affect us. This is blindness. And our blindness is due to the fact that we only know copies of Him. We have bits and pieces, shadows and types but we don’t really know Him in His fullness.  

We have made Him to look like we expect Him to, instead of seeing Him as He is. I can remember the first time it dawned on me that the Jesus that saved me was named and called Yeshua by his mother.  That He was a Jewish man, who was a Rabbi and a High Priest in the heavenly tabernacle who is making intercession for me.  This changed things for me.  It made me want to approach Him as He truly was, is, and is to come and not how I imagined Him to be.   When we do this, when we get a glimpse of who He truly is, it fills us with such awe, such reverence, such excitement that our only possible response is to commit our life to the study and discovery of Him. EVERYTHING we do, from dawn to dusk will be in the pursuit of Him and defined by Him. We will become like the man in Matthew 13 who found the treasure in the field and went back and sold everything He had so that he could go and buy the field.

Language, Context, and Continuity: Have you ever thought about the book of Galatians as a rugged, wrinkled, and coffee stained letter written in ancient history by a love-sick man exhorting His bride into love and faithfulness? My guess is probably not, because I sure hadn’t. But that’s what it is. In fact all the letters and writings of the apostles are just that, letters. They are letters written to very specific people, with many events, perspectives, challenges, questions, and life history all woven throughout. The authors were real men with thoughts, feelings, and challenges, like you and me. So in order to understand what they wrote we must first seek to know them, as they were, before we can understand their words.

Can you imagine finding an old love letter from someone you didn’t know, written to someone you had never met and then pulling out two or three obscure sentence out from the middle of that letter and building your life around those thoughts and truths? That would be ludicrous. But that is what we do when we pull verses out of the context of the whole word of God and build books, messages, and teachings around them. His words are like a quilt woven by our Father’s hands, one strand works with all the others to create a dense fabric of truth. Pulling one thread loose begins to unravel it’s truth, beauty, and purpose as a whole and leaves us wanting. The quilt is meant to be experienced as a quilt should, be in its fullness, so that it can serve to protect us and cover us under it’s weight. But one thread pulled loose can’t do the job. It can’t warm you on a cold night, it can’t defend you from the elements, and you can’t rest under it’s protection.

The scriptures are God’s proposal and pursuit of His bride. They are rich, complex, and full of the knowledge of Him. To earnestly seek Him we must submit to His order, contexts, and continuity found within His word. Once we submit ourselves to this kind of study of Him, He removes the scales from our eyes and we begin to SEE Him as He is. Just like a motivated bride seeking our her groom we should come searching, wanting, and desiring to get every drop of Him that He will allow. Desiring to know every detail of His true character, His past, His present, and our future with Him.  Because He is so great that He is worth selling it all in order to gain more of Him.

It is all there, one glorious powerful story of love that He is inviting us into. It will wreck you, call you to abandon everything that feels like home, and follow Him into ancient and unknown paths. But, as you are following Him with feet of faith, He will capture your heart. He will ravish you with His love and His attention to detail. He will blow your mind so wide open that you will wonder how in the world you have lived so long without this much of Him before. His word is His holy pursuit of a spotless bride and He is coming back for her alone. Let’s not kid ourselves, it is a dangerous and perilous journey.  But, it is the ONLY story on this earth with a happy ending in which the bridegroom returns and rules the world with His bride at His side.  Let’s get ready.

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