If we want to understand the Bible, the first thing we have to do is look for what it tells us about God. As I mentioned in my last blog, that is the first rule of biblical interpretation. It was written to tell us about Him, but if we aren’t looking for it, we’ll see a collection of stories, events, and a compact history of Israel. When we read the Bible with a mindset of seeking God, we see planning and purpose in what we are reading. We get insights into who God is, what He wants, and what He does. As we learn more about Him and draw closer and closer to Him, He draws closer to us and we begin to understand the “why” behind things we read in His book. The better we know Him, the less we will read, shrug our shoulders and say, “I don’t understand how or why this happened, so I’ll just have to except it on faith.” Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things we must simply except on faith, but when we know God and understand how He works, things begin to make sense. Knowing God means know why He does what He does. Before I move on to the next rule of biblical interpretation, I want to amplify why looking for God in His word is so important.
Even with all the material that’s part of the Old Law, one of the characteristics about God that became obvious to me from reading the Old Testament is that God is always simple and clear about what He wants. The Law came to show creation the need for Jesus to cover our sins and offer us grace. Trying to live by law is complicated and impossible! We need grace! God’s fundamental demand for man was to love him, love others, and love yourself. That was the beginning and end of the law, and Jesus simply refocused it as our path to a personal relationship with God. It was the New Commandment to His followers and it was the New Covenant Jesus talked about with the woman at the well in John 4. The new covenant of “spirit and truth” was not enthusiasm and doctrinal correctness in church, as most have interpreted His comments (4:21-24), but a one-on-one connection with His Father – rather than a place or time. It was a call back to what God has always wanted from all of His creation – love him by loving one another. That becomes the goal of everyone who wants to be a follower of Jesus.
Probably one of the biggest changes that studying God has caused in my understanding of His Word, is that we complicate God’s simple and clear directions. If God is simple and clear about what He wants, we should never have to wonder and guess or use wild logic to figure out what that is. If God wants us to do something, He commands us to do it. We’ve called it a “thus saith the Lord” approach to scripture. I see nothing in scripture where God ever used an example or an implied inference to communicate to His people what He wants them to do. Our tradition of making an example or implied inference equal to a direct command from God is poor and inaccurate teaching. If it’s important to God – He spells it out, and never asks His children to figure it out. Now, an example or inference that explains or modifies a command helps us understand the command, but to wonder, argue, and debate when and example or inference is binding on Christians to to enter into territory we have no business entering.
God is simple and clear. If it’s complicated, then man has done something to mess it up. When was the last time you heard people arguing over a command from God? When I hear folks arguing about what should and shouldn’t be done in “church” or “worship”or what our “stance should be on that issue,” I hear God speaking through Peter when he said, “Above all, love one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) It’s what God has always wanted. Look for Him when you read His Word. He’s always simple and clear!