Exegetical Tomfoolery


A while ago I posted this on the old site, and I was reminded of it this morning in a conversation I had with a professor of mine.

I love the Bible. I love its simplicity, its complexity, its beauty, its harmony and diversity, its ability to enliven, to convict, to comfort, to give wisdom. I love that when the Word is open and read by believers in faith, the Holy Spirit is present, guiding and shaping, deepening and growing faith. I love that Scripture is never wrong, never inadequate, never out of date, and never irrelevant. I love the Bible because I love Christ, and I never see him more clearly than in Scripture.

So it bothers me when I see believers wielding Scripture like some sort of blunt tool, without regard for how it is meant to be used. “Don’t you know that all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness?” they say, as if that justifies them. It seems to me, however, that trying to use Scripture for those purposes in the wrong way is like stabbing a tomato with a potato peeler and claiming that you’re preparing dinner. The way I see it, at that point you’re using a good tool to ruin a potentially good meal.
Let me give an example: how many times have you heard a sermon on courage with Joshua as the sermon text? “Joshua was strong and courageous, so we should be strong and courageous,” says the preacher, “Let’s all be Joshua.” I’m not saying Joshua isn’t a good figure to emulate if you want to be courageous. But if all you want is a role model, why not use Gandhi? In fact, if we’re just in it for the role model, why use a real person at all? Why not use Samwise Gamgee or Pericles?

Jesus interpreted all of Scripture in light of himself (Luke 24:27), and Paul says that all of Scripture was written for us (Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11). Each Old Testament story holds a lesson or an encouragement for us, but not each Old Testament story is about us. The next time you read an Old Testament story, try to see where Jesus fits before you plunk yourself down in the narrative. If you do this, you may see in Joshua the faithful Commander who fought for the people of God to secure an inheritance for them. You may see in Joseph the highly favored Son whose death and resurrection bought salvation for his brothers. You may see in Noah the Architect of the salvation of mankind. You may see in Moses the meek Intercessor for God’s people.

When we see Jesus in Scripture first and ourselves second, the Bible comes to life! It’s majesty and beauty become so much more evident when examined in light of the Author. The Word is about the Word, and it is presented to us that we may behold in its ancient pages the Ancient of Days. We desire the pure milk of the Word that we may see the Desire of Nations, and find life in him. It is as Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).

Let’s read the Scriptures with the eyes of faith to see the glorious Author and Finisher of our faith!


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