Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Extra Puzzle Pieces: Understanding God from the Bible

Ever read a passage from the Bible that you don't understand?

I'm guessing that if you've been reading the Bible for any length of time you've had this experience. And it comes in a couple of varieties:

Number 1 - I think I'm missing something here...
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, - Ephesians 2
Why did Paul just say I am "seated" with Christ? Pretty sure I'm "seated" in my office chair right now. I've heard of being "saved," "justified," even "sanctified," but didn't know that "sitting" was a huge part of the Christian experience.

Number 2 - They didn't cover that in Sunday School.
Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. - Genesis 9
Noah!?!? What about the cute animals in the ark and the rainbow and everything. I always thought I wanted to go sailing with him, now I'm thinking maybe me and Noah should hit up Whiskey River.

Number 3 - What the crap!?
At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. 25But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.) - Exodus 4
Honestly, I don't really know. But if the LORD meets me and is about to kill me, I'm not sure Heather would do that to save my life. And now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure I would want her to.

The truth is that the Bible was written thousands of years ago, over a period of thousands of years, by different authors living in different cultures. Remember trying to understand just what Shakespeare was talking about in high school English class? Well, Shakespeare only lived 400 years ago and spoke our language. Now think that Moses lived at least 3500 years ago and spoke Hebrew, and you're starting to understand the gap of cultures that existed. So it is no surprise that it is difficult to comprehend. Understanding God from the Bible is like putting together a puzzle only to find extra pieces in the box. Once you are sure the picture is complete you find some new piece of information that needs explaining and needs to fit.

But here is the good news. God wants to be known and understood and He doesn't expect perfect understanding. Each picture we puzzle together is an understanding of God, and every piece we add is a clearer picture. It's a cute kitten. No wait, I think it's a cat. oooh here's another... Oh, I think it might be a lion.

So here's what this means practically: when you don't understand a verse of the Bible don't ignore it. Instead underline it and highlight it. Because that is a piece of God's character or of your own nature that you don't grasp quite yet. And in my experience as the years pass by and you gain wisdom and perspective those verses which have been highlighted and underlined, with question marks in the margin, become the verses which reveal the most to you.

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