the interpretive journey

Interpretive Journey of Deuteronomy 22:8

“When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof
so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house
if someone falls from the roof.” (Deut. 22:8)

We'll start our journey of this verse with some observations. Observations help the reader to notice certain things which may be overlooked if not closely scanned. After the observations we'll go step-by-step through interpreting this verse and see how significant OT verses like these are for us today. 

Observations

There are repeated words like “you”, “house”, “your”, and “roof”; which is exactly what this verse is about, the roof of their houses. There some active verbs in “build”, “make”, “bring”, and “falls”. There is a command in “When…make”. The NKJV, ESV, NASB, and KJV all say “you shall make”. Also, the phrase “so that you may not…if” is a resultant statement.

Step 1: What did the text mean (or what was the author's intent) to the biblical audience?

This instruction may have been received with mixed understanding. By this time the people of Israel were within months of entering the Promised Land, meaning they were still living in tents not in houses they would eventually build. This is why the very first word of this verse is so important (“When”) because it denotes a time to come. The mixed understanding may have come because only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb would remember Egypt and the style of houses there (and perhaps certain enemies who had clay brick houses also) to know why God would give this instruction, unlike the present generation getting ready to enter the Promised Land who probably had no idea what this meant. This verse falls in the midst of other laws regulating religious and social life. It’s not connected to anything else. It is its own singular instruction. This verse also contains correlation to the sixth commandment in that if you do not take the necessary steps to ensure, in this case, the safety of someone in your house so that if they die because of your negligence then you are at guilt for their bloodshed. Later in Israel’s history the roof of their houses would be flat and used as a place for grain (Josh. 2:6), to relax (2Sam. 11:2), for privacy (Acts 10:9), and guests (1Sam. 10:25-26). Thus, God was giving His people a preventive instruction in this verse, “When you build a new house, make a parapet (ma’aqeh, e.g. a guardrail or wall like around a balcony) around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof (e.g. be punishable for breaking the sixth commandment).”

Step 2: What are the difference between the biblical audience and us?

We are no longer under the Old Covenant. We are not about to enter into the land promised to our ancestors by God. We do not live in tents in the Middle Eastern desert or Middle Eastern style houses. We have not been wandering in the desert for forty years. We are not civilians of a theocracy. We have never seen or been led by God personally in the form of a cloud or fire. Moses nor Joshua is not our mediator, Jesus is. And so on the list can go.

Step 3: What is the theological principle in this text?

Follow God’s preventive wisdom for yours and others safety.

Step 4: Does the New Testament teaching modify or qualify this principle, and if so, how?

The New Testament is full of God’s preventive wisdom for ours and others safety. There are numerous verses and passages telling us to flee something sinful and ultimately destructive (e.g. 1Cor 6:18; 10:14, 1Tim. 6:11, 2Tim. 2:22, Jam. 4:7), seek God and the things of God (e.g. Matt. 6:33; 7:7-8, Rom. 14:19, 1Cor. 7:27; 10:24), follow Jesus (e.g. Matt. 10:38, 1Cor. 11:1, Eph. 5:1, 1Jn. 2:6), don’t worry or be anxious (e.g. Matt. 6:25-31, 34, Phil. 4:6-7), be persistent and serious in prayer (e.g. Lk. 18:1, 1Pet. 4:7), owe no one anything but to love them (e.g. Rom. 13:8-9), there will be troubles and such so stand firm (e.g. Jn. 16:33, 1Cor. 15:58; 16:13, Gal. 5:1, Eph. 6:10-13), etc, etc.

Step 5: How should individual Christians today apply this modified theological principle in their lives?

Christians today should apply God’s preventive wisdom just as we would follow the prescription for our medicine giving to us from the doctor, step by step, day by day, just as instructed for as long as instructed.

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References:
The One Volume Bible Commentary, 1936
NASB Life Application Study Bible, Updated Edition, 2000
NIV Archaeological Study Bible, 2005
The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 1999
Biblos.com


3/4/2010

Interpretive Journey of Numbers 15:17-21

“The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land to which I am taking you and you eat the food of the land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD. Present a cake from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offering from the threshing floor. Throughout the generations to come you are to give this offering to the LORD from the first of your ground meal.’” (Num. 15:17-21)

We'll start our journey of this verse with some observations. Observations help the reader to notice certain things which may be overlooked if not closely scanned. After the observations we'll go step-by-step through interpreting this verse and see how significant OT verses like these are for us today.

Observations

There are repeated words in “the LORD”, “you”, “land”, “present”, “offering”, “the first of your ground meal”, and “from”. There are active verbs in “enter”, “taking”, “eat”, “present”, and “give”. A generational statute is given, “Throughout the generations to come you are to give this offering”. There is an action of God, He takes them to the land (v. 18). There are actions of the people, they do the entering, eating, presenting, and giving. Also, there is a command, “present…an offering”. In the NKJV, ESV, NASB, and KJV they say “you shall” right before, indicating a command. 

Step 1: What did the text mean (or what was the author's intent) to the biblical audience?

At this point in Israel’s journey this specific instruction of God probably didn’t make much sense to the people. Ten of the twelve spies sent to spy on the Promise Land had come back with a bad report, and the people of Israel listened and refused to enter the land which God swore they would have (ch. 14). So, God assures them that due to their refusal they will not enter the land, none of them twenty and older (14:29); that is except for Joshua and Caleb (14:30). But the people mourned more for the word from God than the word of the spies. They decided they are ready to enter the land like they should of the first time. Despite the warning of Moses and the word of the LORD, they presume to enter (14:39-44) and were defeated (v. 45). The following instructions in chapter 15 come on the heels of there double disobedience to God and defeat of the Amalekites and Canaanites, all regarding the Promise Land. They were just told they were not going to enter the Promise Land, only Joshua, Caleb, and their children—who they complained would be victims—would enter, they on the other hand would die in the wilderness. Thus these instructions were for the Israelites that would be entering the land (v. 17-18). These instructions were also similar to that spoken of already in Exodus (34:26) and Leviticus (2; 23:9-14, 17). And, the term “food of the land” indicates that the entering generation would no longer be eating manna and quails, but rather food from the land (cf. Josh. 5:10-12). As a result of this all, the overall objective of this text is obedience and honoring God with an offering of the first of the “ground meal” of the land He was bringing them into.

Step 2: What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?

We are no longer under the Old Covenant. We haven’t recently been defeated by the people occupying the land we were promised by God to possess. We are not about to enter into the land promised to our ancestors by God only to be told we will now die in the wilderness because of our disobedience, complaining, and complete lack of trust in God. We do not live in tents in the Middle Eastern desert. We have not been recently freed from slavery and bondage to Egypt with great signs and wonders. We are not civilians of a theocracy. We have never seen or been led by God personally in the form of a cloud or fire. Moses is not our mediator, Jesus is. And so on the list can go.

Step 3: What is the theological principle in this text?

Obedience to God and honoring Him with an offering of the first of what He has blessed us with.

Step 4: Does the New Testament teaching modify or qualify this principle, and if so, how?

Obedience is the greatest manifestation of the people of God. As we obey God to love, forgive, be faithful, and so on God is glorified (cf. Matt. 5:16). Obedience to God is presented in the New Testament just as much as it was in the Old Testament (e.g. Lk. 11:28, Jn. 10:27; 14:15, Rom. 8:5, 14, 1Pet. 1:13-16, 1Jn. 2:3-6, Rev. 22:14). As for honoring God with an offering of the first of what He has blessed us with, the New Testament says very little on this. Actually in the book of Hebrews the author says that God had no pleasure in “sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin (which are offered according to the law)”, and in Christ “He takes away the first that He may establish the second” (Heb. 10:8-9). Through the offering of Jesus Christ “we have been sanctified…once for all” (Heb. 10:10). Now if this entails every offering ever instituted under the Law, then we are no longer obligated to present an offering to God for anything other than because we want to. However, there are other verses that say our offerings are to be “the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15), doing good and sharing (Heb. 13:16), walking in the love of Christ (Eph. 5:2), and presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1). So we can continue to obey God as those in the Old Testament and honor God with an offering of the first of ourselves—that is the life He has blessed us with—though not as a fulfillment of the law but purely because we want to honor God and He deserves it.

Step 5: How should individual Christians today apply this modified theological principle in their lives?

By learning and following the wisdom and instructions in the Word of God. For every day presents an opportunity for believers to obey or disobey the God’s instructions, to follow Him or follow what we think is fitting, and to honor or not honor Him with the first (best) of our lives that He has blessed us with.

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References:
The One Volume Bible Commentary, 1936
NASB Life Application Study Bible, Updated Edition, 2000
NIV Archaeological Study Bible, 2005
The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 1999
Biblos.com


3/4/2010

Interpretive Journey of Leviticus 26:1

“Do not make idols or set-up an image of a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 26:1)

We'll start our journey of this verse with some observations. Observations help the reader to notice certain things which may be overlooked if not closely scanned. After the observations we'll go step-by-step through interpreting this verse and see how significant OT verses like these are for us today.

Observations

There are some repeated words, “do not” and “stone”. There is a comparison between “set-up an image of a sacred stone for yourselves” and “place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it”. Both make emphasis on the insertion of a created thing and the personal implication of it. There are four active verbs used: “make”, “set-up”, “place”, and “bow”. God is giving the command of “do not make…or set-up” and “do not place…to bow down before it”, and then reveals why in the last sentence, “I am the LORD your God.” In the NKJV, NASB, ESV, and KJV they all place the conjunction “for” before the last sentence, indicating the previous command is a result of this final statement in this verse.

Step 1: What did the text mean (i.e. what was the author's intent) to the biblical audience?

During this time in the newly freed Israel, the Israelites—still encamped in the wilderness (4:12; 14:3; 16:10)—were receiving the more detailed portions of the Law. In the Book of Leviticus we see the Israelites receiving laws on sacrifice (chs. 1-7), the consecration of the priesthood (chs. 8-10), laws of clean and unclean (chs. 11-15), instructions for the “Day of Atonement” (ch. 16), and additional laws of holiness (chs. 17-27). This specific command of God is not a new one, but rather an already repeated one (cf. Ex. 20:1-6; 23:24; 34:14). Furthermore, this verse (26:1) comes directly after God giving the children of Israel instructions in regards to the land they will inherit (ch. 25); which sheds light on why in the very next verse (26:2) God mentions again observing His “Sabbaths” and reverencing His “sanctuary”—something He spoke on in previous chapters. Thus when God speaks this verse the Israelites took it just as He meant it the other times, “Do not worship (bow down to—hawa) anything else other than Me, no idols, images, sacred pillars, or carved stones; for I am the LORD your God.”

Step 2: What are the difference between the biblical audience and us?

There are obvious and numerous differences set in place here. Present believers are no longer under the Old Covenant as were our Hebrew brethren then. We do not live in tents in the Middle Eastern desert. We are not about to enter into a land promised to our ancestors by God. We have not been recently freed from slavery and bondage to Egypt with great signs and wonders. We are not civilians of a theocracy. We have never seen or been led by God personally in the form of a cloud or fire. Moses is not our mediator, Jesus is. And so on the list can go.

Step 3: What is the theological principle in this text?

God alone deserves and is worthy of our worship, nothing nor anyone else should be in His seat of honor and devotion in our lives.

Step 4: Does the New Testament teaching modify or qualify this principle, and if so, how?

Those under the New Covenant are far from exempt from this strongly conveyed principle in the Old Testament. Jesus says no one can serve two masters for he will hate the one and love the other—you cannot serve God and riches—(Matt. 6:24), the greatest commandment is to love the LORD our God with our whole being—mind, heart, soul—(Matt. 22:36-40), and He told Satan when tempted to worship him that worship is only for God and none other (Matt. 4:9-10). According to Jesus, God doesn’t get second place, only first! Furthermore, the Apostle Paul says that idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor. 6:9-10), do not become idolaters as were our Old Testament brethren (1Cor. 10:7), and as frank as one can say it, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1Cor. 10:14). Also, the Apostle John says as his final word in his first letter, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (1Jn. 5:21). Idolatry—worship of something other than God—is just as strongly renounced in the New Testament as it is in the Old Testament.

Step 5: How should individual Christians today apply this modified theological principle in their lives?

Christians today can apply this principle by following the scriptures regarding idolatry and worship. Just looking at the ones mentioned above, if I pursue Jesus as my first priority this will help me stay free from giving His worship and devotion to something or someone else. Apostle John tells us to keep (phulassó) ourselves from idols, literally meaning guard ourselves from idols. This is great preventive medicine for our idolatrous tendencies. Stay on guard for areas, people, and things in our lives that we can put in the place of worship that’s supposed to be strictly designated for God. Also, Apostle Paul says to flee (pheugó) from idolatry, literally meaning run away from idolatry as in running away like escaping from someone or something that has us. This too is good for preventive measures and/or for when the Holy Spirit reveals to us an area of possible or active idolatry in our lives. 

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References:
The One Volume Bible Commentary, 1936
NASB Life Application Study Bible, Updated Edition, 2000
NIV Archaeological Study Bible, 2005
The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 1999
Biblos.com 


3/4/2010

A Short Interpretive Journey of 1Timothy 6:10

"For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1Tim. 6:10, NASB)

1. Summarize the original situation and the meaning of the text for the biblical audience.

Paul is writing a letter to Timothy who is at Ephesus (1:1-3). This is a letter of instructions and exhortations to Timothy for the church at Ephesus (1:3ff, 15ff, 18ff; 2:1ff, 8ff, 11ff; 3:1ff, 8ff, 11ff, 14ff; 4:1ff, 6ff, 9ff, 11ff; 5:1ff, 17ff; 6:1ff, 3ff, 11ff, 17ff, 20ff). In chapter 6 verses 6-10 Paul is addressing contentment. In verse 9 Paul specifically calls out “those who desire to be rich”. He says of “those” that they “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” Thus when we come to verse 10 Paul is basically summing up what he called out in verse 9: “For the love of money”—those who desire to be rich—“is a root of all kinds of evil”—temptation, a snare, many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.

2. What are the difference between the biblical audience/situation and our situation?

Some obvious differences are we are not the church at Ephesus, we don’t live in the first century, and our current economic plateau isn’t the same. Another difference is that every believer who reads this verse may not be a leader/pastor as was Timothy.

3. List the theological principles communicated by the passage.

If there is a love of money inside you (a desire to be rich) it will produce (lead to) all kinds of evil. Also, in light of the surrounding context, another principle is rather than desiring to be rich desire godliness and be content with what you have.

4. How should Christians today apply the theological principles in their lives?

An example of how to apply this theological principle today would be for a Christian not to pursue a career, advancement, ministry, achievements, or whatever else strictly or largely for the monetary or status gain. Another application is instead of having a love for money (desiring to be rich or wealthy or wanting more for more’s sake) gather (pray for and seek) a desire for godliness, contentment, and the love of Christ—which we do by reading, studying, and abiding in the Word of God.


Although this is not an extensive look at this verse, this short blurb is still powerfully to the point and challenges us to not want (desire) more for more’s sake—something I call the worship of self-gratification—because it’s ultimately to our disadvantage and destruction if we do so.

The Interpretive Journey of Colossians 3:1-4

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." (Col. 3:1-4, NASB)

1. Summarize the original situation and the meaning of the text for the biblical audience.

Paul wrote the letter to the Colosse church during his imprisonment in Rome, somewhere between the late 50’s and early 60’s AD. One of Paul’s converts, Epaphras, requested Paul’s help in dealing with a dangerous threat to this young, but vibrant fellowship. It is said that Paul didn’t establish this church but rather Epaphras (1:7, 2:1). Paul’s relationship with the church at this time would’ve been strictly by way of letter (probably the letters to the Ephesians and Laodiceans) and fellow laborers in the ministry (Epaphras, Archippus, Philemon, and Onesimus). This letter is the response to the problem within this church. The Colosse church of Paul’s day was a mixture of Jewish and Gentile Christians. Jews had ventured to this province of Phrygia two centuries earlier. So Colosse was a melting pot of religion, philosophy, and Gentile practices; this in turn being the problem for the young Colosse church. The dilemma was known as “syncretism”—combining ideas from other philosophies and religions with Christian truth. In light of the mixture of cultures within the church, there were various Jewish teachings and the early hint of what later became known as Gnosticism taking root. Paul calls out the outbreak of the heretical teachings in the Colosse church particularly in chapter 2, but uses both chapter 1 and 2 to target what actually to believe. Thus by the end of chapter 2 those listening had sat through a serious heretical gut-checking. They were then ready to hear how they are to respond to this blessed information (chapters 3 and 4). In verses 1-2 of chapter 3, Paul starts with a conditional charge to the believers in Colosse on what he previously explained in chapters 1 and 2, (“If then you were raised…Seek those…Set your…”). In verses 3-4 Paul sums up the “why” for the influence behind what is to be their new way of living and thinking—which is to follow in the remaining verses and subsequent chapter.

2. What are the differences between the biblical audience/situation and us today/our situation?

There are three noticeable differences between us today and the church of Colosse in the first century. One, we are in America not first century Asia Minor. Two, we are not made up of first century Jew and Gentile believers, nor are we struggling with legalistic Judaism and early Gnosticism. And three, we are not all young Christians or members of new-found churches. Despite these three, the river separating them from us is not that wide. We today continue to struggle with heretical teachings, some lingering from Judaism (Sabbath and dietary observances) and Gnosticism (mysticism, new-age spirituality, etc.). Greek philosophical thinking and teaching is still prevalent. The denial of the humanity and deity of Jesus (Modalism) and the worship of other beings as mediators between us and God (Catholicism) carry on today as back then. This letter from Paul is just as much for us now as it was for the Colosse church.

3. What are the timeless theological principle(s) communicated in this passage?

The theological principles in this text are “seek those things which are above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God”, and “set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth” like traditions and deceptive philosophy (knowledge for knowledge sake).

4. How should Christians today apply the theological principle(s) in their lives?

The theological principles found in this text are for every Christian facing teachings (e.g. rejection of the humanity and/or divinity of Jesus, knowledge is enough for salvation, etc) and traditions in opposition to Christ (e.g. the worship of angels, circumcision, etc). Since our day in age is similar to the time when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, as far as the heavy presence of religious traditions and philosophy, we can take hold of these principles immediately in just about any situation where tradition or philosophy opposing the truth in Christ is present. Some of our workplaces function in ways contrary to Christ, we then can set our minds on things above and not be persuaded to conform to those things on our job. Or for students who are facing secular philosophies in high-school and college, praising knowledge and science and belittling faith in Christ, we can seek those things which are above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God and not be deceived with persuasive words or empty philosophy. Some may be caught up in traditionalism at their place of worship or in their family, but these traditions are not in accordance with the truth we have and know in Christ. In this we can seek and set our mind on things above where Christ is and not be cheated through the traditions of men, which have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion. These principles can be applied to any area that is attempting to get us to view or accept Christ less than what He truly is.


2010