Get The Bible Right

On Saturday night my wife showed me an article she had found that was written by a woman who said she had “divorced” Jesus.  I was curious too,  so I started looking at the article also,  and what I read in it was incredibly disturbing.  This woman had a litany of complaints concerning the way she felt that the Bible proved that God was emotionally abusive, and what instantly stood out about all of the examples that she gave was that even though she was trying to make her point by quoting the Bible, she was taking its words out of context.  The impression I got from reading her words was that she had been taught to believe things that the Bible never says, and that realization boldly underscores the necessity of getting the Bible right when we teach and study it.  To that end, I want to point out two huge pitfalls that we need to be aware of so that we don’t find ourselves making the kinds of mistakes in the way we handle the scriptures that lead this woman to be so angry at God.

First, we need to make sure that we don’t take the words of the Bible out of the context they were written in when we interpret what they mean to us in the present day.  Take for example the Psalms.  Let’s look at Psalm 127:

[Psa 127:1-5 HCSB] 1 Unless the LORD builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the LORD watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain. 2 In vain you get up early and stay up late, working hard to have enough food — yes, He gives sleep to the one He loves. 3 Sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, children, a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. 5 Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them. Such men will never be put to shame when they speak with their enemies at the city gate.

There are some who would take the last three verses of this Psalm to mean that God commands Christians to have families that are as large as possible.  The woman who wrote the article about her anger at God certainly thought that’s what this Psalm was saying.  But what is the context of those last three verses?  What comes before them?  Doesn’t the Psalm start out by saying that the Lord needs to be the one that builds a house?  Yes!  So then, is this a Psalm about the necessity of having huge families or about looking to the Lord to lead our lives?  I’m leaning pretty far towards the latter option, especially considering that it is thought that this Psalm may have been written by David for Solomon, and we know from scripture that the temple in Jerusalem was built by Solomon because the Lord wouldn’t permit David to build it.

The second huge error we need to avoid is that of starting with a belief and then trying to twist the words of the Bible to justify it.  The Bible is supposed to guide and inform our beliefs and behavior, not the other way around.  We don’t have the liberty to try to jam things in the Bible to justify beliefs and actions that it was never written to support.

Let’s look at Revelation 22 for an example.  Here’s what the second verse says:

[Rev 22:2 HCSB] 2 down the middle of the broad street of the city. The tree of life was on both sides of the river, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations,

You know, I actually listened to one preacher who used this verse as a springboard to talk about the ineffectiveness and unpopularity of the healthcare system in the United States.  While he’s entitled to his opinion, and he may have even been right in some of the things he said, he doesn’t have the right to jam his political beliefs into Revelation and then claim that his opinion is what the Bible teaches.  This verse is describing things of  Heaven!  No one’s sick in Heaven, so no one needs healthcare there!  Is anyone going to care what political party anyone else used to support when we find ourselves face-to-face with God?  Of course not.  Something tells me the Apostle John wasn’t thinking about Obama-Care as he was writing down what he saw in the vision he had been given.

The point of all of this is that there is a danger that comes into play when we don’t get the Bible right.  Misrepresenting God is a serious matter, and it’s something that we need to do our best to avoid.  No one’s perfect of course, and we all make mistakes and learn from them, but we shouldn’t let that dull our sense of how important it is to get the Bible right, even if we have the best intentions.  Is it right for a charlatan to take the Bible out of context?  Of course not.  We get legitimately upset when we see a story in the news where some quack has grossly twisted scripture for his own ends.  But it’s not right for well intentioned people to take the Bible out of context either.  There’s just as much damage to be done by glossing over the uncomfortable and difficult parts of the Bible as there is by teaching false gospels, and we need to be wary of both.

Get the Bible right.

Who’s Really In Charge Here?

I was reading through the first few chapters of Ezra the other day because it had occurred to me that it had been a long time since I looked at that book.  I love the way that book starts.  Here’s how the HSCB renders the first few verses:

[Ezr 1:1-4 HCSB] ‘1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The LORD put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing: 2 This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build Him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Whoever is among His people, may his God be with him, and may he go to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 Let every survivor, wherever he lives, be assisted by the men of that region with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, along with a freewill offering for the house of God in Jerusalem.”‘

There are so many things to like about this passage.  First off, it points to the faithfulness of God in that it directly addresses the fact that when the Lord promises to restore His people, it’s as good as done.  Only the timing is left to sort out.  In the case of the Jewish exiles, they had been given information about that timing, but after 70 years in captivity it still must have felt like they had been abandoned by God.  Secondly, this passage reminds us that Bible prophecy matters.  God doesn’t always reveal His actions ahead of time, but when He does, He prefers that we pay attention to the revelation He provides in scripture.  The third thing that I love about this passage is that it points out who’s really in charge of what goes on in the world.  Spoiler alert: God is.

Look at it again.  It says that God put the notion into the king’s mind to make this decree in writing.  That means that it wasn’t there before God did something about it.  God bent the will of an earthly king who thought he was in charge of all the civilized world and considered himself to be a deity.  Turns out though, God is the one who calls the shots.

Notice also that the king, again under the ultimate direction of the Lord, decrees that the Jews returning to Jerusalem are to be assisted by their neighbors with financial gifts. If you read on in this chapter, the book records that this did in fact happen and the Jewish exiles returned with plenty of provisions to rebuild the temple.  So then, not only was the Lord in charge of  directing the king, He was also at work in inspiring the generosity of the Jews’ neighbors in the Persian Empire.

So what’s the point of all this then in the 21st century?  The church isn’t the nation of Israel, and the Persian kings are long gone anyway.  The point, my friends, is that when God purposes to do something with you or through you, He will see it done regardless of the difficulties.  That’s what He did for Israel centuries ago, and He hasn’t changed.

Think about it.  The exiles had been slaves under Babylon and Persia for 70 years.  They probably weren’t the richest people.  So when the end of their captivity came and news went out that they could go back to Jerusalem, how do you think they thought they were they going to pay for rebuilding a city?  It must have seemed like an impossible obstacle, but God does funny things in impossible situations.

God still does funny things in impossible situations today.  Whatever task God may have assigned for you, no matter how impossible, is ultimately up to the Lord to accomplish, and He’s more than able to deal with any circumstances.  Is the money tight?  God can handle it.  Are there roadblocks in the way?  God can go over them.  Is there a ruler that has to sign off on it?  God is actually the one in charge of his department.


Has anything like this ever happened to you?  Leave a comment and tell us about it.


I read an email the other day written by some folks that were having a tough time with a project they were working on for their ministry because they were getting all kinds of flak from people who wanted to see them fail.  They were trying to do something good to honor the Lord and edify believers, yet it seemed to them that the people who treated God as an enemy were having their merry way and successfully side-tracking their best efforts.

That email made me think that all too often it’s easy for us as believers to get the idea in our heads that we’re facing our problems all on our own.  It’s not that we loose faith in the Lord or think that God has abandoned us, we just sort of forget sometimes that God is involved at all.  Then, later after the issue has passed and we realize that God has been at work, we see that He was there all along, but we didn’t realize it.

Take a look at this part of Psalm 17, which is a prayer from David:

[Psa 17:8-13 HCSB] 8 Protect me as the pupil of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings 9 from the wicked who treat me violently, my deadly enemies who surround me. 10 They have become hardened; their mouths speak arrogantly. 11 They advance against me; now they surround me. They are determined to throw me to the ground. 12 They are like a lion eager to tear, like a young lion lurking in ambush. 13 Rise up, LORD! Confront him; bring him down. With Your sword, save me from the wicked.

One of the things that I love about reading from the Psalms is that David was a man who had learned to avoid that problem.  He learned that lesson the hard way, but he learned it just the same.  So, when David is staring down whatever inspired this Psalm, he doesn’t waste any time at all on worrying where the Lord is in his life.  He’s learned to remember that the Lord is never far from him and is never disinterested in the people He loves.

That lesson is one that I think all of us Christians could stand to learn and learn well.  Life isn’t fair, and bad things happen, but the Lord is good and the Lord is faithful.  If we forget that, we end up trying to face our problems alone, and that isn’t a smart thing to do.  If we learn to remember that God is always involved, hardships and bad circumstances aren’t such a scary thing anymore.  Indeed, we can look at them, whether they be situations we’re stuck in or people seeking our harm, and like David we can have complete confidence that the Lord is in charge.

Look at the wording that David uses to describe his enemies.  He calls them deadly and wicked and hardened.  He points out their violence and their arrogance.  He likens them to lions, which I can tell you from experience are some pretty intimidating beasts.  As terrible as David’s enemies may be though, does he have any doubts about the Lord’s ability to deal with them?  Nope.  He doesn’t waste a moment asking something so ridiculous as whether or not God has the power to help him.  David knows that the Lord is able and willing to save the ones He loves from wicked people, no matter how dire the situation looks.

If nothing else sticks with you after reading this, remember to remember the Lord.  Remember that the Lord isn’t absent in your struggles and fears.  Remember that the Lord is able and willing to take on whatever frightens you.  Remember that even though the lions seem to be coming for you, the truth is that they have provoked the Lord, and even though they might not realize it, they have bitten off more than they could ever hope to chew.