God blessed me with a wonderful father. He went to be with Jesus when I was just 27, which is half my current age. Memories fade over time, but one thing in particular I remember about Daddy (yes I’m from the south) was his wit. Between my sophomore and junior year of college he and I traveled from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to Las Vegas, Nevada to help a new church with Vacation Bible School. The Vacation Bible School lasted a week, and, instead of heading home, we decided to tour California. From Las Vegas we went to San Francisco, drove the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles, then went to San Diego. While in Los Angeles we went to see the game show Password Plus. Game shows record a week of shows in one day. The same audience is used for the first three shows, then a new audience is used for the last two shows. We were in the first audience. As we were leaving the studio we passed by the people waiting to enter for the final two shows. All of a sudden a voice cried out, “Cecil Carpenter!” Well as it turned out a couple that lived in Hattiesburg and knew Daddy were waiting to enter the studio. The woman said, “What in the world are you doing here?” Daddy replied jokingly, “Well, everybody has to be somewhere.”
This is the third and final part in this series. In the first part I introduced the concept of biblical hermeneutics, which are principles for interpreting the bible. We need sound principles of interpretation because, even though we have the right to read and interpret the bible ourselves, we have an obligation to correctly interpret the bible. The second part introduced some interpretive principles focusing on the importance of “Scripture interprets Scripture,” and it included an example from the New Testament. In this concluding article I show how vital is the principle of “Scripture interprets Scripture” when interpreting the Old Testament.
In the first part of this series I introduced the concept of biblical hermeneutics, which are principles for interpreting the bible. We need sound principles of interpretation because, even though we have the right to read and interpret the bible ourselves, we have an obligation to correctly interpret the bible. This part introduces some interpretive principles focusing on the most important principle.
Years ago when I was still a boy I remember hearing a particular sermon illustration. I don’t remember what the sermon was about, and I don’t remember exactly how the illustration was presented, but I do remember the gist of it. Two grandsons were talking about their grandfather. The first grandson says, “It’s amazing that grandpa is 90 years old and he still doesn’t use glasses.” The second grandson replies, “Well maybe he just likes to drink from bottles.” The illustration is not particularly funny, but I think you get the point. The first grandson was referring to eyeglasses, and the second grandson thought he was referring to drinking glasses. The first grandson made what he thought was a literal statement. The problem was the second grandson gave a different literal meaning to “glasses.” The second grandson incorrectly interpreted the statement of the first grandson because he had a different primary meaning for “glasses.” Maybe the second grandson always referred to eyeglasses as eyeglasses and drinking glasses as glasses (or drinking glasses). Now I’m sure most of us would have understood “glasses” to mean eyeglasses. The problem, though, is there was not enough context to fully clarify which type of glasses the first grandson was thinking of, and, evidently, there were no other conversations about this particular subject that would cause the second grandson to realize the first grandson was referring to eyeglasses.
So what’s the point? The point is this is why we have differences in interpreting the bible. One person reads a verse and it means one thing, and another person reads the same verse and comes up with a different meaning. If I’m dependent only on my understanding of what words mean and ignore the context and what other parts of the bible have to say on the subject, I have a very subjective interpretation. It is subject to my education (secular and religious), my life experiences, my culture, and my version of common sense. In other words if I interpret the bible by what I consider to be literal I could easily come up with an incorrect interpretation.
Part 1 showed that God will not share his glory with anyone or anything, but we “fall short” of giving God the glory he is due (Romans 3:23). We plagiarize his glory by taking his glory and applying it to someone other than God, usually ourselves. In this part we will examine some of the areas in which God is glorified and how in each area fallen man refuses to give God the glory he deserves. Continue reading
Plagiarism is a serious offense in literary and academic environments. According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary plagiarism is “the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person.” We tend to limit plagiarism to the academic or professional arenas, but we find it in all spheres of life. I imagine most of us have had the experience of someone “stealing our thunder.” We have exciting news that we tell someone and they reply, “So and so already told me,” even though you told “so and so” not to repeat the news. That experience leaves us feeling a bit deflated. Also, a major problem today is identity theft. In this electronic age our personal information is always at risk of being stolen and used by someone else. This is the ultimate form of plagiarism, someone pretending to be me. So plagiarism runs the gamut from the minor repeating of family news to the more serious non-credited use of information or ideas to the take over of an identity. We are very scrupulous when it comes to making sure we get credit when credit is due, and we are outraged when someone else gets the recognition that is due us.
Why does God do what he does? What is his motivation for his plans, purposes, and actions? Is God motivated primarily by love? God’s love is certainly emphasized in Scripture. John 3:16, the most famous verse in the bible, speaks of God’s love.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)
Also, who doesn’t like 1 John 4:7-10, especially the end of verse 8 where it says, “God is love.”
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10 ESV)
When viewed in the light of Scripture, human arrogance is quite astounding. I mean to think that ignoring God, disagreeing with God, or trying to manipulate God is a rational thing to do simply displays the depth of our depravity. Continue reading
I imagine just about everyone has heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This saying is common because often it is true. I have been to the Grand Canyon many times. I could describe it by saying the canyon is vast and colorful, and it is very deep, long, and wide. That is a valid description but, because the description is so subjective and vague, it is not helpful. How vast is vast? What colors make it colorful? How deep is very deep? A picture does a much better job of describing the Grand Canyon because a picture captures an image of exactly what is there. (Even a picture, though, does not compare to standing at the edge of the canyon and looking for yourself.) As useful as pictures are, God chose to give us his Word, not his photo album. We don’t need pictures to see how great God is since we see his creation, but we do need to hear from God to know who he really is. He must tell us about himself if we are to truly know him. What pleases God? What displeases God? What is his character? What is important to him?
Every year around Christmas I enjoy hearing Handel’s Messiah. Last Christmas our family had the privilege of hearing the Christmas portion of this glorious work at the Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The parish was established in 1674 and the current building was completed in 1715. The exterior is original and the interior was restored to its original look when Colonial Williamsburg began its restoration in the 1930’s. The church’s choir and orchestra did a masterful job, and it was wonderful to hear it in such a historic setting. As significant as was the setting and the experience, it was one phrase of the performance that for me was truly significant.
The Messiah consists of scripture compiled by Charles Jennens. George Frederick Handel took that text and composed the oratorio in 24 days. One of my favorite pieces in The Messiah is the fourth song, “And the Glory of the Lord.” I love the music, the harmonies, and the grandeur of the song, but that is not my main reason for my preference for this piece. The song is based on Isaiah 40:5.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40:5 KJV)
The last phrase is what I love, “for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” It emphasizes the power and certainty of God’s spoken word. Continue reading