Our opinion versus the word of the Lord.

December 12, 2014.

A wicked man puts on a bold face,
    but the upright gives thought to his ways.
No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
    can avail against the Lord.
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but the victory belongs to the Lord.”
(Proverbs 21:29-31)

There is a way that seems right to man, but in its end is death. We, as human beings, harbor many opinions, thoughts and interpretations of what life is and how it is supposed to be carried out. We all grew up in different settings, have seen different things and been raised in different ways. These backgrounds are what lead us to seeing the world through our own eyes and interpreting it though our own beliefs and opinions. This is natural. But this can be detrimental when it comes to religion.

No, religion isn’t spared from this interpretation of opinions, as we see things in different ways. When we read the bible, we tend to read it through our 21st century eyes and can often read things into the text that are not there. We read words that mean one thing to us but might have had a different connotation to the characters being written about. We overlook phrases and syntax that meant things to those writing that have been lost in translation (though good translations of the bible do try to include as much of these idioms as possible in a way that makes sense to us). To an extent, I think this is fine (be on the look out for another post that I’m planning on writing about translations and the original language). But when we start reading things that aren’t actually in the bible because it fits our belief system better, we then are making a mistake.

See, the bible should be read and then our beliefs should be extrapolated from this unbiased reading. Too often, however, do we form our belief system and then go to the bible to try to back it up. I have been guilty of this many times in the past. If we are to understand what was meant, we need to understand the culture in which it was written and then how it can be extrapolated to our time and culture. No, this does not mean our complete understanding of Christianity will change, as I believe that is the case that God has providentially taken care of the way to understand the fundamentals that are unchanging (as all things with God are eternal). But some of our understanding will indeed change, and what a wonderful change that will be as we get closer and closer to the actual meaning of the word of God.

But we need to fully understand that in the end, “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.”

This idea has been slowly showing itself to me over the past few years as I have studied and talked with people who have a deeper understanding of Jewish language and culture than I do. You see, when we take the bible and try to fit it to our own understanding, we are trying to use our own wisdom and logic to make a reasonable case for our beliefs. Sometimes this is good, as sometimes our reasoning does align with biblical teaching. But often, our reasoning involves stringing together a few passages that are unrelated and making our point. Again, I have been guilty of this before, and this is why I try to use much larger sections of scripture when I teach now, to get the context of it. Can we make application outside of the immediate context of the passage? Sure. But we just need to be careful we don’t overstep our bounds.

I do not believe that this philosophy is anything new. It was around at the time that Jesus came to this earth. Who did Jesus have the most trouble with? Was it not the teachers of the law, the leaders of Judaism?

“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
(Matthew 15:1-9)

The Pharisee’s had taken the Law and fit it to their own beliefs. This might not even had been intentional. Years and years of studying and thinking about the law had molded God’s law to the thoughts and cares of man. They had the law so twisted to fit their opinions that they had digressed from the original intent of the law and were binding heavier burdens on the people and were unyielding with them (ref. Matt. 23:4). This did not stop with the Pharisees, but Paul seems to have had to deal with the same type of reasoning. In his letter to the church at Colossi, he gives this warning:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”
(Colossians 2:8-10)

The warning was not to be taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit. When we listen to the clever arguments of men as opposed to the word of God, we have been deceived. And we must need remember that “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.”

So, can this still happen today? I believe that this not only happens, but is prevalent in our society. When the Martin Luther challenged the Catholic church, he did something that was necessary, but also cause a wave of free interpretation and fractionation amongst the body of Christ. Today we see the results of this process that started so long ago. When we each turn to a passage of scripture under the impression that it can mean something different to us than it did to someone else, we being to allow our thoughts and opinions to bleed into the words of God.

Now, am I saying that we will all come to the same conclusion on every single thing? No. There is even evidence in the New Testament that the disciples and early Christians didn’t agree on every single thing. But they did agree on the important stuff. They all agreed on who Jesus was. They agreed about how to become a Christian (after some correction about circumcision). They all opposed the immediate would around them that pressured them not to believe in Christ as Lord. And they seemed to be able to get over the little stuff, at least with some coaxing from the apostles and leaders of the early church.

But today, this fractionation is evident. And I can see at least partially where we have went wrong when I pick up a commentary and read a section that is three times the length of a passage explaining why the passage doesn’t actually mean what it says. This frustrates me to no end. I sometimes get so angry that I just have to put it down and stop reading. It is here where I think we have made a crucial mistake. When the word of God says something, I think we should take it for what it says (more on this in another post). God has the power to deliver His message to us today though the words that have been providentially preserved.

How did we diverge from the words that were written? I believe it has to do, at least in part (and a big part), to our pride. We read and we think we are given some understanding that no one else has come to before. We either want the resignation or the justification for something in which we believe. Or we read and understand with the understanding that has been passed to us over the years in a very prideful tradition. I mean, after all, how could all those before me have been wrong? We must have it right.

Pride is a nasty thing, as I have said before. And it’s something that I think we all deal with. A while ago my friend showed me his new bible that he was quite excited about with a commentary attached. Don’t get me wrong, I think commentaries can be very helpful and they serve a purpose, but I took the commentary, checked a few places where I knew doctrine would be added in if it was and he could tell I was looking for something. He asked what I thought, and I just said “Just remember who wrote which side of the page.” When commentaries are written, it is almost impossible to keep opinion and our own doctrine out of it. Thus, when we read a commentary, we need to take it with a grain of salt, not just believing everything that is written. When I make a point, I do my best to include the relevant scripture, because I don’t want you to take my word for it. My word means nothing. I am nothing. God’s word has the final say.

And remember, “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.” 

I believe we need to read the bible both more simplistically and more in depth at the same time. This may sound contradictory, but I think it is possible. When we read, we need to take it for what it says, even if we don’t like what it says (yes, there will be places that make you uncomfortable, I promise. That’s why you and I are not God). But we also need to read it through the eyes of the audience it was written to. Will this change fundamental truths that extend though time and culture? No. But it will give us a better understanding of these fundamental truths and help us to really see what is being taught, so that we can indeed apply it to our lives.

Am I saying we should throw everything out on the basis that it is not our culture? Not at all. We should read it with the understanding of culture to even better apply the words to what we do. God is eternal. He is not going to simply change His mind and let us live by a different system than that which was set up 2,000 years ago. But we do need to read in such a way as to actually understand this system so that we can indeed live by it. I believe that if we did this, the church would again grow as it once did in the face of rampant persecution and oppression.

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
    can avail against the Lord.
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but the victory belongs to the Lord.”
(Proverbs 21:30-31)

The day of battle is upon us, but the victory has already been won. This is something in which we can stand assured. On that day, that glorious day when the Lord of heaven and earth returns, will you stand on the side victorious? If not, I urge you to reconsider your position in life. I urge you to find the steadfast love of the Lord, so that you may enter into His rest on that great and glorious day of the Lord.

Suggested Daily Reading: Proverbs 21, Job 38-40, Ezekiel 24, Matthew 15, Colossians 2.

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.”

-Walter

One Comment Add yours

  1. Renee Harrington says:

    AMEN!

Leave a Reply, seasoned with salt.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s