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A Matter of Life and Death
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Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Wendy Wippel

A list of approaches to Bible interpretation I just printed off includes more than twenty, ranging from the Traditionalist method (how did Jews interpret this text?) to the Liberationist (has this text been used to oppress people?).  To wit, a pretty wide range. The Wippelist approach?  A minority view.  The Jesus method.

That method Jesus revealed in the Sermon on the Mount:

"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." (Matthew 5:18 NKJV)

Principle #1: Every detail is important. (Rabbinical tradition is that when Messiah comes, He will interpret not only the text, but each and every letter. And not only the letters, but each and every space between the letters.  Every bit of it is significant. )

And it's revealed on the Emmaus road:

"beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."  (Luke 24:27)

Principle #2: Everything from front to finish speaks of Him.

And it's revealed in the words of Timothy:

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3 16-17)

Principle #3: God is the author of every verse. (Which tells us it's a coherent, consistent, interconnected single message.)

And it's revealed in..actually there are two principles in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which states that scripture is useful for doctrine, report, correction, and instruction in righteousness.  Notice it doesn't say that all scripture is designed for that.  It doesn't say that all Scripture is planned, intended, purposed, proposed, constructed, designated or dedicated to that.

So if scripture wasn't written specifically for doctrine, reproof, correction, or training in righteousness, what was it written for? 

Repeat Principle #1: Jesus told the Pharisees-- the AD 32 poster children for personal application-- that they searched the scriptures every day but they still missed the point.

It's all about the Redeemer.  There's more, but these few principles will take any serious Bible scholar a long way.

And here's an example.  An application of the aforementioned principles, particularly the recognition that the Bible has one single supernatural Author, and is, therefore, a coherent text with an inherent internal consistency.

With that in mind, let's look at Exodus 32:15-28:

"And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. 16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets. …

So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. …

when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies),  then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.  And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’ So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day." (Exodus 32:15-28)

We're all familiar with the story.  The newly liberated children of Israel fell immediately into idolatry and made the golden calf.  To add insult to injury, they thumbed their idolatrous noses at God on the very same day that God gave the Torah--the Law-- to Moses.  And 3000 people died. 

A dramatically different incident is recorded in Acts,

(42 books and thousands of years removed from the incident in Exodus)

"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."  … there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven… each one heard them speaking in his own language…(Acts 2:1-6)

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:38-40)

Did anything jump out at you from this passage?  Anything?

Maybe the number 3000?

Remember, every jot and tittle is important.  And there is that one supernatural Author. Does the repetition of the number 3000 mean there's a connection?

This one God makes sure you don't miss, if you do your homework.  And the lesson for today is 2 Corinthians 3:6: 

"God, made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

This verse specifically contrasts the old covenant, based on the Law and the new covenant, based on the Spirit.  Both of which occurred at a single definable moment in history.

The giving of the law at Mt. Sinai, and it did, indeed, bring death.  To 3000 people.  The giving of the Spirit occurred in the Upper Room, and it did, indeed, bring life.  To 3000 people.

Still convinced that this (in light of the fact that the passages are separated by 42 books and thousands of years of history) is mere coincidence?

Maybe this will change your mind: Shavuot, the day celebrated by all good Jews as the day the law was given, means "weeks" and is the last day of a holiday celebrated for seven weeks, starting the day after Passover.  Pentecost is a Greek name that means fifty, and it is celebrated 50 days after Passover.

Did you catch that?  Seven weeks plus one day = 50 days.  Pentecost and Shavuot are the same day, with different Greek and Hebrew names.

Coincidence?  I think not.

And what does the contrast between Shavuot and Pentecost tell us?  (Pointed out in the letter to the Corinthians.)  The law brings death, but the Spirit brings life.  The power of sin is the law, but grace and mercy come through Christ.

Which brings us back to Principle #1: it's all about the Redeemer.

And when you get at least that principle of Biblical interpretation down, the Bible gets way more exciting.  The Scriptures truly become, like the psalmist said (Psalm 119:162) a treasure trove.  And we get to be treasure hunters. 

Who needs a metal detector?  Dig in!

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: God Smacked

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