People come up with all sorts of things they say are in the Bible. Long ago I learned to always ask for "chapter and verse" when something arises that is "off the wall". I know that people claim to have read or heard something in the Bible from obscure books like "Hezekiah". If Hezekiah was indeed a book in the Bible I would consider listening to what the person said they read there. As it is, an awful lot of what folks claim is in the Bible are really just rumors.
What Almighty God wants clearly understood in His Word, is clearly written and needs little explanation to grasp. But, God also keeps some things a secret in His Word, and other things would be classified as mysteries. For instance, God kept the details of what would come after His son's death a secret, for I Corinthians says if the devil had known what was to come, he would have never crucified the Lord of Glory. I am very thankful God knew how to keep a secret!
There are mysteries in the Bible, and they are there by design and not by oversight. The greatest mystery is the one revealed in the book of Ephesians dealing with Jews and Gentiles being fellow-heirs and of one body. Without an understanding of the animosity Jews held toward Gentiles, it would be impossible to understand the significance of this mystery. Let it be said that no good upstanding Jew would ever be caught dead "hanging out" with a Gentile. Now, Ephesians says that they not only "hang out" but that they are equals in the Body of Christ.
The whole "Body of Christ" concept is quite a mystery in itself. The idea that believers form the body of a Christ who sits in heaven as the head of the body is straight out of a science fiction novel to most people. It makes no sense and thus it is passed off as a fable or a myth. Things such as "the body of Christ" are not literal, but are an analogy. Figures of speech in any language mark that which is important. Whenever a figure is used, it should be flagged for future study as something of utmost importance to God.
In speech, we can say something that is simple and literal. If I say; "It is raining very hard", what I said was literal and is a simple statement. But, if I say: "It is raining cats and dogs", then of course I am using a figure of speech since it is impossible to literally rain animals. If you heard these two descriptions of the rain, which one would be more emphatic as to how hard it was raining; the simple statement or the one using the figure of speech? Of course the mind picture of cats and dogs falling to earth as rain is far more graphic and communicates the point much better than the simple sentence.
Jesus often spoke in parables when he taught the people. He did this to highlight what he was saying as being extra important. He also did so because the people could not receive the straight forward truth; it was too hard for them to hear. He used parables to emphasize points and to force the listeners to think about what he was teaching instead of passively listening. Jesus Christ was the greatest teacher who ever lived. One of the great things he did as a teacher was to draw his audience into the teaching through speaking in parables.
Jesus certainly had the ability to teach exactly to the point. But if he were to have done that all the time, very few (if any) of the people would have had a clue what he was talking about. Think of the well known parable of the "prodigal son" or as some would call it "the forgiving father". Jesus was striving to communicate elements of love, forgiveness and the joy of a long lost son returning home all in the light of salvation. To better communicate, he told a story.
Many times you read of Jesus saying "the kingdom of heaven IS LIKE UNTO". This is again a figure of speech. When attempting to describe something new, it definitely helps to compare it to something already known. This is what Jesus was the expert at doing when he taught. He presented something foreign to the people and immediately compared it to something they knew very well. Such and such is LIKE such and such. "OH" the people would say as the light of understanding went off in their minds.
God is spirit, yet throughout the Bible physical attributes are ascribed to God. These are figures of speech to emphasize certain characteristics of God. Jesus Christ was a man talking to the people in John chapter 6. He clearly says in verse 48; "I am that bread of life", and in verse 51 he made this incredible claim:
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
Here was a human being claiming that he was bread and if eaten, those eating would live for ever. Is it any wonder verse 52 says:
"The Jews therefore strove among themselves saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus was not speaking literally to these people, yet many of them thought he was. They fought with each other over whether to interpret what he was saying literally or figuratively. Just as the battle was really heating up, Jesus made an even more outrageous statement in verses 53 and 54:
"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
Can you imagine the confusion and consternation in the people when they heard a man advocating first eating his flesh and then drinking his blood? Those who could not understand what he was saying because they were taking it literally were offended and bewildered. Verses 60-65 sum up the attitude of many of the disciples and what Jesus said in regard to their unbelief:
"Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father."
After this amazing discussion, coming near the end of Jesus earthly ministry, addressed to his disciples; you would think the people would have made every attempt to understand what Jesus was saying. But they didn't. They rejected this story Jesus told them about flesh and blood outright. They refused to consider it as a figure of speech, so when they took it literally; they were offended and according to verse 66 it says:
"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
This verse is one of great importance for it clearly reveals that there will always be people who won't or can't believe the truth. After Jesus had laid out one of the most incredible truths about who he was and what he could do for those who believe; MANY of his disciples (followers) simply left. They went back to whatever they had been doing before they met Jesus and they walked with him no more. Did Jesus offend these people? Some would argue that he did, but I would say it was not Jesus who offended them but the WORD he spoke.
Jesus was indeed the rock of offence and stumbling block to the Jews who did not believe in him. He was these things because of who he claimed to be and the people's inability to accept him or his message. After the people left, Jesus said unto the twelve who were still there; "Will ye also go away?"
Although one of the twelve did indeed "go away", the other eleven stuck with Jesus and continued to learn from him and become more and more like him. These men had been around Jesus long enough to know him and they knew what he had just told the people was not literal. The more you know Jesus, the more you know his heart and not just his words.
When people do not understand, they tend to get confused and offended. If they then get mad, they will turn and walk away and never return. That is why it behooves us to learn as much as we can about our Lord Jesus. The more we know him and his ways, the less what he asks of us to do will offend or confuse us. If we can stick around long enough, the eyes of our understanding will open and we will see the simplicity and beauty of our Lord.
Again, your posts enlighten and edify! This post is certainly no exception.
The Lord speaks to us quite simply when we are ready to understand. We must always work to be ready.
I praise God for His Son allowing us to partake of His Communion and to become part of the Body with Him. I am especially thankful for fellow believers, such as you, that have been such blessings to me along the way.
Insightful blog, thanks!
I've learned to ask for "chapter and verse" as well, especially when someone who I KNOW doesn't know Scripture says something like, "how can you trust the Bible, because after all, it contradicts itself" To which I say, "Oh, I'll be glad to look it up for you. Which verses are you talking about?" Of course then comes the stammering and stuttering, because after all, this person is only parroting something they've heard before and have no idea.
Much as we want to understand God, if we truly did and there was no mystery, then we would be His equal. I don't know about you, but I don't want a God who is equal to me!
Proverbs 3:5 - 6 (NKJV) 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.