Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for February 28, 2021. We will be continuing on in the new Lenten worship series entitled, Purple Theory. Today we will be discovering the importance of reading Scripture as a daily practice, which makes us healthier through connecting us and drawing us closer to God. Let us not forget about the power of the Bible!
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ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalms 119:18)
What if I were to tell you that the Bible says that “there is no God”? What if I were to tell you that the Bible comes to the conclusion that “everything, including life, is meaningless, like chasing the wind”? What if I were to tell you that the Bible says that God wants people to endure slavery because God put the slave masters in authority over them? Or that God punishes generations of family members for the sins of their ancestors. Or that women are inferior to men and should be silent in churches as they are not fit to teach? Or that the Bible says that women are saved through childbearing?
On the one hand, the Bible does say such things. The words “there is no God” can be found in Psalm 14:1; the words “everything is meaningless” can be found in Ecclesiastes 1:2 and elsewhere in Ecclesiastes; God wishing people to remain slaves can be found in Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9-10, and 1 Peter 2:18. That God punishes the descendants of sinful ancestors is found in Numbers 14:18, among other places. That women are inferior to men, are to be silent in churches, are not fit to teach and are saved through child-bearing can be found in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.
On the other hand, each one of these verses has something in common tying them together. That common thread is that they’ve all been taken out of context, perhaps in different ways, but they are definitely all out of context. In Psalm 14:1, the Psalmist is ACTUALLY saying that “the fool says in his or her heart that ‘there is no God.'” The words “there is no God was taken textually out of context. Ecclesiastes 1:2 is the opening to a philosophical treatise on how life, and all of its trappings, leads to emptiness and that, at the end of the day, people need to “fear God and keep his commandments” (12:13). While Ephesians and Colossians do state that slaves are to obey their masters, the historical context of this passage shows us a Christian community that is reacting to accusations that Christians are inciting slaves to riot against their masters (which was one of many accusations that Romans were levying against Christians of the time period). That doesn’t justify the passage, but helps us understand it so that we don’t fall into the same trap.
It was a common tone in the ancient world that if you make God angry, God will punish you. Some of these texts were written in times of tribulation, such as the Babylonian Exile where people were wondering why they had been exiled to begin with. What had they done to deserve such an awful fate…or what had their parents or their parents’ parents done? This understanding is less “God’s word” as much as it is people grappling with their circumstances, though there certainly are many unintended and far reaching consequences to sin. And the bit on women is also a reaction to the fact that women, up until that point, had played prominent roles in the church (e.g., Romans 16:1-4, 7) and the Romans were levying that against Christians as yet another example of how Christians were vile and against Roman order. Again, this historical context (plus Paul’s commendation of women leaders) helps us to discern and affirm that indeed God DOES call women into ministry and leadership, and that they are saved equally and in the same manner that all of human beings are: through faith (Romans 3:19-25; Galatians 3:28).
This is not an exhaustive discussion of those particular topics, but hopefully makes the point that CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING. The Bible is THE MOST IMPORTANT, and INSPIRED, source of our faith; however, it can be made to say anything when the context (textual, socio-economic, and/or historical) is missing. Don’t just read your Bible, but study it. Get into a good Bible Study that dives deep into the texts and gives you a good foundation not only on what the Bible says (keep in mind that we are not reading it in its original languages), but the context behind what it says. Buy books that delve into the Bible and provide the context behind it. Today’s challenge is for you to begin to not only read the Bible, but to build up a solid means of understanding it so that you can relevantly apply it to your life in a way that is true to the Spirit of the Word.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Context is worth 80 IQ points.” – Alan Kay
Lord, guide me in my studying of Scripture so that I may grow, not just in knowledge but also in understanding. Amen.
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In the late summer of 2012, Jeff Foxworthy hosted a game show show called “The Great American Bible Challenge.” The premise of the show was to quiz people with questions centered on the Bible to see how Biblically literate they were. The contestants were not actually competing to win money for themselves, but would represent a specific charity and the winners would donate their winnings to that charity.
The show, which first premiered on the Game Show Network August 23, 2012, debuted as the network’s highest rated program of all time, bringing in 2.3 million total viewers on its first night. That was the largest amount of viewers in the network’s seventeen year history, proving that the Bible is still very much a marketable venture for entertainment companies to pursue.
Yet, when you look at Biblical literacy in America, the statistics are astounding. According to a Gallup Poll, 16 % of Americans say that they read the Bible daily, 21 % read the Bible on a weekly basis, 12% say they read at least once a month, and 41% say they rarely, if ever, pick up a Bible. Readership of the Bible has declined from 73% to 59% from the 1980’s to our present time. Those numbers are staggering.
I have often heard people say that they find that the Bible is boring, that they don’t understand it, that they don’t have time to read it, and a host of other excuses. Yet, people clearly have an hour to watch a Bible Quiz Show, or ten hours to watch a Bible miniseries. People don’t seem to find the Bible boring when they are Hollywood-ized versions of the Bible and they flock by the millions to soak it all up.
The problem is that Hollywood tells the stories usually from a very narrow perspective. By nature, they need to be told that way; however, the Bible is so much more exciting when read and studied, particularly in a group setting, then when it is being fed to us via a television show. If you like steamy, scandalous romance, check out Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) or David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). If action and adventure suits you, check out the Exodus led by Moses (all of Exodus). God knows there is plenty of horror in the Bible (Judges 19, Daniel 5, Mark 1:23-26, Revelation 13, etc.). If you like drama, check out a book like Esther who rises up over her circumstances.
The challenge to you for this new year is to not become a statistic! Pick up your Bible and read it. Actually read it! There are plenty of things in there that will catch your fancy. If you come across something that doesn’t make sense or grab your interest, move on to something else; however, read your Bible. In fact, join a Bible Study. Join one that will look broadly at the Scriptures and encourage the kinds of open-ended questions that promote learning, understanding and growth. It is my prayer for you, in this new year, that you will find the depth and relevance that the Bible has to offer you in your life. It is my prayer that you will find it to be an life changing, and illuminating, resource in your life. It is my prayer that it will indeed become a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” – President Theodore Roosevelt
Lord, I pray that you inspire and motivate me to engage scripture and that, through such engagement, I may grow from who I am to who you want me to be. Amen.