With this post we’ll focus attention to an aspect of interpretation which is critical to exercise when one is looking into God’s Word for deeper understanding, and particularly, the study of Abraham. The Scriptures are inspired by God. These words were designed by God to communicate from the Almighty God to mankind (Spirit to fleshly beings). There is more in the Scriptures than meets the eye at first glance.
I Corinthians (9:8-10) I am not speaking these thing s according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.
We read the Apostle Paul explaining a primary rule for understanding the Word of God. Interpretation is a discipline that takes diligence, pondering, and then returning to compare your observation against the balance of God’s Word to test for consistency and agreement. Look for the clues. In the passage above, one comes to a wrong understanding if it is read purely literally. Pay attention to the subtle words that indicate or suggest there is more truth in the story, symbolism, event, or elements. Let me recommend a word study of when these words are found in the Scriptures.
Figure / Figuratively
Hidden / Hide
See / Show
Similes ‘Like or as’
Symbol – symbolism
Galatians 4:22-26 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.
Here, Paul shows us one of the ways he has reconciled his past view of God’s covenant with Abraham as a Pharisee, to his redeemed view post-Damascus road conversion. In all his epistle’s, and especially Romans and Galatians, Paul dissects and explains many elements of the story about Abraham in Genesis, paying special attention to symbolism or figures of speech. In this way, Paul sees that his previous perspective focused so dramatically on the blood or DNA descendants of Abraham and eventually is driven to become the evangelist to the Gentiles.
For me, over forty years ago, I was confused reading the writings of Paul, because I didn’t understand:
1. God’s Covenant with Abraham,
2. the implications for the nation of Israel,
3. Paul’s struggle to understand what his errant views were and how to explain his revised understanding, and,
4. how this all related to the Messiah, Jesus Christ and how this all ties together.
These questions, the prayers they inspired, and the answers to those prayers form the foundation of this blog. I will refer back to the deeper look into the imagery and symbolism frequently in the majority of the posts I’m intending to publish.
In my next post(s), I will furnish some rules or guidelines for this search for deeper truth. These will be found in various ways to compare Scripture with Scripture. Then the next post, we will evaluate where we find the most significant truths in the Word of God.