Posts Tagged ‘Bible interpretation’

The Milk and the Meat of Scripture

June 23, 2010 Comments off

John MacArthur has described the difference between milk and meat in a Christian’s life:

Some times the Scripture can be milk and sometimes it can be meat. Now that doesn’t mean that some parts of the Bible are milk and some parts are meat. Really all of it is either milk or meat it depends on how deep you go.  For example I can say to you “God so loved the world” and if you are a brand new Christian you say yea, I understand that, that’s kind of milk. But then if I took off and began to develop the character of God, the character of His love, how His love works, what His love is defined at in the Scripture, the depths of all that that concept means, then that gets deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and gets into the meat aspect of that same simple truth. We say for example, God knows everything and that’s a milk statement, but we could develop that to the place where it becomes very complex and that would be the meat end of it.

In that same message he also advised:

Don’t ever think that because you came to church and heard the sermon on Sunday morning and Sunday night and you went to the Bible study on Friday that you don’t need to study on your own.

How true that is, since such a passive attitude will not be able to digest the meat, or discern between incorrect versus correct Bible interpretation.

Here are examples of the kinds of error that the person sitting in the pew at a local church, not doing any study on their own, could possibly face, by relying on a shallow pastor who they suppose really knows how to interpret and teach the Bible:

  • John 6:4 means that Jesus skipped going to the Passover in Jerusalem that year, and stayed up in Galilee and had his own “passover” with the people there.  For further appreciation of what that text really means, see this Matthew Henry commentary.
  • 1 Samuel 27:1 is interpreted that David did no wrong, and he did what he did because he had no choice.  No understanding about the true spiritual condition of David at this time
  • In 2 Samuel 1, the Amelekite really did kill Saul; from the other accounts we know that Saul attempted to kill himself, but he wasn’t successful and so the Amelekite’s part fits in there
  • 2 Samuel 12:8 means that God positively supported polygamy in the Old Testament; God had given David lots of wives and He would have given him even more (never mind that the text actually says “your master’s wives” referring to everything associated with Saul’s kingdom)

Today I want to look specifically at 2 Samuel 1, which I recently studied in S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David” series.  Even from just reading the text, plus the story at the end of 1 Samuel, combined with the basic notes in the NIV Study Bible that I used at the time, I understood that the Amelekite was making up his story — quite a different view from what was being said during the local Sunday sermon.  S. Lewis Johnson, in a meaty (not milk) message, confirms the correct understanding:  “almost all biblical scholars of a believing mentality are convinced that this man was lying.”

Now to the exposition and further explanation, the meat, to understand the details from the text to support this conclusion:
1.  We read that he shows up with his clothes torn and dust on his head.
“Now, you can tell from this that this man was not an ordinary man.  He was an observant man, he was a shrewd man because he realized coming in with his clothes torn and dust on his head that it would be thought that he was very, very supportive of the children of Israel.”
Clearly, he hoped for some kind of material gain — his secular mind could not imagine anyone thinking differently from him, rejoicing in the death of his enemy.

2.  The young man says “I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa.”
Mount Gilboa was where the battle was.  A large host of Philistines, so large that King Saul was afraid of them, and Israelites gathered there as well.  ….  No, no!  He didn’t happen to be by chance there.  He wanted to be there because after the battle there was always hope of gathering up some of the spoil, plunder, after the battle.

3.  The Amelekite’s use of the word “behold” which shows up in some of English translations, but appears several times in the Hebrew text.  From SLJ:

I’m going to read this as the Hebrew text has it. “And behold, Saul, leaning on his spear.  And behold the chariots and horsemen following hard after him.  Now, when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me.  And I said, behold, me.”

Now, if you read that carefully, you’ll see that what he is doing is playing a little bit loose with the truth.  And that little “behold” not rendered in the text that I have here — once as “there was” and then as “indeed” and then “here,” will give you an indication of the kind of speech that he was engaging in.  The use of that little term hinneh which means behold is indicative of the fact that what he is saying is a bit fictional.  It’s very much like the use of “hey” and so, “I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa where there was a great battle and, hey, Saul leaning on his spear and, hey, the chariots and horsemen following hard after him and Saul called to me and I said, hey, I’m here.”  No.  This man is a liar, he’s a prevaricator.

I looked this up in the KJV and ESV translations.  Sure enough, the footnote for 2 Samuel 1:7 tells us that the Hebrew is “Behold me.”  The ESV adds “behold” in verse 6.  Interesting.

4.   The author already told us in 1 Samuel 31 how Saul really died.  From the text we can understand that Saul was already dead — because it says that Saul’s armour bearer, seeing that Saul was dead, also fell on his sword and died with him.

“Saul is his own murderer, as his armor bearer knew.  So, in chapter 31, we have God’s description of what happened.  Now, we have the Amalekite’s fabrication of what happened.”

Perhaps some will say, well, what difference do such details make?  How does it affect my salvation, whether or not I think that the Amelekite killed Saul, or Saul killed Saul?  It may not matter in your overall salvation, but it does affect your concept of God.  Does God contradict Himself, telling us in one place that events happened this way, and then say differently in the next chapter?  It affects our understanding of man’s depravity, with yet another historical example of the true natures of both Saul and the Amelekite.  More so, it makes the difference between a baby Christian consuming only milk, versus the strong man Christian who can plumb the depths of God’s word for its great treasures and discern truth from error.

Finally, some great words from J.C. Ryle, also on the importance of reading our Bibles:

We must to be diligent readers of our Bibles. The Word is the sword of the Spirit. We shall never fight a good fight, if we do not use it as our principal weapon. The Word is the lamp for our feet. We shall never keep the king’s highway to heaven, if we do not journey by its light. There is not enough Bible-reading among us. It is not sufficient to have the Book. We must actually read it, and pray over it ourselves. It will do us no good, if it only lies still in our houses. We must be actually familiar with its contents, and have its texts stored in our memories and minds. Knowledge of the Bible never comes by intuition. It can only be obtained by diligent, regular, daily, attentive, wakeful reading.
From Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew