Interpreting the Bible; November 18, 2019

Jeremiah 8:8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise,
for we have the law of the Lord,’
when actually the lying pen of the scribes
has handled it falsely?”

Here’s an important verse for Bible translators and interpreters! The Japanese here is even clearer in saying that that lying scribes have turned the Law into a lie! Thinking about how Jesus responded to the minor details of the Law, including His remarks about “the traditions of men” (Mark 7:5-13) it really makes me wonder how much got added to such books as Leviticus. That’s why it’s important to focus on what Jesus said were the most important commands, to love God and to love our neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40) This verse also brings to mind the various seminaries that have devolved from institutions training people to be disciples of Jesus Christ to strictly academic institutions that foster atheism, or at best agnosticism. Paul described such people as “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) When we read, and especially when we teach, the Bible we need to be clearly connected to the Holy Spirit who is its Author. Far too often people use the Bible as a means to their end, rather than submitting themselves to God and His Word. Hearing politicians throw around Bible verses when their lives don’t demonstrate the character of Christ can be disgusting. Repentance is certainly possible and past actions don’t limit present reality, but it doesn’t take much perception to realize that people can use the Bible with no intention of submitting to God. We need to approach the Bible, every time we read it, with humility and gratitude that it is even available to us. In many countries Bibles are rare indeed, and are actively suppressed in some.

I hope I never forget the time the Lord got through to me with the realization that He’s smart and I’m not. As familiar as I am with the Bible, there is the temptation to take it for granted instead of actively applying it to my own life. As a pastor and teacher I frequently express the Word in various ways to others, so I must be very careful I’m not like the scribes mentioned here. I’ve got to remember that “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6) My reading of the Bible and my teaching of the Bible must both be guided by the Holy Spirit who caused it to be written. Only then will it accomplish that for which God has sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Father thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the awareness You have given me of the differences in languages, so that I will seek Your meaning in everything I read, rather than applying linguistic preconceptions. I ask for Your anointing to communicate Your Word accurately, whether in English or in Japanese, so that my hearers and readers may hear what You are saying to them, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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