Interpreting and Applying the Bible; December 22, 2022

Micah 5:4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely,
for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.

This passage as a whole is famous because it’s the one the “experts in the Law,” referenced when King Herod asked where the Messiah was to be born. (Matthew 2:3-6) The shocking thing is that, knowing this accurate prophecy, those religious leaders didn’t seek out the Messiah themselves, when the Magi had come saying they had seen His star in the east. They had become political, interested in preserving their entrenched power, and were actually on Herod’s side in wanting to get any such “disturbing influence” out of the way. This verse describes a very different order of things than what those religious leaders were depending on. We tend to like things to stay as we are used to them, even when the new might be far better. The first line of the next verse brings out the difficulties of Bible translation, and thus interpretation of what it means. The NIV says, “And He will be their peace,” which sounds beautiful and meaningful as part of the description of the Messiah. However, the Japanese says, “Peace will come about in the following way.” That was downright jarring in contrast when I read it just now. I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I do know that Hebrew is written essentially in all consonants, with little “punctuation marks” to indicate the vowels, so minor differences can change the meaning drastically. I am moved by what the NIV says here, but I can see that the Japanese might well be what was originally written. This shows that any time we read the Bible we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, because He knows what He caused to be written!

I grew up in a home that was steeped in the Bible. My father had gotten his Master’s degree in Biblical Hebrew and his Doctorate in Biblical Greek, and he taught both of those languages in Japanese. The Bible was deeply revered in our home, but there was full understanding that no translation had a monopoly on accuracy, so we needed to seek what the Author had intended for any passage. My personal struggle was very similar to that of the religious leaders who talked with Herod. It wasn’t that I had power and authority particularly, but that I was so familiar with the words that I failed to apply them. I have long maintained that James 1:22 was written expressly for me: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Knowing the words, and even being able to compare different translations the way I have just done, means nothing if I’m not applying what is said. I do need to seek the Lord as to the meaning of each passage, but even more, I need to seek Him for how I am to apply that in my life. Only then will it indeed be “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Father, thank You for this reminder. It’s very appropriate when I am “burned out on Christmas.” The words are still true, they are still glorious, and I need to let them fill and operate through me, so that I may be an effective conduit of Your grace and mercy to others. I ask for fresh anointing today and tomorrow as I tell the Christmas story to my school classes. I ask You to give them ears and hearts to hear, and I ask You to speak freely through me, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

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