Eisegesis Unplugged – Deuteronomy 8:18

Eisegesis is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text.

18”You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. “ Deut 8:18

This passage has been frequently used to teach us that God gives to all of us who profess to be his children power to become materially wealthy and prosperous. In fact, I recently came across a Facebook post (actually it ‘magically’ appeared in my FB newsfeed) in which a lady used the passage to tell us that the Bible actually teaches that principle. We can take our lives to the next level in terms of breakthroughs in business and financial wealth and she can teach us how to apply it.

But is that what this passage is teaching? Let’s put it back into context and see for ourselves.

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.” Deut 8:11-19.

God is clearly speaking directly to the children of Israel concerning his having delivered them from bondage in Egypt. They are being warned against taking any credit for their deliverance and prosperity (wealth), but that their ‘wealth’ was a result of God’s hand, not theirs. The use of the term ‘wealth’ refers to their much-improved condition. One notable commentary (Adam Clarke) offers this meaning:

Who among the rich and wealthy believes this saying? Who gives wisdom, understanding, skill, bodily strength, and health? Is it not God? And without these, how can wealth be acquired? Whose is providence? Who gives fertility to the earth? And who brings every proper purpose to a right issue? Is it not God? And without these also can wealth be acquired? No. Then the proposition in the text is self-evident: it is God that giveth power to get wealth, and to God the wealthy man must account for the manner in which he has expended the riches which God hath given him.

While many other commentaries agree, but all it takes to discover the meaning of this passage is to read it in context.

God was not giving his children a formula for success, but merely reminding them that their successful escape from bondage and circumstances after their release were a result of his hand and power, not theirs. Deuteronomy, Chapter 8 is admonition to his children to never forget God and a warning against pride.

So What?

Why does all of this matter? I can answer that. It matters because when we become believers in Christ we still have sinful hearts. In fact, Janes 2:2 tells us we sin when we are drawn away (tempted) by our own sinful passions. False teaching that appeals to our ‘sin hangover’ can result in our straying from the path of self-denial we are called to by our Lord and a return to the same focus on personal material gain we were in bondage to as unbelievers. Because we are prone to become prideful and put God on the back burner, we need to be reminded of who is really in charge.

And remember, the first three rules of proper biblical interpretation are:

CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT

How Do I Meditate on The Word Of God?

by Jack Wellman

How do we meditate on the Word of God?  The Bible instructs Christians to meditate on the Word but how are we supposed to meditate on the Word of God and what does it mean to meditate?

A Secular Definition of Meditation

When you look in the dictionary and see what the word meditate means, you can get dozens of differing definitions. I will try to give a general definition based upon what most people think meditation is and then what God means by His command to have us meditate on the Word of God.  Most dictionaries define meditation as:  Intentional contemplation on the author’s work with the express purpose of  reflecting upon it, contemplative thinking, the revolving of a subject in the mind or a self-directed practice of calming the mind and body.

Other definitions are a clearing of the mind, an emptying of thoughts, having a mind that is open.  The thing that I don’t like about this kind of meditation is that a clear, open mind is one that is subject to spiritual attack or evil influence from demons or wicked spirits.  The problem with an open mind is that it often needs to be closed down for repairs!   What is called Transcendental Meditation for example is a technique that is derived from Hindu traditions that promote deep relaxation through the use of a mantra. However a mantra’s different for differing belief systems like Buddhism, Hinduism, and New Age ideas and so its definition depends upon the group’s beliefs and is dependent upon the context of it.   Some of this is practiced even in the work place, at Yoga classes, and in many Eastern religions.  This is not what the Bible means by meditating on the Word of God.

Meditating on the Word

Our church elder said that meditating on the Word of God is a lost art in the church today. He is absolutely right.  We lose out on so much when we simply read over the Word and don’t meditate on it. Part of what the Psalmist says where we are to “hide your Word” in our heart is simply meditating on it.  Yes, memorizing Scripture may be part of this hiding the Word, but there is so much power even in one verse…in one word…that we don’t tap that power when we read right past it.  The Scriptures often tell us to do this both day and night and so you can never meditate on it if you are not reading it…both day and night.

Benefits of Meditating on the Word

Here are a few verses that tell us that we should meditate on the Word of God, why we should meditate on it and what the benefits are:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8

If we meditate on God’s Law, and I don’t mean the Mosaic Law, then we will “be careful to do all that is written in it.” You can’t obey what you do not know.  And God promises to “make your way prosperous” and you’ll have “good success” if you meditate on it.  Meditating and memorizing Scripture is like “hiding His Word” in your heart.  When you are tempted, you can more easily resist sinning because you already know the precepts, statues, and Laws of God.

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97

We will love the law of God only if we meditate on its meaning.  It is not so much “don’t do this” but “do this and suffer” and “don’t do this and prosper.” God doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves or others and that is why we must love His law and meditate on it.   God loves His own law so much that the biggest chapter in the Bible is dedicated to the law in Psalm 119; it must be of high importance to God.  If it is that important to God (and it is) then it must be for us as well.

May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.” Psalm 104:34

God is well pleased when we meditate on His divine Word.  The Psalmist wrote that rejoicing in the Lord is tied to meditating on His Word.  Imagine you get a letter from your loved one.  You have been separated from him or her for a long time.  You love re-reading it…reflecting on the words, and so you will rejoice in this letter and your loved one and you will meditate on certain lines, would you not?  The same applies to God’s Word.  It is the greatest love letter ever written!

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Psalm 119:15

I love this verse.  Here the writer is fixing his eyes on God’s ways.  He is meditating on the precepts of God for they are always true, faithful, and good.  To “fix” your eyes is to meditate on specific things and these things (like precepts) are in the written Word of God.  Try fixing your eyes on one verse today.  You’ll be amazed at how the Holy Spirit will enlighten your mind to it.

My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.Psalm 49:3

Here is a cause and effect verse.  Our mouth can speak wisdom only because the meditation of our hearts on His Word gives us understanding.  This is not a subjective, human wisdom but the wisdom of God Himself because when our hearts mediate on His truth (which is objective), what we say will be wise because it is the wisdom of God.  By the way, the seat of the intellect in the Jewish idiom is the “heart” and so when you read the word heart, you can understand that it is talking about the mind.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Although Paul didn’t use the word “meditate”, the intent is the same thing when he said to “think about these things.”  When we think on “these things” we are pondering them, we are reflecting on them, and we are contemplating (meditating) on them.

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.” Psalm 119:148

Many of the strongest Christians have the most worn out Bibles and you have probably heard that a Christian whose Bible is coming apart has it most together.  This verse speaks of meditating on the Word before “the watches of the night” or late at night, perhaps before bedtime.  They are meditating on God’s promises and that helps to keep a believer’s hope strong.  His promises are all revealed in Scripture and what better thing to meditate on than those promises which are sure, true, and can not be broken.

Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.” Psalm 119:24

clip_image002The writer here ties together our ability to not be discouraged or fearful even while our enemies are plotting against us.  How many times have we laid awake at night, unable to sleep or “turn it off“, worrying about our problems (even if they are people)?  We can sleep in peace by meditating on the Word before we go to bed.  I have known fewer solutions to my sleeplessness than to open the Bible and read His Word for I realize that even that bad things will work out for my best (Romans 8:28).  That is another of God’s promises.

Conclusion

We have read from Scripture that there is so much good that can come from meditating on the Word of God.  The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  I tried to meditate on this shortest of verses and found it to be one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible.  I thought of why Jesus wept, what He was weeping for, who He was weeping over, and how He showed such depth of emotion in His love.  By asking who, what, why, where, when, and how over a single verse, the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the written Word because the Holy Spirit is the Author of the Word (2 Peter 1:21).  I thought of His humanity, the suffering that He saw, the lost sheep of Israel who would have nothing to do with Him, the depravity of mankind, the compassion that He had.  What must Jesus have been thinking (meditating) on when He wept?

It must grieve the heart of God to know that many will be called but few will be chosen.  Many have heard of Jesus but few will trust in Him.  The path to destruction is broad but the way of life is narrow and winding and few are they that find it.  That makes me want to weep too.  For all those who refuse to believe, those who will not come to saving faith, I meditate on their eternal, future fate.  That makes me want to share the gospel all the more.  I want to be about my Father’s business in rescuing the perishing.  The Bible is full of God’s desire that no one will perish (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, Ezekiel 18:23).  Meditate on what breaks God’s heart and your heart will be broken too.  Meditate on the Word of God and you will hide it in your heart (memorize it).  Then you will have the Word in you to be able to resist when temptation comes.  You can meditate on God’s desire to save those who are headed for the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 21).

This week, choose one verse to meditate on.  I choose John 11:35 (“Jesus wept“).  I wanted to align my heart with Jesus’ heart.  Take one line from the Word of God and memorize it, think about it, ponder it, reflect upon it, and then God “will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).  That is a promise from God.  There is nothing more certain in all the universe than a promise of God.  Just meditate on that for a while.

Other Men’s Brains

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. – 2 Peter 1:19-20 (Emphasis mine)

The above passages can refer to the words of the Prophet of God not being of his own invention, or that the interpretation of Scripture is not just a matter of one’s own imaginings. These words are also not saying individuals aren’t to read and study the Bible for themselves but instead rely on an special ‘Church’ body to tell them what it means. We are all exhorted to ‘study to show ourselves approved’ (2 Tim 2:15)

I clearly remember a time when we frequently attended small group Bible studies in which we all sat around the table or living room, read scripture and then shared what each of us thought the passages meant, as if each one of us had great personal insight. Rather than carefully study the Bible for what it actually was saying in the context in which it was written and the context of the Bible itself, we would congratulate ourselves for whatever the little voices in our heads was telling us.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading and studying the Bible for ourselves. When we engage in personal Bible study however, we need to follow certain rules of proper interpretation, the first three of which are context, context, CONTEXT.

At the same time, we can also avail ourselves of what other men have thought and written over time. It’s not that the minds of other men are always spot on about everything, but they can be quite useful as we strive to know God more fully.

Food for thought on a Saturday morning. A certain preacher once said:

“Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.” – Charles Spurgeon

So study on my friends, knowing the Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher, and that ‘old dead men’ (tribute to my friend Ed) also have a lot to say to us!

God Speaks to Me, but Not Like He Speaks to Priscilla Shirer

God speaks to me through the written Word. He speaks through the words on the pages and the illumination by the Holy Spirit of that same written word.

God speaks directly to Priscilla Shirer, with personal messages and revelations; not just via ‘someone else’s hand-me-downs’ (her words about the written word).

Apparently I’m just not tuned in to God’s ‘personal’ frequency. It’s not that God doesn’t want me to have this personal communication; I’m just not tuned in. Ms. Shirer (and others I have heard about, listened to and read) has evidently reached a higher level of spiritually than this old guy.

I have come to a decision point. I need to either take steps to reach the higher level of spirituality so I too can experience the ‘relational’ presence of God (I heard a Chaplain use that term recently), or remain at my current level of spiritual growth.

In support of pursuing a higher level of spiritually, I guess I’m fortunate. I’ve recently listened to several messages on Sunday mornings in which the speaker has taught us that if we begin each day sitting quietly with pen and journal, listening for God’s voice, we can eventually get the hang of it. At first we are to just write down what the ‘voices’ we hear say to us and eventually we will be able to isolate God’s voice and only need to write down what He says. Since our teacher used the same ‘frequency’ terminology as Ms. Shirer, it must be true! Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible that whenever two or more believers agree on a thing, it’s true?

On the other hand, I can maintain my current habit of beginning the day prayerfully reading God’s Word and know that I am hearing God speak to me as I read. I can also continue spending time in inductive Bible study, on merely a personal level and in preparation for Sunday School at the Chapel I attend.

But, according to Ms. Shirer (and others) I could be having an even deeper and more meaningful ‘relational’ experience with God if I can tune into God’s special frequency for ‘direct’ communication!

What to do………what to do?

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #23

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

“Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

This short passage is often used to promote the need for either a special vision for a church or a personal vision for an individual believer’s life. In fact, just a few days ago I heard it used in a sermon concerning the second reason – the need for ‘personal’ vision.

Specific questions were asked by the Pastor preaching the sermon. “Do you have a ‘vision’ to be healthier, be in better shape physically, have a better job or marriage, enjoy material prosperity & be debt free, or have godly children?” These are all things God wants for us, and if you don’t have a corresponding personal vision, you just miss out!

The Pastor’s prime example of a fulfilled personal vision was Walt Disney and his grand vision for Disneyland. We all know how that turned out! But is a need for personal vision what our passage is actually teaching? Let’s take a look. Here it is again, but this time the entire verse:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (KJV)

The first thing we notice is that there is more to it than perishing for lack of a vision. We have a small ‘but’ that connects ‘vision’ with obedience to God’s law. You might be asking: “Can’t it still be about having a personal vision for one’s life?” Let’s look again, specifically about the meaning of ‘vision’. A few other translations will be helpful.

“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” (NIV)
“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (NLT)
“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” (ESV)

“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” (NASB)

Now for a few commentaries on the use of ‘vision’ in our passage:

“no vision —no instruction in God’s truth, which was by prophets, through visions (JFB)

“No vision – No prophecy; no public preaching of God’s word.” (Wesley’s Commentary)

“Vision – The word commonly used of the revelation of God’s will made to prophets.” (Albert Barnes)

If we are to trust the additional translations of the entire passage, as well as the commentaries, it seems that our passage has absolutely nothing to do with specific visions for an individual church or individual believers! Rather, it’s all about the lack of sound Biblical teaching, specifically from the Old Testament Prophets. If we can correlate that to today, it would refer primarily to sound Biblical preaching and teaching from gifted pastors and teachers, and even from believers reading and studying the Bible for themselves.

The New Living Translation expresses the thought of the original

“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (NLT)

Once again, when we take a closer look at a familiar and often misused passage of scripture, we find that it doesn’t mean what we want it to mean. Here’s a bit of food for thought. Is misusing scripture, even somewhat harmlessly, something we as believers ought to be doing?

Food for thought . . . J

The Word of The Cross

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. “1 Corinthians 1:18

The question this passage begs is this:

WHY is the cross  foolishness to the perishing but the power of God to those who are being saved?

Three reasons are contained in the following passages. I’m challenging anyone to read them and give us the reasons. Let’s discuss.

John 3:19

Romans 8:7

2 Corinthians 4:4