Thursday, January 30, 2014

How to Study The Bible

When Martin Luther King Jr. intoned the magnificent words, “I have a dream” in his 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he was speaking of his vision for the future, but he was also alluding to the Bible, specifically to Joel 2:28, “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions.”  Pastor King was not only predicting freedom but predicting that freedom that comes from Jesus alone.  His words go deep.  Jesus’ words are deep in the same way; they contain Biblical allusions that open them up to understanding.  Consider what Jesus has to say to the Pharisees in Matthew 12.  He asks them, “What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath will not lay hold of it and lift it out.”  For so long I thought Jesus was simply giving an example from life, a sheep fallen into a pit, but Jesus is alluding to 2 Samuel 12, where the prophet Nathan comes to David and tells him the story of the rich man and the poor man and how the poor man had but one ewe lamb  whom he had bought and nourished up; “it grew up together with his own children; it ate of his own bread and drank of his own cup and lay in his bosom and was like a daughter to him.”  You see Jesus is talking not just about any old sheep, but rather a sheep that is loved just like that one little ewe lamb of Nathan’s story.  Jesus is explaining why he has healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day.  It is because we are to him as precious as that little ewe lamb was to the poor man.  Now, I ask, did we know this?  Did we know that God loves us like that poor man loved his one little lamb?  Allusions like this are in almost every line of the New Testament, just waiting to be discovered.  John Calvin gave us the clue long ago when he said, “Scripture interprets Scripture.   The Bible is “God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” ( 2 Timothy 3:16); those who “go forth with tears, bearing the seed for sowing, will come home with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126).