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Pastor's Message

Old Testament Interpretation


April 08

There have been many questions about God in the Old Testament and how He seems to be mean, the One who afflicts people, and is harmful. God hasn't changed from one dispensation of time to another. If we understand the nature of God we can understand the written Word. I would like to share some of these things with you today.

In the Old Testament we have a quote from the book of Isaiah in chapter six, verse 9-10 which says, 'He said, "Go, and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand." "Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed." The way this is written it seems that God is making the people to be without understanding, that He is the one causing them to be insensitive, dull, and keeping them from being healed, but that is not in line with God's nature.

As we come to the New Testament, we see the Apostle Paul quoting this Old Testament scripture in Acts 28, verse 25-27 saying, And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, 'Go to this people and say, "You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; Otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them." The Apostle Paul states here that the reason the people have not understood and perceived is because they have closed their eyes. So we see here that it was the people's choice, not God's doing, that made them close their eyes and not perceive or understand.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew way of writing was to say that anything that happened was God's doing. Very seldom do we have insight into the spiritual realm. For instance, when the curtain is pulled back, so to speak, we see Satan as the one who afflicted Job, and in the book of Daniel, we see the spiritual forces or prince of Persia standing against the angel that was bringing Daniel's answer.

Let me give you another example that was brought to my attention lately. Isaiah 44:18, "They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend." In the same way, this is not God doing it, but allowing it because the people allow it. Albert Barnes* in his notes on the Old Testament writes; It is also true that the Hebrew writers sometimes employ an active verb when the signification is passive, and when the main idea is, that anything was in fact done.

Here the main point is not the agent by which this was done, but the fact that their eyes were blinded-and perhaps all the force of the verb tah used here would be expressed if it was rendered in an impersonal, or in a passive form, 'it is covered as to their eyes,' that is, their eyes are shut, without suggesting that it was done by God. So the Septuagint renders it, ...'They are blind,' or involved in darkness.

Once again we see that this is not God's doing against the people, because that is not the nature of God.

I have also heard people criticize the fact that scriptures are pulled out of context. Yet, there are times that this is the proper way of reading scripture. Let me explain. Do you remember the time Jesus returned to His home town and He was in the synagogue as recorded in the book of Luke, the fourth chapter? He was handed the book of Isaiah and He started quoting from the sixty first chapter saying "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor......." Then He finished by stating that, "He was sent to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:19).

Now, according to Isaiah 61:1-2, we see that Jesus stopped right in the middle of the scripture and pulled it out from its original setting. Verse 2 of Isaiah 61 tells us, "To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn." Jesus stopped after quoting the first part of the scripture because the rest of the verse was not for the present dispensation.

In reading the scriptures it is important to know the never changing, ever loving nature of God. He is the deliverer. Satan is the one who afflicts. God is the healer. Satan brings sickness. God saved us. Satan had bound us through sin.

The book of James chapter 1 verse 17 tells us, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." God never changes. He is always good. There is no shadow of change with Him. His good is not evil. He doesn't think that making you sick, or breaking your leg, is for your good. Jesus said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him." (Matthew 7:11) If in our evil state, we know sickness is not good, we know breaking our leg is not good, how can we expect Father God, who is nothing but good, to do evil?

Therefore, as we read scripture, let's remember the never changing goodness of God, and realize if we are reading something that seems to make us think differently, there is more to it than we think.

Next month I will continue along these lines and hopefully bring understanding in these matters so we can handle the Word of Truth with accuracy. Until then, continue in the grace that is of our Lord that helps you, by the Holy Spirit, to be strengthened to live a sanctified life. Continue in good health, be blessed in the work of your hand, growing in the prosperity of your soul.

Pastor Bob

Copyright information:
* Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament: Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright 1999, Findex.Com.