For awhile I was carting my big boom box from room to room, which got old in a hurry, especially after the doctor said I had to be careful not to carry anything too heavy. So Lucas picked up a portable CD player for me, with earphones and a belt to carry it. Now I can go anywhere and listen to my books, while washing dishes, making beds, folding clothes, sorting coupons, sweeping the carport, or fixing dinner.
There are disadvantages. If you walk into the laundry room while the washer is running, you miss a sentence amid the roar. If the phone rings, you must quickly unzip your holder to get to the pause button before the answering machine picks up on the ringing phone. If the earphone cord is hanging too freely, it will invariably snag on something and be yanked out, leaving you in total silence while the CD plays on. Then there is what happened the other day.
I was washing dishes and had to reach high up to hang a wet Ziploc bag from a shelf to drip dry into the sink so I could use it again another day. I heard a beep, but thought nothing of it. In another minute, the story mentioned something totally out of the blue. A minute or so later a character I had never heard of spoke. I took out the CD player and looked at the window. I had been on track 3 only five minutes before and now I was on 12. That could not possibly be right. I hit the “next track” button and instead of going to 13 it went backwards to 8. Again and it went ahead to 16, then backwards to 5, and then ahead to 10.
Suddenly my slow brain caught on. When I had bumped the countertop with my midsection, I had bumped the “shuffle”: button through the belt material, and the player was playing the tracks randomly instead of in order. What a mess! No wonder the story made no sense.
You know what? Sometimes we do that with the Bible. It’s not just that it must be read in some sort of order. It must be comprehended in order. How many times have you tried to set up a Bible study with someone and the first thing he wants to study is the book of Revelation? You cannot understand the book of Revelation without a working knowledge of prophetic language and an understanding of Old Testament prophecy. When I hear some of the strange interpretations of that marvelous book going around, I immediately know someone is totally ignorant of those things. The book itself is sandwiched by the promise that the things contained in it “must shortly come to pass,” 1:1; 22:6. John expected those early Christians to understand it and be comforted by it in the tribulation which he “shared in,” 1:9. Obviously, they knew how to interpret it correctly because they knew their scriptures, with less access to it than we have, I might add.
Then there is the matter of context. I have heard prooftexts taken out of their immediate context so often that when I actually looked them up and read the entire passage for each one, I had “epiphany” after “epiphany.” There really is more to them than telling others they are wrong; in fact, many times they speak directly to us. Take Matthew 15:9 for example: in vain do they worship me teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. I have heard that applied to man-made creeds all my life, but start at the top of the chapter and see who Jesus is addressing—not pagans, not Samaritans, or even people who simply worshipped God incorrectly, but scribes and Pharisees, those of God’s people who tried their best to obey the Law exactly. In doing so, however, they managed to create traditions--commandments of men--that they treated as more important than the Law.
There is also “book context.” Don’t treat the book of Proverbs like a book of Laws. Proverbs are sayings that are generally true, not always true. “Sacrilege!” I hear someone scream. Look at Proverbs 26:4: Answer not a fool according to his folly lest you be like him. So? Now look at the very next verse. Answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own conceit. Now do you see what I mean? You will definitely treat that book differently than you treat a doctrinal book.
And that leads us to “Bible context.” Many people find passages they think excuse them of whatever it is they are doing wrong, and spout them like water out of the blowhole of a whale, ignoring the entire teaching of the Bible. Never interpret a verse in a way that makes it opposite of a plain teaching in another passage. The Bible does not contradict itself. If it does, then why should you care what it says?
Be careful of that “shuffle” button when you study today. It will confuse you as badly as reading a mystery story out of order.
Give diligence to present yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling correctly the Word of truth. 2 Tim 2:15