Monday, December 17, 2012

Some thoughts on how we read the Bible

While chapter and verse numbers are wonderful, I have to wonder if perhaps we turn them into stopping points when they shouldn't be?

For instance, let's look at Isaiah 5 and 6 starting with that wonderful passage in chapter 6.

Isaiah 6:4-8 ESV

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."

So we have an idea here that Isaiah feels unclean, especially now that he has seen The Lord. Specifically he knows that his lips are unclean and an angel cleanses him. Then that great question is asked "who will go for us?" and Isaiah answers the call.

Overall that isn't a bad interpretation of the passage and it conveys a sufficient meaning for us. But what if we take just a broader look at the context? What just happened?

In chapter 5, the Lord states to Isaiah that He will destroy his vineyard, which is Israel. Then God calls down "woes" upon 6 groups of wicked people. These are those who hoard property, who seek drunkenness, who call evil good. These are people that the Lord says he will strike down and against whom he will show his anger. (Isaiah 5:24-25)

It is against this backdrop that Isaiah had his heavenly vision in chapter 6. After seeing the importance of the preceding woes it is all the more obvious that Isaiah feels completely undone after he brings another woe upon himself. It isn't just some light feeling of sorrow as we now understand.

You can read more around these chapters to get a better idea as to what else may be happening, but this is a good start.

As I began with in this post, I do think that we sometimes miss out on details that are important when we may isolate our reading to chapter breaks. It all really boils down to the importance of context when reading our Bible. This is just something I've been thinking about some recently and may have to integrate into my daily reading. I would encourage you to also take some extra time to do the same.

God bless you!

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