Eyes Haven’t Seen and Ears Haven’t Heard?

eyes haven seenI was on my way to church one Sunday morning when I heard a song that had such a beautiful melody! I had heard the words of the song many times before, for you see, the words of the song were part of a quote from 1 Corinthians 2:9, which says in part: “. . . Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” The gist of the message of the song and the gist of what many covey when that passage is quoted is this: God has such wonderful things in store for those who love him, so much so that it is beyond anything seen, heard, or even imagined! Now, I’m sure if you’ve been around church, you have probably heard this quotation and application yourself. Maybe you have even quoted and applied that passage in that same way yourself!

Well, one of the things I’ve learned across the years of studying and interpreting scripture is the fact that the first rule of interpretation and application is context. The second rule is context! The third rule is context! Whenever you read any verse in the Bible, before you can rightfully interpret and make application, you should always look at the context! How do you do that? You can start by reading some of the verses before and after the verse in question. If we were to apply that rule to 1 Corinthians 2:9, we would immediately see that although the songs that use that quote sound good and the quotes and applications sound biblical, to just quote 1 Corinthians 2:9 by itself and make an application based on just that one verse is a gross exegetical error and a theological misstep!

We don’t have to look very far to see what I am taking about! Now, to give you some context, Paul was speaking to the Corinthian church about the mystery of the wisdom of God (verse 7) as it relates to the crucifixion of Jesus. It was a mystery that had been hidden from even before the world began! The mystery was that God was going to use the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross to redeem mankind from sin. Paul said that if the rulers of this world had known, that by killing Jesus, they were actually affecting their own undoing, they never would have crucified Jesus! (Verse 8) Then Paul makes a scriptural application by adapting Isaiah 64:4 to illustrate his point. Paul wrote: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I said Paul adapted Isaiah 64:4 because it actually says: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” Isaiah said “what he hath prepared for him that waiteth (waits) for (on) him.” Paul modified the passage for his purposes and said: “The things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Isaiah says, “wait” Paul says, “love.” But I didn’t really bring that up to note the differences, but merely to help us with establishing some context.

The point I really want to make comes to light when we read 1 Corinthians 2:10, which modifies verse 9. In verse 9, the verse we always quote and sing, Paul said, “Eyes haven’t seen, ears haven’t heard, nor has it even entered into the hearts of men what great things God has prepared for those that love him.” Now, you need to remember that Paul is not making a statement or an assertion; he is merely quoting and making application of Isaiah 64:4. Paul doesn’t make a statement until verse 10, when he says: “But God!” Do you see that? “But God” makes all the difference! Eyes haven’t seen, ears haven’t heard, nor has it entered into the hearts of men what great things God has prepared for them that love him. . . But God!  But God what? In verse 10, Paul is modifying the quote in verse 9! In verse 9, Paul was saying that it’s all a mystery that is beyond comprehension or imagination, but then he says in verse 10: “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

WOW!!!! Paul is saying the things that eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard and the things that have not even entered into the mind, God has revealed them to us by his Spirit! Now the Bible says that we are saved by his Spirit and once we are saved, his Spirit abides in us! Therefore, for any believer to sing the song and quote verse 9 as a proof-text of the unimaginable things God has in store for them that love him is a gross theological error, for it is to ignore the context of the passage and it is to deny the power and ministry of God’s indwelling Spirit! Not only that, it really is to lie on God! You’re saying that eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard, but the Bible says that what you’re sayings hasn’t been seen, heard, or thought of, has been revealed by his Spirit! We can see Paul’s point even more so if we keep reading to verse 12, which says: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” What things? The same “things” from the Old Testament quote in verse 9 that eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard! The same “things” in verse 10 that God has revealed to us by his Spirit!

Oh! I feel a “preach” coming on here! When you quote 1 Corinthians 2:9 as a fact, you are actually calling God a liar! What you are saying hasn’t been seen, heard, or thought of, the very next verse says: But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit and verse 12 says that we have the Spirit so that we might know the “things” that are freely given to us of God! This is a prime example of why understanding the context of a verse, a passage, or even a chapter in the Bible is so important! Doctrines have been formulated, songs have been composed, and people are “testi-lying” when they think they are testifying, all because of a passage taken out of context! In this case, the error is that of drawing a conclusion before reading the author’s actual conclusion! People make the mistake of only reading, quoting and singing verse 9, when they should keep on reading, at least to verse 12!

Now, I know this post is going to mess with some choirs and singers! But we need to make sure the songs we sing are biblically accurate and theologically correct! Many song-writers and composers today are not really biblically literate! Many don’t study the Bible to rightfully divide (interpret and apply) the word of truth!  So don’t just sing a song just because you hear it on the radio and it sounds good! Make sure that it’s biblically sound! So! You can keep on singing, quoting and applying 1 Corinthians 2:9 only and bask in spiritual ignorance if you want to! As for me! I thank God for the next verse that says: “But God!” The “But God” tells me, I once was blind; but now I see!

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I Second That Emotion!

emotive chartHave you ever thought about how much we are influenced by our emotions? Now, we (particularly men) would like to think that we live our lives in a logical or orderly way based on good sound reasoning, but often that is not the case. Most of the time, we live our lives, governed and controlled by our emotions. For instance, let’s think about how we buy automobiles. Most of the time, the dominant factor in the automotive buying decision is an emotional one. Now, we would like to think it is the price or some other practical aspect, but most of the time it is not! It’s not the price because even when the asking price might be a bit more than we would like, our emotions overrule our logic to justify the purchase. And what emotion is that?  In the final analysis, we purchase the automobile because of how it makes us “feel,” whether that feeling be a sense of pride in ownership, experiencing the thrill of a new car, or the feeling of having arrive at the status level the automobile symbolizes. That is why some people buy certain automotive brands. When the small-talk at the dinner party is about what automobile people drive, there is a different emotion projected and felt when people say they drive a Mercedes or a BMW as opposed to them saying they drive a Hyundai or a Mazda. I’ve heard it said that people will: “Buy what they cannot afford, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t even like!” Why would they do such a foolish thing? It is a vain attempt to satisfy the emotions fostered by pride and showmanship!

Why do most people who drink alcoholic beverages or take drugs do it? They indulge in such behavior because of the way these substances make them “feel.” They want to feel a buzz or a high or maybe they just want to forget about how their problems make them feel. But when or if they become addicted, they are caught in a vicious cycle within which the feeling is no longer a want, but rather a need!  It’s all about the emotive sensation! I even read a news story recently in which the suspect admitted to killing someone because of the excitement they wanted to feel in committing a murder! Can you image that? They killed somebody to satisfy an emotional feeling! Now, most murders are not committed because of the excitement, but emotions still play a major role! People get angry, jealous, resentful, feel disrespected, frighten or afraid. All of these emotions have played major roles in justifying murder or a killing in the minds of the ones who committed the act.

But it’s not only negative things that are driven by emotions, positive things are driven by emotions also! Why, after all these years, did you decide to go back to school and earn that degree?  Because you wanted feel the pride that comes from a sense of accomplishment! At least that’s the answer I got from a 68-year-old grandmother who sat next to me in a college class several years ago! Why are you so nice to help people you don’t even know when they need help? Because it’s just the right thing to do and you feel good, knowing that you are making a difference in someone else’s life!

We are  all motivated by our emotions much more than we realize or are willing to admit. The key is to be aware of the role emotions play in our lives and then work to make sure our emotions are serving us as opposed to us being slaves and serving our emotions.

Why People Perish (Even) With A Vision

vison statementThe first part of the KJV’s (King James Version) rendition of Proverbs 29:18 is often cited as a proof-text for the vision statements of individuals, corporations, and even some churches and other religious organizations. In case you are not familiar with it by the passage notation, let me cite it for you: “Where there is no vision, the people perish. . . .” But experience has proven over and over again that in many cases, even where there is a “vision” present; the people still perish! Why? They perish because of an erroneous interpretation and thus wrong application to this well-known passage.

But before we even get into the Hebrew text to find out what the statement is really saying, if one would just take an even honest look at the KJV rendition of the whole verse, it is apparent that something is awry with the way this passage is usually interpreted and applied. First of all, the well-known part that most people are familiar with is only the first part of the verse. The way the verse is composed and structured, the first part was not written to be separate or thought of as being unrelated to the second part of the verse. The first part is the first half of a couplet! It’s just one side of the coin! It’s just the “in” of the “in-and-outs!” So let’s look at the verse in its entirety: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Now, although this is part of what is called “wisdom literature,” it is structured in the Hebrew poetic form called parallelism. In Hebrew parallelism, the author makes a statement on one line, and then he; restates, adds to, or makes a contrast on the next line. Usually the words in the first line have corresponding or parallel words or ideas in the second line. In the verse in question, “vision” in the first line is parallel to “law” in the second line. Remember now, we just said that the parallel words or ideas usually restates, adds to, or contrast one another. In this case, “law” is restating the idea of “vision.” So, even without looking at the Hebrew, we already know that the terms; “vision” and “law” are related to one another. They are either opposites or they are relating the same idea.

Now, as we look at the two phrases in parallel, we need to ask: How does the idea of people not having a vision fit with the idea of someone being happy or blessed by keeping the law? Well, if we accept the way the first line has been traditionally interpreted and applied, we would have to admit that one has nothing to do with the other! Because, according to the traditional interpretation and application, the first line has to do with goals and goal-setting and the second line has to do with being obedient to the law! One idea has nothing to do with the other! That is, if we accept the traditional interpretation and application! So, we have to decide if the writer had a brain-lapse or just maybe our traditional interpretation and application is wrong. I think the latter is the case.

So let’s go to the Hebrew text for the answer! Now, before we start, I am in no way professing to be a Hebrew scholar! I received a decent grade in Hebrew when I studied it in seminary, but for the most part “He-brewed” me: I barely got out alive! At any rate, let’s take a look! The Hebrew word that is translated as “vision” by the KJV is a word that more properly refers to prophetic vision, prophecy, or divine guidance. Therefore, it is not a reference to goals or plans, but rather to divine communication from the Lord. So, the problem in the text is not a lack of plans or goals, but rather the lack of a word from the Lord! So, if that is the correct idea, then it parallels perfectly with the second part of the verse! The idea of “divine guidance” is a parallel to the concept of “law.” When we look up the word for “law” in the Hebrew, we discover that the word in Hebrew is actually “torah” and it means; law, direction, or instruction! Therefore, the first part of the couplet should be rendered similar to this; “Where there is no prophetic word, or prophecy, or divine instruction, the people. . .”

Now, I didn’t complete the first couplet because we still have to deal with the idea of “perish.” So, when we look up the Hebrew word behind the English word “perish,” we discover the word means, to let loose, or to be let loose, or to be let loose of restraint.” So the idea is not that of perishing as in being destroyed or ruined, but rather is that of being unrestrained or wild! So let’s see what the verse says in light of our discoveries: “Where or when there is no prophetic word, or divine instruction (from the Lord), the people are unrestrained or the people run wild!” Wow! That’s a far cry from a “vision” statement!  The whole verse can thus be rendered: “Where or when there is no prophetic word or divine instruction (from the Lord), the people run wild! But blessed is he (or) the one that keeps or obeys the law (more specifically the written law) or the (written) word of the Lord!”

So, we can conclude that people perish, even with a vision, because a vision (in the sense that we use the word today) cannot save, nor is it really designed to save people from destruction! People, corporations, and even some churches and religious organizations have great visions and great visionaries, but yet they are still perishing! Only obedience to the word of God can save people from destruction! And all one has to do is but look at the news and take a look around to see people running wild! People are running wild, not because of a lack of vision, but rather because of a rejection of the authority of the word of God (in and over their lives) as it is revealed in the written Scriptures!