Exodus 3:7-10 is an insightful, informative, and instructive passage, it reads:
“Then the LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharoah that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (ESV)
Notice all that the LORD said he had seen, heard, and had come to do: The LORD said: “I have surely seen the afflictions of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry. . .I know their sufferings.” The LORD said: “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey. . .” The LORD said: “The cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.”
But if we merged the beginning of verse 7 with verses 8 and 10, it would read something like this: “Then the LORD said, I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land. . .Come, I will send you to Pharoah that ‘you’ may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Do you see that? The LORD did all that talk about what he had come to do, only to send Moses to do it! That’s the lesson! Whatever the LORD does on earth, the LORD always uses human hands to do it! Why? Because God is a spirit and in a material world, an immaterial spirit can only work through a material human vessel. Two reasons for that: One, it’s just the way things work in the intersection of the spiritual and the material, and two, the earth is humanity’s domain, therefore only humanity has authority to operate on earth. (That is why, to fully redeem humanity, God had to become human in Jesus).
One of the reasons the world is in the shape it is in is because most ‘Christians’ don’t know or don’t understand what I just explained! This is why they pray prayers that God cannot and will not answer! God cannot and will not go by the hospitals, the nursing homes, or go behind prison walls to see about the sick, the lonely, and the imprisoned! Why? Because God is spirit AND those are the things God commands us to do! That’s the problem! Instead of being inspired by faith that God will empower us to do what we should be doing, too many of us are waiting for God to magically do it himself!
Another point and I’m through! After Moses led the people out of Egypt, they found themselves in a predicament with the sea in front of them and Pharoah’s army closing in fast behind them! Moses decided it was time to have a prayer meeting, but the LORD said to him: “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry land.” (Exodus 14:15-16)
We waste too much time praying for answers the LORD has already given and too much time waiting on the LORD to do what the LORD has already instructed, empowered, equipped, and authorized us to do!
It’s past time for us (redeemed humanity) to put on our spiritual ‘big boy’ pants and do what we were created and placed on earth to do; to exercise dominion on God’s behalf. Because of rebellion, Adam lost access to that dominion. But praise God, we can regain access to that dominion through Jesus the Christ! Traditional Christianity teaches Jesus came just to ‘rescue’ us from sin and to provide us a way to escape earth to go to Heaven. But Jesus came to fix up what Adam messed up! Jesus came to restore access to the dominion that Adam lost! Jesus came to provide the way for humanity to fulfill God’s original intent for creating humanity; to image, reflect, and represent God on earth!
Have you ever wondered what was the difference between David and Saul? Saul was the first king of Israel, but God rejected him from being king and selected David to replace him.
But what did Saul do that was so bad to cause him to be rejected as king by God? When you look at all that David did, and then you look at what Saul did, it seems incredible that Saul was rejected, and David was called a man after God’s own heart!
I mean, think about it! David took another man’s wife, got her pregnant, and then had her husband killed in an attempt to cover-up his sin! And what did Saul do? All Saul did was spare the life of an enemy king and save some livestock that God had told him to kill and destroy!
The ultimate difference between David and Saul was their response when confronted with their sins. When the prophet Samuel confronted Saul about his disobedience, Saul insisted that he had indeed obeyed the Lord, even though Samuel could hear the sound of the livestock, which was evidence of Saul’s disobedience! However, when the prophet Nathan confronted David, David acknowledged his sin and repented!
Therein was the difference; Saul denied his wrong and tried to justify his disobedience, but David admitted his wrong and repented of his sin! The Bible says in Proverbs 28:13, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
My friends, none of us are perfect and no matter how we try to do right, from time to time, we will do wrong! The key to forgiveness and God’s grace is not to double-down, doggedly denying our transgressions, but rather to admit our mistakes and make the needed adjustments. That was the difference between David and Saul, and that is the difference between forgiveness and condemnation.
I am constantly amazed and often shocked by what I hear from many pulpits, choir-stands, and people of God, as they claim to preach, teach, and witness to what the Bible says! Some of the things I hear cause me to stop and even wonder whether or not these people are reading a different book other than the Bible I read.
In 2 Timothy 2:15, the Apostle Paul encouraged his young protégé to make every effort, to be diligent, to spare no expense, to make sure that he was approved of God, accurately and correctly handling the word of truth. This was important in Timothy’s context because at the time, there were so many false doctrines and phony philosophies deceiving people, giving them false hope, and failing faith! The Lord made provisions to prevent this, which is what Paul was talking about in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul said: “Wherefore he saith: When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. . . And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” In the letter to Timothy and the letter to the Ephesians, Paul stated the importance of correctly handling the word of truth because when the word of truth is not handled correctly, people are vulnerable to being deceived and tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
And so, with that in mind, I want to talk about lazy Bible-reading and bad theology. Lazy Bible-reading produces bad theology, which in turn produces a biblically deficient faith and a spiritually impotent lifestyle. What is lazy Bible-reading? Lazy Bible-reading is many things, but for our time together today, I am just going to give three definitions and three examples. First of all, lazy Bible-reading is the practice of reading the Bible, but failing to give proper attention to the details of the text. A prime example is found in the popular re-telling of the story of the Prodigal Son. According to the KJV, Jesus said in Luke 15:13: “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” The Greek word that is translated as ‘riotous’ is a word that simply means; ‘senseless, or reckless behavior.’ All Jesus said was that the boy was senseless and reckless in his spending. Now, I am using this as an example because most of the time when this story preached, the boy is said to have spent his money on wild parties and women! But where did that idea come from? It didn’t come from Jesus! All Jesus said was that the boy was reckless in his spending! No! It didn’t come from Jesus, but rather it came from the elder brother, who said to his father in verse 30: “But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.” Now, my question is: “How did he know how the boy spent the money?” He wasn’t there! Therefore, his accusation was not fact, but rather an expression of jealousy and resentment. Yet, the words of the elder brother have been so often repeated and applied by preachers as if they were the gospel truth! Lazy Bible-reading does not pay attention to who said what or why they said it!
Another example of lazy Bible-reading is reading a biblical text and forming a conclusion while ignoring or not knowing any the relevant contexts of the text. A prime example of this is seen in the traditional representation of the woman at the well in John 4. The woman has been traditionally portrayed as a woman who jumped in and out of five marriages before she gave up on marriage and decided to just shack-up! But let’s take a look at this woman from the perspective of the confines of her historical and cultural context. Although she was a Samaritan woman, the Samaritans followed the Jewish law, which gave Jewish wives no legal grounds to divorce their husbands. Therefore, since this woman had had five husbands, more than likely, it was not because she had left them, but rather because they had left her, either through divorce and/or death. And speaking of divorce, it was a common practice of that day for men to divorce their wives for something as trivial as burning their meals!
In addition to that, women were severely limited in options to support themselves. An unmarried woman had to depend on support from her father. Married women had to depend on support from their husbands. Widows had to depend on support from their sons, but they had no sons, they went back to their father’s house! Therefore, with these limited options, it is highly unlikely that any woman of that era, even if she legally could, would have taken the gamble of jumping from man to man! No! The most-likely story was that this woman had been rejected and disappointed so much that by the time she met Jesus, she was willing to live with a man without being married, just to survive! Traditionally, we have made this woman out to be a villain, but when we look at her, in the historical cultural context of her time and not in our modern Western context, it is easy to see that she was actually a victim, saved by Jesus; the seventh significant man in her life! But we have traditionally missed the real message of this story because of lazy Bible-reading and as a consequence, we have been preaching bad theology!
So, lazy Bible-reading is reading without paying attention to the details of the text as we have done in the story of the Prodigal Son. Lazy Bible-reading is reading and drawing conclusions, without regarding the relevant contexts of the biblical text as we have done with the woman at the well in John 4. Lazy Bible-reading is also failing to read the complete thought of the biblical text. A prime example of this is our handling of 1 Corinthians 2:9. The Apostle Paul, paraphrasing Isaiah 52:15 and 64:4, 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.” We’ve taken this verse, preached sermons, and written songs, about how eyes haven’t seen, ears have heard, neither has it entered into the hearts of man what great things the Lord has prepared for those that love him!
Now, you might be wondering at this point; “So, what’s the problem?” The problem is this: Verse 9 is not Paul’s complete thought! It’s lazy Bible-reading to stop at verse 9 because Paul wasn’t through talking! Verse 10 starts with a ‘but,’ that makes a contrast to what Paul said in verse 9! Therefore, to get Paul’s complete thought, we need to read verses 9 and 10 together! Paul said: “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. ‘But God’ hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” We preach and sing that we cannot know the things which God has prepared for them that love him, but in the very next verse, Paul said; ‘but God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit!’ We say they cannot be known, but Paul said they ‘can’ be known because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit! Paul wrote in verses 11-16: “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, ‘that we might understand the things freely given us by God.’ And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” We have completely missed the point because of lazy Bible-reading! Paul’s point was not that eyes haven’t seen, and ears haven’t heard what great things the Lord has prepared for them that love him. Paul’s point was that ‘even though’ eyes haven’t seen, and ears haven’t heard what great things the Lord has prepared for them that love him, those things have been revealed to us by God’s Spirit! We are like the people who listened to Paul Harvey’s commentary back in the day but did not continue to listen after the commercial break to hear the rest of the story! Yes! Not paying attention to the details, disregarding relevant contexts, and not reading the complete thought are all prime examples lazy Bible-reading that often lead to bad theology!
Many times, popular but unbiblical ideas which promote bad theology are birthed because of lazy Bible-reading. A great example of this is the popular belief that God won’t put any more on us than what we are able to bear! This erroneous belief comes from a faulty reading of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” First of all, note that Paul never said God was the source of the temptation or the trial! The idea that God puts burdens on us is not biblical and it is bad theology! In fact, James 1:13 says: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” The point of the text is not that God won’t put on us more than we can bear, but rather whatever is on us, God will not allow it to be more than we can handle because he will help us to endure it!
Lazy Bible-reading is particularly egregious when it causes God to be blamed for what the enemy has done! Because of lazy Bible-reading, when people are killed, some people will say that it was God’s will! But God is not in the business of killing people! God is the Author of life! Jesus said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Because of lazy Bible-reading, when a Christian dies, many say they have gone home to be with God in Heaven, but the Bible plainly states that God will be with us in our eternal home on the Redeemed Earth! Please Beware! Oh! May God deliver us from lazy Bible-reading and bad theology and help us resolve to correctly handle the word of truth!
Throughout the years I have a adopted a number of colloquialisms to convey thoughts. One of them is: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat!” Meaning: There is more than one way to solve a problem or to deal with an issue. Another one I am quite fond of using is: “The devil is in the details.” That means, the real difference between one meaning or another, is in the finer points that are sometimes overlooked or unknown.
Ironically, when it comes to the Book of Job in the Bible, the last colloquial expression I mentioned is both true and false! In the Book of Job, the devil is in the details, in the sense that there is a fine point in Job that most theologians and Bible scholars know, but they often overlook! What is that fine point? The fine point that is overlooked is the fact that the devil IS NOT in the details of the Book of Job! I know, it sounds confusing, so let me show you what I am talking about.
In the Book of Job, everywhere the term; ‘satan’ occurs, (Job 1:6, 7, 8, 9, 12; 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7) in the Hebrew (the original language in which Job was written), it is preceded by the Hebrew definite article; ‘ha,’ which is equivalent to the English definite article; ‘the.’ In other words, everywhere we encounter the term ‘satan’ in our English translations, it should be more properly rendered; ‘the satan.’ Now you might be asking, “Ok, but what difference does that make?” Well, just as there are rules of grammar in the English language, there are also rules of grammar in the Hebrew language. And one of the rules of grammar that is common to both English and Hebrew is that a proper noun (a name) is ‘never’ preceded by a definite article! If the definite article precedes the noun, then it is understood that the noun is not a name, but rather a title. In other words, according to the rules of grammar (and good theology), the term ‘satan’ in the book of Job, refers not a name, but rather to a title!
The term ‘satan’ is a Hebrew term that is translated into English as ‘adversary.’ Therefore, everywhere the term ‘satan’ is found in Job, instead of using it as a proper noun or name (which it isn’t), it should be translated into English as ‘the adversary.’ For instance, to be consistent and true to the rules of English and Hebrew grammar, Job 1:6, for example, should more properly read: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD (Yahweh), and the adversary also came among them.”
I have written before about how we sometimes can be confused by the KJV translation, but this is a case in which ‘all’ of the English versions dropped the ball, because the one called ‘satan,’ known as the devil in the New Testament IS NOT the same personality as the adversary presented in the Book of Job! I know, we often use the colloquial: “The devil is in the details.” But in the case of the book of Job in the Old Testament, the devil IS NOT in the details!
Now, before you get all upset and think that I am a heretic, I confess that I have submitted my life to Jesus as Lord. I have yielded to his claim upon my life, and I am trusting him for the remission of my sins. I believe what the Bible says about Jesus and his role in procuring salvation for all who put their faith in him. I believe Jesus died upon the cross and that God raised him from the dead! But in spite of all of that, I have not accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and now I’m going to tell you why!
First, I haven’t accepted Jesus as my personal Savior because I don’t know what it means to accept him as such! Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics, but I have issues with the term ‘personal Savior.’ What does that mean? Does it mean to accept Jesus as Savior in a personal way as opposed to accepting him in a non or impersonal way? Does it mean to accept Jesus as a personal Savior in the same way as one would accept a personal trainer or a personal valet? Does it mean that Jesus is exclusive to the person who accepts him as their personal Savior? Forgive me if I am making a mountain out of a molehill or just quibbling about terminology, but when I came to Jesus over some forty (40) years ago, no one ever referred to Jesus as a ‘personal Savior!’ Therefore, when I came to Jesus over forty (40) years ago, I did not accept him as my personal Savior!
I looked up the word ‘personal’ in the dictionary and I noted a couple of the definitions. One definition was: “Of, relating to, or affecting a particular person: private, individual.” Another definition was: “Intended for private use or use by one person.” Still another said: “Of, relating to, or constituting personal property.” Is my relationship with Jesus a private affair only between Jesus and me? If that is the case, how should I respond to his statement where he said: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Jn. 13:34-35 KJV) Or what about 1 John 4:20-21, where it says: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (KJV)
Now while it is true that one must individually form a relationship (Momma or Daddy can’t do it for you), the Scriptures seem to suggest, being right with God or Jesus is not strictly a personal matter! In other words, the Bible seems to suggest the fact that ‘my’ salvation is not just about me! But wait a minute, I hear you! You are saying that I just answered my question when I said: “Momma or Daddy can’t do it for you!” You say, that’s what it means to accept Jesus as your personal Savior! But doesn’t that go without saying? When I take a shower, it goes without saying that I am personally taking the shower! You would look at me strangely if I told you that I was going to take a personal shower! Does accepting Jesus as my personal Savior mean Jesus belongs to me in the same sense as if Jesus was my personal trainer? It seems to me that such language is not only unbiblical, (you will not find the term or even a suggestion of the concept in the Bible of a personal Savoir) but also confusing! Are you saying Jesus belongs exclusively to you? Are you saying your saving relationship with Jesus is private? Are you saying that Jesus saved you exclusively? My point is this: There is no reference or even a hint of anyone in the New Testament accepting Jesus as their personal Savior! While the phrase may have been intended to help people understand how they as individuals can be saved, I believe it really serves to confuse people and promote the unbiblical idea that salvation is purely personal and private.
Now, here’s another suggestion that will no doubt upset your theological apple cart: I dare suggest that the Bible does not even promote the idea of accepting Jesus as Savior! Let me show you what I’m talking about! One of the staple scriptures presented in evangelizing is Romans 10:9, where Paul said: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (KJV) Look closely at the wording of the text! Paul said that first, one must ‘confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus.’ You must confess Jesus, not as Savior, but as Lord! You must accept Jesus as Lord! Then you must believe that God raised him from the dead.
Now, the term ‘lord’ in this verse is not a reference to Jesus being God or divine. No! It is a reference to Jesus being the ruler, the master, the owner! You must submit to Jesus’ claim of ownership and rulership over your life! Note the order and progression: 1) Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (note, for the Romans to confess Jesus as Lord was a dangerous confession because the standard pledge of allegiance of the day was: ‘Caesar is Lord!’), then 2) You must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and then (only after you have completed the first two steps), 3) You shall be saved! In this passage, although Jesus is the Savior, he is not presented as ‘the Savoir who saves’ but rather as ‘the Lord who saves!’ In Romans, Paul does not make an appeal to the Romans to accept Jesus as their Savior, but rather to submit to Jesus as their Lord!
I could go on to further press my claim, but I don’t want to make this post too long! So let me close by saying the preponderous of New Testament literature presents Jesus not as just a ‘Savior.’ And nowhere is Jesus presented as a ‘personal Savior,’ but the overwhelming presentation is that of Jesus as Lord! Therefore, I have not accepted Jesus as my personal Savior, but I have accepted Jesus as my Lord! Yes! He is my Lord! That means Jesus doesn’t belong to me (he’s not mine personally), but rather, I belong to Jesus!