Is That What That Bible Verse Means?

With our President using Isaiah 6 in his address last evening, the social media timelines are full of folks correctly calling his use into question.

He totally misused Isaiah 6, and to rehash what is being hashed out all over social media is not my aim.

What I do want to say is this:

  1. We must be careful in taking Bible verses and moving so quickly to application of Bible verses without going through some manner of interpretive process. I get that some who may read this have that process in place, and they have been trained and disciplined themselves to quickly get to the meaning of a Bible text, and move to application rather quickly. This is good. Many, however, have not been trained or even had any such process modeled, and they may jump to assumed application which can lead to poor uses of the Bible such as we saw last night.
  2. When I was teaching Old Testament, New Testament and Systematic Theology for a living, I created a basic “exegesis work page” for my students to use in studying any Scripture passage that would teach them how to study the bible and ingrain that process of interpreting so that they would not make such errors. One of the aims of that worksheet was to get my students to understand this: THE BIBLE CAN NEVER MEAN WHAT IT NEVER MEANT. No Scripture passage can mean something today that it did not mean in the intent of the author. This means that meaning is built into authorial intent NOT in the need of the reader. By the way, we believe that God is the ultimate author of the Bible with many folks as his scribes throughout the history of God writing the story of Scripture, therefore, God’s intent is the meaning of any Scripture passage. AND, his intent is discoverable right in the text with nothing but the text.
  3. Piggybacking off number 2, we must be careful in reading into Bible verses definitions of words that the author did not intend. We get into real trouble when we take Bible words, define them according to cultural or personal standards, and then read them back into the text of Scripture thus making them mean something the author did not intend AND then using that made up meaning as authoritative because it came from the Bible. My fear is that this happens more often than not in our post-Christian setting.
  4. Finally, we have to be aware of how Satan even used the Bible. In Matthew 4, the Accuser quotes Psalm 92 explicitly to Jesus to try and tempt him into a spectacular revelation of his identity and thus an opportunity to bypass the cross. He did not misquote the Scripture. The Accuser misinterpreted it as if it had no qualifications and his misapplied it to Jesus’ purpose to go to the cross.

So, while we rightfully critique how Isaiah 6 was used yesterday, let’s all be careful in how we read, interpret and apply Scripture so that at the very least we are not using it the way Satan does.

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